Writing Right for the Web

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Writing Right for the Web

  1. 1. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 1 WRITING RIGHT FOR THE WEB ©ROBERT E. JOHNSON, PH.D. 2013 Bob Johnson, Ph.D. President, Bob Johnson Consulting Partner, Customer Carewords, Ltd J.Boye Web & Intranet Conference Aarhus, Denmark November 5-7, 2013
  2. 2. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 2 Top website design winner in 2013… London’s Design Museum award… http://bit.ly/HfxFAq
  3. 3. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC 5 top tips about anything online… • People are impatient • People are impatient • People are impatient • People are impatient • People are impatient 3
  4. 4. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 4 What we are doing this afternoon… Improving the power of your website: • Making your content useful… • Making your content scannable… • Making your content concise… • Making your content engaging… • Making your content Panda-friendly • For 3 hours, we are all content editors
  5. 5. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing If web editors ruled the web… 287 content creators and editors in late 2012 5
  6. 6. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 6 As web editors, we want to end this…
  7. 7. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing And this… http://www.mbawpa.org/history.asp 7
  8. 8. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 8 WEBSITE IS A PUBLICATION… A SERIES OF ONLINE MAGAZINES Would your audience(s) subscribe to your magazine? Tasks, content, style will differ for audiences… As it does for print magazines
  9. 9. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 9 THE POWER OF WORDS… …Words are jewels in the “content is king” crown …Task completion is key to success …Speed is an essential element
  10. 10. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 10 Wise words to start… • “There is one reason far more than any other why websites fail: they use the wrong words.” • “They use words that are organizational; that are internal; that are focused on the needs and worldview of the organization. They try to dictate to customers in an alien language, and they righteously expect customers to learn their lingo.” • Gerry McGovern, 10 July 2011, http://www.gerrymcgovern.com/new-thinking/powerwritten-word
  11. 11. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 11 Using the right words… in 1958 • “Rolls-Royce has an obsession with quality appreciated by discerning customers” • Rolls-Royce campaign before David Ogilvy • “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock” • Rolls-Royce campaign after David Ogilvy • Sounds like… • “Committed to academic excellence” in higher education • Sounds like… • The real world • Must reflect experience
  12. 12. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 12 1. MAKING YOUR WEB CONTENT USEFUL… …or how to identify and present content in a mobile world.
  13. 13. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 13 LET’S EXERCISE… What are the 3 top tasks at your website?
  14. 14. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 14 MAJOR REASON PEOPLE GO TO YOUR WEBSITE… Complete a task
  15. 15. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 15 THE GOLDEN RULE… <5 seconds to connect
  16. 16. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 16 GOAL OF YOUR CONTENT STRATEGY… Help visitors complete tasks important to them
  17. 17. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 17 K.I.S.S. Simple, fast task completion
  18. 18. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 18 Task completion for many audiences… http://sydney.edu.au/
  19. 19. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 19 Task completion for a single audience… http://www.nhs.uk/Pages/HomePage.aspx
  20. 20. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing When a super task = one word… http://liverpool.gov.uk/ 20
  21. 21. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 21 Sometimes the truth is hard to admit… Nobody cares as much about your 375th birthday celebrations as your “family” does…
  22. 22. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 22 Removal… #1 content strategy goal • 75 percent of the content on your website is garbage… • Identify and remove it to thrive in a mobile world… focus on top tasks • University of Richmond eliminated about 50 percent of overall web content • About 75 percent of admissions and financial aid content
  23. 23. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 23 Top tasks for higher education… #2 goal Future students… Alumni… • Find academic • Order a transcript programs offered • Learn about cost • Inquire • Apply online • Directions to campus • Check on application • Read a class note • Submit a class note • Register for class reunion • Reunion event details • Make a donation (?)
  24. 24. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 24 Top tasks for almost nobody… • Welcome messages from presidents and deans • Mission statements • “Frou-frou” marketing claims • Chronological histories • Administrative department strategic plans
  25. 25. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 25 “Mobile friendly” = clear & fast… Mobile friendly… Not mobile friendly…
  26. 26. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 26 2. MAKING YOUR WEBSITE SCANNABLE… …or how to organize and present content on your desktop and mobile websites.
