WRITING FOR THE WEB Make your web content easier to find and understand by your audience.
Contents Introduction……………………………...…..3 Human factors on the web………….….....7 Speaking to the audience………….…….17 Writing techniques…………………....…..24 Structuring content…………………....….43 Making content easy to scan………....…66 Writing content………………………….….87 Accessibility…………………………..…..108 Information and visual design……..….120 Wrap up………………………………….....141 Glossary…………………………………....145 Additional References…………….........148
What you will learn • The differences between print and web writing • The importance of understanding your audience(s) • The impact of context on web pages • Techniques and tools for writing online • How text contributes to design
Exercise 1- Reflection The purpose of this activity is to demonstrate how writing for the web can present information in a way that is easy to read. • What did you think about each of the two documents? • Which features did you find useful?
People read differently on the web • 25% more slowly on screen than on paper • 79% of users scan web text • Monitors have a relatively poor resolution • Distraction and glare • Web users are impatient • And reluctant to invest too much time at one site • People don’t want to work for information • Users don’t like to feel passive
Reasons for scanning • Information overload • Short attention span • Surfing across the web encourages scanning habits • Browser layout • Scrolling encourages scanning • Looking for contextual clues • “What is this page about?”
Qualities of good web copy • Written with target audience(s) in mind • Concise, unambiguous and free from padding • Credible, yet human • Broken up into major points • Current • Helpful in achieving the site’s business goals
Different aspects will influence perceptions • Verbal aspect = the written message • Nonverbal aspects include: • Spelling & grammar • Layout • Contextual messages • Colours & fonts
You need to create context • Context is a framework • Users view your page through this framework before they start to gain information from it • Each web page has little pre-established context • Unlike a newspaper or magazine
Exercise 2: Providing contextSuggest and place new elements that would provide some context for this page. - Use some butchers paper to create a new layout for this page. - Add the new elements using post-it notes and pens. - Share your new layout with the group.
Identifying your audience • Who are they? • Where are they? • What do they want? • How do they speak? • How educated are they? • Do they speak English? • What relationship do they have with the site? • What technology will they use to view your page? • How do you want them to view your product?
Conduct regular user research • Your users can help you understand what your site should do • Use customer call centre information • Conduct regular user testing • To understand comprehension of content and findability • Use focus groups • To understand attitudes and goals • Use expertise to decide how to apply this information
Speaking to the audience Provide relevant content • Users have a specific purpose, such as: • A transaction • e.g. check payment details • Seeking information • e.g. solving a broad or specific problem • Don’t let extra information get in the users’ way • Remove information that doesn't directly answer questions or solve problems • Remove out-of-date or ambiguous content
Develop and maintain your site’s voice • Editorial voice is the site’s personality • Each page should be written in the same voice • Voice reflects the values of the target market • Foster consistency • Describe the voice and values in a style guide
Content as conversation • Think of your content as a conversation between your organisation and site visitors • What kind of tone do you want it to take? • How much information does the reader need at that moment? • Don’t “write” • Speak – using everyday language • Answer key questions in easy language (as though you’re talking on the phone)
Here’s an example from a real intranet BEFORE As part of our salary packaging scheme, an employee may apply to enter into a novated leasing arrangement with Acme Fleet. The program provides employees with a flexible approach to the acquisition of motor vehicle (new or used, with various lease have been selected as the company to manage our novated leasing program. Extensive experience in fleet management with a broad range of public and private sector clients….. Hello. Can you tell me about the options for salary packaging a car on novated lease please?
AFTER Hello. Can you tell me about the options for salary packaging a car on novated lease please? A novated lease is a standard finance leasing arrangement. You enter into an agreement with a finance company for the lease. Would you like to know more?
You lease the car directly from Acme Fleet. Then we, you and Acme each sign the novation agreement. Then we cover all your vehicleexpenses while you’re employed here. How does it work?
Mmmm… Would you like to know more about how it works?
Ok. It works like this: You lease the car directly, then….. Yes, please.
