Writing for the Web

The heart of your website is your content and crafting just the right message is a challenge. The audience is vast, the contexts are varied, and the site visitors’ needs are complex. In addition, Web content has a structure not duplicated in the printed format: content is linked and a visitor’s path through that information cannot be completely controlled.

To effectively communicate on the Web, you have to understand your audience, create a plan to address their needs, and above all, commit to iterative improvement to keep pace with changing circumstances.

How to Have a Great Conversation

The web is a vehicle for conversations. People, and machines like search engines, come to your site, ask questions, explore, read, transact, and take an impression away with them. A few classic questions can help to guide an effective conversation. Ask: Who, What, When, Where and Why.

The Who: Understanding Your Audience

Who is visiting the site now and who might be visiting in the foreseeable future?

To answer these questions, gather your survey data, take a look at your analytics, talk to your customer service and sales reps to find out whom you’re having conversations with online. You’ll want to think about how different your audiences are, and what their needs may be. Colleagues, children, customers, donors, volunteers, legislators, search engines – the way you talk to each of these audiences may be very different.

Your visitors expect the content to be easy to read and for it to fit with your organization’s personality.  Included below are some tips for crafting the right message for your audience.

The What, Where, When and Why: Understanding Context

In order to continue an effective conversation with your site visitors, it’s important to understand the visitor’s context.  Ask, “Why are they visiting?,” “What are they looking for?” “When are they visiting?,” and “What technology are they using?” Once you answer these questions, you can begin to craft the architecture and content that fits your site visitors’ needs.

Tips for providing effective information architecture and content:

Rinse and Repeat

Great conversations evolve and change over time. Great websites do as well. After you make changes to your site to accommodate your audience and their context, circle back to revisit your survey data, your analytics, and keep talking to your customer service and sales reps to see if the visitors’ needs are being met.

Resources

Web typography:

Fonts and accessibility:

Content:

 

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About the Author

Andrea Richeson is TradeMark Media's Chief Operating Officer and Director of User Experience. She guides clients through the strategy, information architecture, visual design, and development phases of projects.

Learn More about Andrea

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