  27. 27. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 27 THE GOLDEN RULE, AGAIN… <5 seconds to connect
  28. 28. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 28 WEB READERS ARE SCAN READERS… If people can’t scan your pages, people won’t read your content… Important, inexpensive, quick change starts with a cursor… Change big paragraphs to small paragraphs
  29. 29. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing Eliminate dense blocks of text… • Short paragraphs… 50 words or less • One-sentence paragraph is OK • Short sentences… 5 to 10 words • Subheads… • Active words, not labels • Flow from the primary page heading • Bullet points 29
  30. 30. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 30 Too much content, too many links… http://www.suny.edu/sunynews/
  31. 31. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing Improved, easy to scan version… http://www.suny.edu/sunynews/ 31
  32. 32. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 32 Easy to scan for brand message… http://www.smith.edu/about_whyissmith.php
  33. 33. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing Typical “About” page… http://www.cofc.edu/about/index.php 33
  34. 34. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing Easy to scan “About” page… http://www.stanford.edu/about/ 34
  35. 35. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 35 Easy to scan annual report, w/ video… https://apps.carleton.edu/giving/report/2011/
  36. 36. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 36 Video hides message engagement… https://apps.carleton.edu/giving/report/2012/
  37. 37. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing You don’t always need a photo… https://www.law.upenn.edu/inbrief/ 37
  38. 38. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing Better without a photo… https://www.law.upenn.edu/inbrief/our-faculty.php 38
  39. 39. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 39 BLACK TEXT ON WHITE STILL WORKS BEST… Black text on white (or very light) background is best… Avoid low contrast between text and background whatever the color combination
  40. 40. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing Low-contrast text is a killer… http://www.bu.edu/ar/2010/research/ 40
  41. 41. Bob Johnson Consulting,Consulting, LLC LLC... @highedmarketing Bob Johnson 41 FONT SIZE? NO SQUINTING! 10 point or 12 point… Fonts are different at same sizes… (Verdana) Fonts are different at same sizes (Arial) Fonts are different at same sizes (Calibri)
  42. 42. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing No squinting here… http://liverpool.gov.uk/leisure-parks-and-events/ 42
  43. 43. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 43 Best editorial decision for mobile… • Start with immediately visible key content words • Content words are navigation points • Don’t let graphics prevent content scans
  44. 44. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 44 UC San Diego in responsive design… http://www.ucsd.edu/
  45. 45. Bob Johnson Consulting,Consulting, LLC LLC... @highedmarketing Bob Johnson 45 KILLING SCANNABILITY… LONG TEXT PARAGRAPHS You can’t force people to read online… If visitors can’t scan a page, few will stay
  46. 46. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 46 Can’t scan “Program Highlights”…
  47. 47. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 47 Web-friendly content editing… • The BS in Elementary Education is a Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) approved program that culminates with both Reading and ESOL endorsement. • The program includes courses in teaching students with English as a second • • • • language, students with exceptionalities, reading competency, classroom management, assessment, and integrated approaches to teaching methodologies at the elementary school level. Students will learn to facilitate lessons that integrate math and science, health, music and movement, as well as literature, fine arts, language arts, and social sciences. Field experience requirements are progressive in nature, building upon previous semester experiences. Students will observe teachers in the field, teach lessons through the practicum courses, and complete a full-time teaching internship in their final semester. Courses are offered for full-time and part-time students, with blended and online courses where applicable. Students will complete one upper division literacy course (3 credit hours) taught by Florida Gulf Coast University faculty.