Conversation as a web page Notice the use of keywords Options for salary packaging a car You can enter a novated lease agreement to salary package a car. A novated lease is a standard finance leasing arrangement. You enter into an agreement with a finance company for the lease. How does it work? You lease the car directly from Acme Fleet. Then we, you and Acme each sign the novation agreement. Then we cover all your vehicleexpenses while you’re employed here. About the novated lease agreement Blah, blah blah…..
Exercise 3: Content as a conversation Rewrite the text as a Conversation Work in groups or pairs, where: • The first person asks what happens to their payments if they leave Australia • The other acts as a Centrelink officer (answers their questions)
Writing as a conversation • Turn the questions into statements • With keywords at the beginning of the heading • Repeat the question/statement in the answer • So that each chunk is context independent • Use the first person
Inverse pyramid technique- revealing detail • People naturally build a story (introduce the subject before adding detail) • Progressive revelation lets users choose: • What content they want • How much they get • Basic organising principle on every level (across the site and within pages/paragraphs) • High-level overviews help users find themselves ‘on the map’ • Allow users to drill down to get as much detail as they need
Inverse pyramid • Place the main first • Supporting points after it
For information on the restrictions in all western states, go to www.nifc.gov For a local view go to: Montana – www.visitmt.com. Idaho - www.visit.org For more information call the National Fire Information Centre at 208-387-5050. Currently the Centre hours at 4:00 am – 12:00 pm MDT. seven days a week. For another source of national wildand fire information see the National Interagency Coordination Centre. New fire activity on Sunday was light to moderate, with ten new large fires reported. “It was a break-even day for us, more or less”, said a spokesperson at the National Interagency Fire Centre. “Large fires in Montana continued to burn actively, but elsewhere, initial attack held its own’”. Currently, 66 fires are burning about 826,802 acres in the United States. For the year, 63,623 fires have burned 4,034,362 acres. That compares with the ten-year average to date of 54,323 fires burning 2,211.71 acres. Winds gusting to 25 miles-per-hour will be a problem in parts of Montana and central Idaho today. A small low-pressure system of the northern California coast is a concern to fire meteorologists. It could spawn a series of thunderstorms from southern Oregon through western Montana. “Wednesday and Thursday will be the big days for the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountains,” a fire meteorologist said. “There will be little moisture with the thunderstorms.” People and equipment continue to be in high demand. About 200 Canadian fire fighters are working blazes in Montana. There are currently 65 large wildland fires burning in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming
Help users take action • Reading a page is only part of a process – users have goals and tasks • Think about what users want to do once they’ve read the page • Use a form or application • Contact by email • Read other pages • Ensure they only have to click once to do those things
Web content must support its own context • Readers can arrive at any page on your site from any other page on the web • Readers often land on a page from a search engine • Users may not follow your logical progression of concepts • Don’t presume your users think the way you do
Structure matters • Well – structured content matches how users thinkand act when visiting a site • Critical to navigation and engagement • Frameworks clarify meaning • Show range of content and logical relationships (information architecture) • Users don’t like surprises • Pathways invite action • Direct and pace a visitor’s journey through the site
Structuring principles • Chunking – dividing content into units • Grouping – arranging chunks into meaningful patterns • Workflows – sequenced by process logic • Collections – grouped by common attributes
Chunking • Break ‘documents’ into small chunks • Each chunk addresses a single topic or task • A chunk is the smallest item of content that a site’s users may want to access individually • Depends on each site’s users, content and navigation • Chunks should be self-contained and context-independent, and not too small
Group information visually • Help users understand which headings belong to which content • Use a little more space above a heading than between the heading and its related text • Group links together visually and separate them from the next group
Reaching your goal Things to consider: • Your assets and cash flow Do you have equity to secure a loan and an income source to service loan repayments? Do you have adequate personal insurance? • Your investment strategy Are you looking for long-term capital growth on your investments or a short-term income stream? Are you looking to invest in the stock market or property market? • Your risk profile What levels of debt are you comfortable with?