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Handout from Keep It Short & Simple: Writing For The Web (Lindsey Patten)
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Handout from Keep It Short & Simple: Writing For The Web (Lindsey Patten)


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Handout from Lindsey's session. …

Handout from Lindsey's session.

Is your website bland and boring? Then you need a content overhaul! This session will offer real tips and tricks to help you make your content engaging as well as increase your audience and support. We’ll examine what works on the internet and what doesn’t as well as the essentials of web writing! Learn how to craft compelling messages, structure your web pages and draft a strong call to action.

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  • 1. How Users Read on the Web They don't. People rarely read Web pages word by word; instead, they scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences. In research on how people read websites we found that 79 percent of our test users always scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read word-by-word. (Update: a newer study found that users read email newsletters even more abruptly than they read websites.) As a result, Web pages have to employ scannable text, using highlighted keywords (hypertext links serve as one form of highlighting; typeface variations and color are others) meaningful sub-headings (not "clever" ones) bulleted lists one idea per paragraph (users will skip over any additional ideas if they are not caught by the first few words in the paragraph) the inverted pyramid style, starting with the conclusion half the word count (or less) than conventional writing We found that credibility is important for Web users, since it is unclear who is behind information on the Web and whether a page can be trusted. Credibility can be increased by high-quality graphics, good writing, and use of outbound hypertext links. Links to other sites show that the authors have done their homework and are not afraid to let readers visit other sites. More at:
  • 2. Donation Usability: Increasing Online Giving to Non-Profits and Charities Summary: User research finds significant deficiencies in non-profit organizations' website content, which often fails to provide the info people need to make donation decisions. Non-profits would collect much more from their websites if only they'd clearly state what they are about and how they use donations. Our new usability studies revealed considerable frustration as potential donors visited sites and tried to discern various organizations' missions and goals — which are key factors in their decisions about whether to give money. In 2008, non-profits got about 10% of their donations online, according to a survey by Target Analytics. Given the high growth rate for Internet donations, we estimate that they'll constitute the majority of donations by 2020. If non-profit organizations get their sites into shape, that is. Well-designed non-profit websites are particularly suited for attracting new donors and efficiently supporting small-scale impulse giving. Websites are less effective at sustaining long-term donor relationships. For encouraging customer (or donor) loyalty, e-mail newsletters remain the Internet tool of choice. More at:
  • 3. How to Have a Good Brainstorming Session If there's one thing I love to do, its brainstorm. I think sharing ideas and thoughts always cull more great ideas. But brainstorming sessions can get way out of hand. So how do you make sure you get everything you need? 1. Set a Goal – If your goal is to develop new content for a website, don't let the brainstorming veer off into what colours the site should be. Keep everyone on track. 2. Be Strategic – Don't brainstorm with just anybody. Select people who have diverging opinions from you but can stay on task. Look for a mix of big picture people versus detail-oriented ones.
  • 4. 3. Create an Agenda - Brainstorming doesn't necessarily mean a free for all. Creating an outline will keep you on task and help you focus on specific sections. 4. Develop Questions - A bad brainstorming session starts like this: We are developing new content for the website. Got any ideas? Instead, create leading questions that tackle each section. One of my favourites is asking people to describe the current content in three words or less. Then that gives you an idea of where you want to head. 5. Encourage Chatter from Everyone - It's likely that you will encounter people who are not so apt to speak up as others. Draw them into the conversation, ask them to share their opinions and ensure that everyone has an equal shot at getting their voice heard. 6. Determine Data Collection - Are you writing everything down on a flip chart? Are people taking their own notes? However you decide, ensure that there is an easy way for the information to be gathered. 7. Set a Time Limit - Brainstorming sessions can go on for hours but eventually the well will run dry and the same idea will keep recycling themselves. I would suggest no more than one to two hours. A brainstorming session can revitalize a project, inspire new ideas and get you excited about what you are working on. Good luck and Happy Brainstorming!
  • 5. From the Brain to the Page: How to Create the Best Piece Possible Sometimes it can be difficult to create the perfect piece. Whether it's a direct mail letter or copy for the website, the words often don't come out the way you want them to. A Simple Truth: What you draft out in your brain is always better then what's on the page. I have always found this to be true. That doesn't mean that what you write on the page isn't good. But it will never be as good as in your head. One of the first things I learned as a writer was to let that go. So how do you get what's in your brain on to the page? When people sit down to write, they can get intimidated by the blank page (or blank computer screen). That's why I like to brainstorm first. Get a flipchart and start writing down as many words as you can think of to describe what you are trying to say. These can be used as a great jumping off point for what your document will look like.
  • 6. Then just spit it out there on the page. The first draft may not be good, but some of it at least will encapsulate what you are trying to say. I know writers who like to draft outlines, but for me it's more important to get what you are saying on the page first. Then you can outline and organize your thoughts. After this, you need to back away. Trying to edit your draft immediately won't help you at all. Work on something else and put it out of your mind. Once you've had some time away, you can start on draft two. Here's where you organize your thoughts and get your points across. Re-examine the flip chart to see what words and phrases can work with in your document. Take time to really think about what your goal is and see if you are achieving it.