To write well for the web, you need to understand what today’s Internet users want and expect. Users want web content that:-
- Is easy to skim & scan
- Is written in a style that is direct, concise and factual
- Is focused around their needs (not yours)
- Has credibility and inspires trust
10 Web Writing Tips
1. Understand how users read on the web
Users read differently on the web – unlike when they are reading a book from cover to cover. On the web, users don’t read word for word. They skim content, trying to get a quick impression of what it’s about. They scan for the bits they are interested in and ignore the rest. You need to understand how users read on the web, then write content in a style that makes it easy for them. More about how users read on the Web.
2. Write content that is easy to skim & scan
- Be direct
- Start with your conclusion – this is called the Inverted Pyramid style
- Limit each paragraph to one key concept
- Use meaningful headings
- Use bullet points and numbered lists
- Include summaries or overviews
Learn more about how to write in a style that keeps your readers reading
3. Keep your wording short & simple
Be brief and concise. Reduce your word-count to a minimum. Write clearly and simply. If you are writing for an expert audience explain your terms. Give your users links to simple background information, so that the most casual visitor can work out what you are talking about.
4. Know your audience
Who are you are writing for? What are their needs? What will they come to your web page to find or achieve? What is their level of expertise? Build a profile of your various audience groups. Focus your content around your users’ needs and tasks, not around yourself or your organisation (user-centric content writing).
5. Engage your user
Imagine who your user will be, and keep that imagined person in mind as you write for him or her. Talk directly to your user. Provide interaction.
6. Build trust
- Be factual and accurate. Where appropriate, prove the verity of your information with links to trusted websites or by quoting trusted authorities.
- Include only content which conforms to the purpose of your website.
- Protect privacy and respect copyright.
- Keep your content up to date.
- Publish your contact details. Provide users with a sense of knowing who is behind the website.
- Spell-check your content. Invite people to report errors, then fix them.
Read more about building trust and website credibility.
7. Test then refine your content
First test it yourself – review each web page while imagining how it reads to a new user. Then test it on users to learn what works and what causes difficulties. Test your content on different audience groups with different levels of knowledge. Test web page performance in all common browsers. Test, refine, test, refine, test … (You get the idea).
8. Help people (and search engines) find your content
Organize your content so that your website is easy to navigate. Use hyperlinks to articles on your own website and to other helpful sites. Do keyword research to determine what keywords people are likely to use to find your content. Sprinkle your content with those keyword phrases, paying particular attention to your article title, headings and your leading paragraph. Provide alternate text descriptions for your images (Google loves knowing what images mean).
9. Create the right tone, look and feel
When you create web pages, aim for a unified tone, look and feel throughout your site. Aim for the right tone to suit your audience group and your subject matter. Keep the tone of your website unrelentingly positive. Use multi-media cautiously – it should enhance the page, not distract the user. Develop an appropriate identifying brand if you do not already have one, and include it on every page and communication. Color, images and the ‘tone’ of your conversation with the user all help to create a psychological impact on your users, and help to communicate a subtle message about who you are.
10. Be generous with your expert knowledge
Users value expert knowledge. It can be a draw-card for visitors to your website and it helps to build credibility because it establishes you as an authority on your subject. Don’t give your expert knowledge all at once. Organize it into digestible pieces. Give a summary first, then let your users drill down for more details.