Writing for the Web It’s easier than you think.
Different Approaches • Brevity and bullets rather than a story • Write for a restless reader • Actionable content, not narrative • Write for linking • Sentence fragments are desirable, not verboten
Brevity, bullets, no story • Write like you’re outlining ideas • Key points, written short • Break up text into bullets or short paragraphs with subheads • Save narratives and stories for linked pages or downloadable documents
Write for a restless reader • Remember that web-surfers are searching for specific content. • That’s why search engines are most peoples’ home pages • Users go to the Internet with a purpose; short attention spans are the rule.
Actionable Content • Make it easy for your users/readers to find what they’re looking for: • Links to deeper pages and info • Boldface subheads steer the eye • Organize text by frequency of use • Break up blocks of content with photos, graphics, charts
It’s OK to fragment • Defy your English teacher: • Write short, sharp, clear • Don’t worry about verbs, but if you use them make them active • Use only the words you need; avoid superfluous flowerisms
On the Web, you must start with your key words because users often scan down the left part of a list of items. They never see the last words in a link unless the first few words attract their attention. • Not “The long-term consequences of pot smoking,” but “Pot smoking damage over years.”
How the eye moves From Eyetrack III http://www.poynterextra.org/eyetrack2004/about.htm
Write in soundbites • Rather than long blocks of text, written for the page with careful grammar and excellent punctuation, write as if you had 10 seconds to say what you want your webpage’s visitor to hear.
Version A • When a freshman first sets foot on the UCSF campus, he or she will have several needs: to find their classes, to know where their professors’ offices are, and to learn where the cafeterias are housed.
Version B • New Student’s Guide to housing, class locations, food
Reference websites: www.gooddocuments.com/techniques/overview.htm www.useit.com/papers/webwriting/ www.buzzwhack.com/ www.december.com/web/develop/overview.html www.ddj.com/authors.htmjerz.setonhill.edu/writing/e-text/conventions.htm