Guide to writing Web content
- Users roam from page to page to try to find the most pertinent information in the least amount of time possible.
- Users skim rather than read word for word. They scan headlines, subheadings, links, numerals and keywords.
- They do not like to scroll and may not take the time to go below the fold.
General writing best practices
- Use simple sentence structures with few introductory clauses.
- Write in an active voice and use active verbs.
- Limit acronyms and abbreviations unless they are well understood and defined on the page.
- Avoid metaphors, puns, and indirect language.
- Avoid jargon and slang that won’t be understood by a varied and global audience.
- Be a good editor. Always double-check your content.
- Place the most important facts near the top.
- Avoid empty chatter such as welcome text.
- Make every page able to stand on its own. Do not assume the reader saw the previous screen.
- Keep paragraphs short with only one main idea per paragraph.
- Find ways to break up your page into segments with headings, subheadings, and lists.
Headings and subheadings
- Headings are important because they grab the reader’s attention.
- Place one or two keywords in headings that will signal to the reader what information is on the page.
- Use subheadings frequently. The reader should not have to view more than a screen and a half before finding a new subheading.
- Select a word, phrase or idea from the paragraphs that will make the reader want to keep reading.
- Be direct, avoiding puns and metaphors in headings.
Links within the page body
- Use links within paragraphs sparingly, to refer users to relevant information, but don’t let links overcrowd the content and become a distraction.
- Put only highly important links within a page’s body.
- Avoid phrases such as “click here.”
- Place links that will interrupt the reader’s flow at the end of the document.
- Put less relevant links at the end of the document.
Writing by the numbers…
- Web content should have only about half the word count of its paper equivalent.
- Longer documents are generally useful only when the reader may want to print the content as one entire page.
- Paragraphs should contain no more than six sentences.