Writing for the Web Tips

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Writing for the Web requires new a different approach to the writing process. Before you start writing web content, try to understand the basics of information architecture and how navigation systems work.

On the web, write in small digestible chucks, which fit into the information hierarchy. To create your hierarchy, outline the website as you would for printed material.

Then examine the site’s purpose and outline the main sections (e.g. words people use to navigate) and the links within those heads. Test it before it goes online.

You can do this by writing the heads and links on Post-IT sticky notes and put them on a chart. Show the chart to sample users. Ask them how to get from one section to another.

Next, run a usability test.

Put the outline of each webpage on a sheet of paper. Stack the pages and, sitting next to the user, hold up the pages. Tell them what to find and ask them to “click” the headings to get there.

If they choose the right pages then continue; otherwise go back and make notes.

Don’t give any hints or clues on how to navigate. Sit back and watch. You’ll be amazed how their approach differs from what you had expected. Make notes for later revisions. This paper model helps you see how people navigate through the site.

By writing concise, descriptive headings, you will lead users to the content that they are seeking.

For example, do visitors expect to find phone numbers, under “Who we are” or “Contact us”?

On the web, one page on print media requires two or three screens. As readers scan text on the Web, make sure you:

  • Write short paragraphs
  • Use bulleted lists rather than narratives
  • Write one subhead for each idea.

Tip: Planning is 80 percent of the work.

Once you’ve created a good outline, the writing will have more impact.

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