  48. 48. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 48 No dense text blocks here… http://www.masterbuildersinfo.com/index.cfm?/Members
  49. 49. Bob Johnson Consulting,Consulting, LLC LLC... @highedmarketing Bob Johnson 49 KILLING SCANNABILITY: PUBLICATIONS IN PDF OR “FLIP TECH” FORMATS If you can read the text, you can’t see the photos If you can see the photos, you can’t read the text
  50. 50. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 50 PDF format doesn’t work well… http://law.wustl.edu/magazine/spring2012/pdf/Law_Magazine_Spring_12.pdf
  51. 51. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 51 And neither does “flip” technology… http://totalhealthmagazine.com/Mags/2013October/index.html
  52. 52. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing An example of getting it right… http://hbr.org/magazine 52
  53. 53. Bob Johnson Consulting,Consulting, LLC LLC... @highedmarketing Bob Johnson 53 KILLING SCANNABILITY… TRANSITION FROM MOBILE TO DESKTOP WEBSITE Website can start out “mobile-friendly”… But lead into the desktop website
  54. 54. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing Transition trap from mobile site… 54
  55. 55. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 55 After a “responsive” home page…
  56. 56. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 3. MAKING YOUR WEB CONTENT CONCISE …or including needed detail, but in fewer words. 56
  57. 57. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 57 Not a place for great literature… Moby Dick on the web “Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.” I must go to sea when: – I'm depressed or melancholy – I stop in front of coffin warehouses – I follow funerals – I have a powerful urge to knock people's hats off Continue the adventure here. • Thanks to Kathy Henning, Communications Specialist, Seattle Pacific University
  58. 58. Bob Johnson Consulting,Consulting, LLC LLC... @highedmarketing Bob Johnson 58 WRITING TIPS FROM JOURNALISM AND DIRECT MARKETING Brief… Clear… Compelling and persuasive (when appropriate)
  59. 59. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing Direct marketing style helps people connect… • Newspaper copy words… • “walk”… not “ambulate” • “confuse”… not “discombobulate” • “beat around the bush”… not “prevaricate” • “view”… not “purview” • “glaring”… not “egregious” • Personal language style • “You” and “your” are great web writing words • Visible prompts to take an action 59
  60. 60. Bob Johnson Consulting,Consulting, LLC LLC... @highedmarketing Bob Johnson 60 SPECIAL ATTENTION TO THE FIRST SENTENCE IN A PARAGRAPH… The first sentence can stand alone… Craft a first sentence to capture attention… One sentence paragraph is OK… Keep paragraphs to 50 words or less
  61. 61. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 61 Strong first sentence stands out… http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/loseweight/Pages/how-can-I-speed-up-my-metabolism.aspx • “It’s not unusual to hear people blame their weight gain on a slow metabolism.”
  62. 62. Bob Johnson Consulting,Consulting, LLC LLC... @highedmarketing Bob Johnson 62 SCROLL OR DON’T SCROLL? HTTP://WWW.USEIT.COM/ALERTBOX/SCROLLIN G-ATTENTION.HTML OK to scroll when content of continuing interest is unfolding… When topics change, might be time for a new page
  63. 63. Bob Johnson Consulting,Consulting, LLC LLC... @highedmarketing Bob Johnson 63 BREVITY… AND MORE BREVITY Elevating content length to a new importance for social media & the mobile environment
  64. 64. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 64 UVa’s Zander press release on FB… http://www.virginia.edu/uvatoday/newsRelease.php?id=13553
  65. 65. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 65 Brevity on Twitter… • Zander, the University of Virginia’s bomb-sniffing police dog, is retiring at the age of 49 people years. The 7-year-old German shepherd, which works in the U.Va. police department, is showing early signs of arthritis in the hips, a vulnerable spot on shepherds. • Too long for Twitter… a “+121” count • Editing for Twitter: • Our bomb sniffing “pussycat” police dog retires. His story at http://bit.ly/dQWv58 • 58 spaces… room to RT with a brief comment
  66. 66. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 66 Twitter can make us write better… • “Twitter forces you to be concise.” • “Twitter forces you to exercise your vocabulary.” • “Twitter forces you to improve your editing skills.” • Jennifer Blanchard, http://bit.ly/eNOIXZ • Use the same skills for Facebook entries
  67. 67. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 67 4. MAKING YOUR WEB CONTENT ENGAGING… …or how to use content presentation and copywriting principles to help visitors complete top tasks.
  68. 68. Bob Johnson Consulting,Consulting, LLC LLC... @highedmarketing Bob Johnson 68 THE WEB IS AN INFORMAL PLACE, SO MAKE THINGS AS PERSONAL AS POSSIBLE… Use “Carewords”… words people care about and use every day Slay organization-centric language The “You” word is fine…
  69. 69. Bob Johnson Consulting,Consulting, LLC LLC... @highedmarketing Bob Johnson 69 WEB READERS SCAN FOR “CARE” WORDS… Words that get attention and engage visitors… Write from the viewpoint of your audience… What are the “Carewords” that get attention?
