The do's and don'ts of writing for the web
We previously discussed the importance of content strategy and tools to use for writing for the web, today we will discuss the do's and don'ts for writing for the web.
Creating high quality website copy is a crucial step to producing a useful, usable and accessible website. Recently, we have been running a set of internal workshops to outline some key principles to adhere to when creating content for the web. The following list are some key principles for anyone who creates content online:
- Keep it simple
- Interactive links
- Active voice
Understand your audience and craft the content that meets their needs. Once you understand your users, you can learn how to provide useful and meaningful content.
- Who is this for?
- What do they want?
- What do you want?
Users don't tend to read from left to right in a traditional way as if reading a book. In general, websites are scanned and scrolled. The first few seconds a user spends on a page are critical to engage and encourage the user to stay.
Visual elements help to ensure users can quickly scan the structure of the page and engage user.
- Meaningful subheadings
- Bullet lists
- Short paragraphs and sentences
- Use bold and italic sparingly
- Suitable Imagery
3. Keep it simple
Ensure website copy is clear and easy to read. Compress the text into short sentences and paragraphs.
- Clear and easy to read copy
- Short concise sentences
- Easy to understand
- Avoid using jargon
- Edit ruthlessly - Avoid ROT (redundant, outdated, trivial content)
The following tools provide feedback and a readability score based on the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level.
Brand guidelines or style guide can help to enforce and maintain consistency. Tone of voice, terminology and writing styles are important to maintain consistency.
- Ensure titles and headings stick to brand conventions.
- Use title casing or sentence casing to reflect brand guidelines.
- Ensure terminology is consistent throughout pages.
- Do not refer to the user in both the second person and the first person within the same phrase.
Ensure that header levels are not skipped in your document, and that bolded text or large font size is not used as a substitute for applying headers. In addition to the correct use of headers, it is good practice to use the following techniques:
- Text alternatives (short, long, null)
- Contrast (text, images)
- Images of text
6. Interactive links
Interactive links will be a focal point for a user to quickly scan a webpage. Meaningful links will assist people with:
- Improved scalability
- Intuitive navigation of webpage
- Create faster user journeys
- Helps users with visual impairments to read the page
- Use descriptive action verbs for buttons and links.
- Clearly indicate a links destination or function, out of context of the text surrounding it.
- Links should be short, but descriptive.
- Don't force your users to read all the surrounding words if you could convey the essential information in the link itself.
- Avoid 'click here' type terminology - Do not use 'click here', 'more', 'full information', 'pdf', 'file', etc;
- 'link to...', 'click to...' etc. is unnecessary it should be obvious that a link is a link.
- Don't link whole paragraphs.
7. Use an active voice
An active voice creates a strong delivery of web content and provides the following benefits:
- Authoritative voice
- Easier to read
- Use less words to get to a point faster
Writing for the web is different from writing for any other medium. The reader of your content is also the user of your website. This means she should be able to navigate through your content easily, which makes formatting of the titles, bullets, images and links especially important.
Content is an important part of any digital experience, alongside the design, user friendliness and security of the entire site. If you need help creating a sustainable content strategy or managing content for your web – contact us today.