Writing for the Web
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» Writing for the Web
Writing for the Web poses different challenges than writing for print. Study after study has shown that users do not like to spend a lot of time reading on the Web. Instead, they scan pages, trying to pick out a few sentences or even parts of sentences to get the information they want. When people visit your Web site, they are after information, first and foremost. Here are general guidelines to follow when writing for the Web:
- Concise writing is best. Keep it short, but don't "dumb it down."
- Try to limit yourself to one idea per paragraph.
- Write as informally as is appropriate for your audience. Formal writing takes careful reading, and most Web readers don't want to do that.
- Avoid clever headings and cute catchphrases that aren't quickly obvious to the readers.
- As a general rule, avoid empty chatter like welcoming text or instructions on using the site. Users are looking for information.
- Try to use no more than half the words you would use in a printed publication.
- Keep pages short if the user is likely to read the material online.
- Use short text segments, written in a clear, easy-to-understand style.
- Documents must be concise and structured for scanning. Use headings, bulleted lists, and bold text for words and sections you want to emphasize.
- Put the important information at the top of the page so users can find it quickly.
- Make sure the first sentence in any paragraph captures the essence of the paragraph.
- Keep your content up to date. Users expect the material to be current.
- If you are stating something as a fact, be sure it is a fact.
- Write your text in a program that has spell-checking and search features before transferring it to html.
- Proofread your text (and have someone else proofread it as well) before putting it online.
- Use clear and concise wording for your links so users know where the link will take them and what information they are likely to find.
- Hypertext links should supplement your message, not substitute for it or distract from it. Don't arbitrarily send readers to another page.
- Put only the most relevant and significant links in the body of your text. Group minor, illustrative, or footnote links at the bottom of the page.
- Most links should lead to other documents in your site, not to someone else's site. Make sure readers know when they will be leaving your site.
- Avoid underlining copy. Most browsers automatically display links with underlines, and underlining any other text may confuse readers.
- Avoid links to incomplete or “under construction” pages.
- Avoid changing the URLs of existing pages, as this will “break” links for those who have added links from their site to yours. When relocation is unavoidable, a redirect page to the new URL must be posted at the original URL and remain there for one year.