Writing Web Content
Writing for the web is unique in that no matter how varied your audience, they likely have the same quality in common: impatience! Here are some tips for getting your audience's attention and keeping it.
Be in the Know
When writing for the web, always consider your audience.
- What are their demographics?
- Are they students? Faculty? Adult professionals?
- How might they be feeling when accessing your content?
Place yourself in their shoes. Writing with them in mind will help you to eliminate unnecessary content - like explaining the internal structure of your department or all the steps of a process when they might only need to know the first two. Ask yourself — what information does the user have to have and what is extraneous?
Also, write to your audience, not about it. Instead of saying: "Students should consult their advisor." use "Consult your advisor."
Be Brief and Keep First Things First
Keep your sentences brief and your paragraphs short (about four sentences). Your impatient readers want to get what they come for and more on.
Put the most important content at the top of the page and flow less important content towards the bottom (i.e. content that applies to a smaller number of your audience).
Your impatient audience wants to skim or scan your page to find what is applicable to them quickly. Break up longer content into sections with proper headings (see hierarchy). Take lists out of paragraphs and make them bulleted - if the lists are sequential, use a numbered list.
Make your language, especially your titles, to the point and as clear as possible. Don't use marketing language, but instead use titles and content that strips out unnecessary words. There are other places you can express those creative and intellectual expressions, but leave them out on the web.
The web isn't the place to display your best academic prose. Best practices to ensure your audience can access your content is to aim for an 8th grade reading level. Test your content on this site dedicated to testing content readability.
It is a place to ensure all users can access your content no matter their ability. Our requirements for web content accessibility include:
- Your headers need to have proper hierarchy.
- Your links should have titles starting with "Go to the", "Visit the" or "Download the" and end with either "page.", "site." or "[PDF]."
- Images should have descriptions giving the user a clear picture of the image in words.
- Images should not include text of any kind.
- Do not use italics, underlining, strike-through or be center or left-aligned.