  70. 70. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 70 Carewords for Exec MBA prospects… UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School • Words people cared about… Top 25% • Words that didn’t rank high… Low 25% • Advance your career • Accessible faculty • Balancing work, home, • Experience of faculty and school • Career advancement • Cost • Best school possible • Prestigious, wellrecognized degree • Corporate sponsorship • Shaping leaders • Class diversity (industry or experience) • Format of program
  71. 71. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 71 Carewords shape top content… http://www.kenan-flagler.unc.edu/programs/emba/index.cfm
  72. 72. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 72 And continue on secondary pages… http://www.kenan-flagler.unc.edu/programs/emba/work-life-balance
  73. 73. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 73 Top tasks for a secondary page in Norway… http://www.uio.no/english/student-life/
  74. 74. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 74 Edit from this home page… • Clutter kills engagement • More on mobile than on a large screen • But even on a large screen
  75. 75. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing …to this home page for mobile 75
  76. 76. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing THE WEB IS AN INFORMAL PLACE… Make the language you use as friendly as possible… 76
  77. 77. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 77 “You”-friendly transfer credit page… http://www.stedwards.edu/admission/adultlearners/requirements • Write like this… • “We consider your work and life experience, your....” • 10 times… • Use of “you” or “your” on this page • Abolish… • “Applicants must…” language
  78. 78. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 78 Web-friendly content editing… • The BS in Elementary Education is a Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) approved program that culminates with both Reading and ESOL endorsement. • The program includes courses in teaching students with English as a second • • • • language, students with exceptionalities, reading competency, classroom management, assessment, and integrated approaches to teaching methodologies at the elementary school level. Students will learn to facilitate lessons that integrate math and science, health, music and movement, as well as literature, fine arts, language arts, and social sciences. Field experience requirements are progressive in nature, building upon previous semester experiences. Students will observe teachers in the field, teach lessons through the practicum courses, and complete a full-time teaching internship in their final semester. Courses are offered for full-time and part-time students, with blended and online courses where applicable. Students will complete one upper division literacy course (3 credit hours) taught by Florida Gulf Coast University faculty.
  79. 79. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 79 5. MAKING YOUR WEB CONTENT MORE SEARCH ENGINE FRIENDLY… …or how to edit and write to please the Panda
  80. 80. Bob Johnson Consulting,Consulting, LLC LLC... @highedmarketing Bob Johnson 80 “PANDA” IS A PLUS FROM GOOGLE… A web editor’s best friend for SEO… Reinforces need to reduce content & present it as clearly as possible
  81. 81. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 81 Important Google change in 2011… • “Panda” raised the value of web content editors everywhere… • For example… • “Removing low quality pages, merging or improving the content of individual shallow pages into more useful pages, or moving low quality pages to a different domain could eventually help the rankings of your higherquality content.” (http://bit.ly/k2uUZX)
  82. 82. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 82 23 “high-quality” questions to ask…
  83. 83. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 83 5 questions especially for web editors… • “Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?” • “Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?” • “Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?” • “Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?” • “Would users complain when they see pages from this site?”
  84. 84. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing A FEW RESOURCE RECOMMENDATIONS… 84
  85. 85. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing Jakob Nielsen usability results… http://www.nngroup.com/topic/writing-web/ 85
  86. 86. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 86 Gerry McGovern’s “New Thinking”… http://www.gerrymcgovern.com/new-thinking-by-subject?tid=6
  87. 87. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing The Janice Redish book… 87
  88. 88. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 88 Review the SEO Periodic Table… http://searchengineland.com/seotable
  89. 89. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 89 LET’S WRAP UP… K.I.S.S
  90. 90. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing 90 The 5 most important pieces… • Identify the top tasks visitors want to complete. • Different audiences have different tasks. • Reduce excessive content plaguing most websites. • Make sure that content is scannable… you have 5 seconds or less. • Short words, sentences, paragraphs. • Subheads, bullet points, links. • Use language that people visiting a site understand & care about. • Be judicious in the use of photos and video.
  91. 91. Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC... @highedmarketing THANKS FOR BEING HERE IN AARHUS! Bob Johnson, Ph.D. bob@bobjohnsonconsulting.com www.bobjohnsonconsulting.com @highedmarketing 91

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