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Writing For The Web


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Presentation to staff at the State Library of Victoria on how to write for the web - also useful for anyone interested in web writing. Presented (several times) in October 2007 by Philippa Costigan …

Presentation to staff at the State Library of Victoria on how to write for the web - also useful for anyone interested in web writing. Presented (several times) in October 2007 by Philippa Costigan and Kelly Gardiner.

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  • 1. Writing for the web Philippa Costigan Kelly Gardiner Web Services Team ‘ Title’on this keyline. Arial Bold 36 pts
  • 2. What the hell would we know?
    • Philippa
    • BA (French & English Literature)
    • Editor, Cheap Eats and other consumer/lifestyle magazines
    • Partner, Costigan & Murphy, corporate and Government clients – annual reports, brochures, magazines, websites, print advertising and more
    • Web Content Coordinator, SLV
    • Kelly
    • BA (Professional writing and editing)
    • MA (Literature)
    • Editor of newspapers, magazines, websites
    • Manager of ninemsn Search, Hotmail,
    • Author (kids’ books)
    • Web Services Manager, SLV
  • 3. How people find content
    • Most users get to web pages from search engines, links on other websites, or links within a website
    • Every page should be written as if the user hasn’t seen the rest of the site
    • Some of them may not even know where they are.
  • 4. How people read content
    • Reading from computer screens is slower than reading on paper.
    • People rarely read web pages in detail. They are more likely to:
    • Skim the page
    • Pick out key words and phrases to find relevant information
    • Look for links, sub-heads and bullet points
    • Click and leave within seconds.
  • 5.  
  • 6.  
  • 7.
    • Writing for how people search and writing quality links are the two fundamental skills of web writing.
    • Think carefully about search behaviour and make sure your links are always clear and logical.
    • - Gerry McGovern
    79 percent of our test users always scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read word-by-word. - Jakob Nielsen
  • 8. Understand your audience
    • Who are you talking to?
    • What do you know about these people – where do they live? How old are they? What do they like to do in their spare time?
    • What do they know about the State Library of Victoria?
    • What information do they need?
  • 9. What’s the point?
    • What are you trying to say and why do you need to say it?
    • What are you trying to do? Inform, entertain, educate, motivate, solve a problem?
    • What do you want users to think about the State Library of Victoria?
  • 10. Your website is not a murder mystery... Short, sharp, second person and active; that's web content. Get to the point. Then stop. - Gerry McGovern
  • 11. Voice and tone
    • Simple steps to help create a friendly and informative voice:
    • Never talk down to people
    • Always write in plain English (don’t use overly formal language)
    • Avoid confusing language (don’t use jargon)
    • Avoid long sentences (about 16 words)
  • 12. Varying your voice
    • Match your voice to your audience:
    • Corporate websites: efficient, informative, but approachable
    • Vicnet: less formal, community-focused ( us not you ), inclusive
    • Blogs: informal, conversational, inviting responses (if work related, they still have to be professional and make some grammatical sense)
    • Insideadog: voice reflects user demographic
  • 13. Tips
    • Be clear and relevant
    • Online readers don’t tolerate ambiguous text, and will click forward to find something clearer
    • Make sure your writing sticks to the topic and can’t be misunderstood.
    • Write with an active voice
    • The active voice is more direct and uses fewer words
    • Passive: The lecture was enjoyed by the library users
    • Active: Library users enjoyed the lecture
    • Write with a personal voice
    • Impersonal: Web users may subscribe to the State Library’s free email newsletter below .
    • Personal: Sign up for your free email newsletter here!
  • 14. Inverted pyramid
    • Summarise information in the headline and lead paragraph
    • Follow with key facts arranged in diminishing order
    • Forget essay writing techniques.
  • 15. How to be concise
    • Online text should have half as many words as printed text – at most. Sentences and paragraphs should be short.
    • Never put more than one main idea into a single paragraph.
    • Words must be simple and direct. For example, use not utilise ; decide not make a decision .
  • 16. Page lengths
    • Minimise page lengths
    • Ideally, users shouldn’t need to scroll down more than two or three screens of information.
    • If you are dealing with more than about 800 words:
    • Edit it to make it shorter
    • Divide it into self-contained and logical chunks that can live on separate pages.
  • 17. Chunking
    • Self-contained and context-independent segments of text, headings and subheads that are grouped together for quick easy reading
    • Chunks usually fit within a single screen, address a specific concept or theme, are no longer than 100 words, and no more than one or two paragraphs
    • Chunks have descriptive headlines or subheads, may contain numbered or bulleted lists, and often have links to other pages or websites
  • 18. Page structure
    • Use sub-headings
    • Sub-headings divide and label logical sections or paragraphs within a single web page.
    • Sub-headings help users follow the flow of the text and enable them to quickly assess the bits they want to read.
    • Use bullet points
    • Bulleted and numbered lists:
    • Draws the user’s attention to the most important points
    • Allows the user to scan the text quickly and take in key information.
  • 19. Headlines
    • Strong headlines provide a succinct snapshot of the content on the page and entice users to read further.
    • Page headlines should be intuitive, written in plain language, and make sense on their own: no puns, cute or clever headlines or clichés.
    • A good headline answers one simple question: “What is the key message on this page?”
  • 20.
    • Lead with the need. Keep your headings under eight words; four words or less would be even better.
    • - Gerry McGovern
  • 21. Metadata
    • What’s it for?
    • Page titles, summaries and keywords make search engines work, and help people find your pages.
    • These are coded into the page, and the search engine picks them out when people type those words into a search box.
    • Alt text (tool tips in IE)
    • Alt text is the short descriptive phrase that appears, like a caption, in a pop-up box when you hover your mouse over an image
    • Alt text should appear on every meaningful graphic. If it is an image such as a photo or drawing, the alt text should describe the image
    • Critical for accessibility.
  • 22. Page title Summary
  • 23. Page title
  • 24.  
  • 25. Links
    • Use links well
    • Links to other pages, or content elsewhere on the site, offer users the chance to read background information or related pages.
    • Links must be genuinely useful. They allows users to complete tasks.
    • Deep links to specific pages reduce frustration.
    • Industry standards:
    • Links should be self-explanatory
    • Write a blurb to tell users what to expect when they click
    • Don’t waste words writing click here or follow this link
    • Web addresses shouldn’t be used as the text for links: You can book online
    • If the link takes users to a different section or website, make that clear: Vote now on insideadog
  • 26. Context links
  • 27. Editing
    • Editors ensure:
    • Information and ideas are ordered logically and appropriate for the audience and the medium
    • Information is presented consistently – structure, voice, tone and style
    • Text does not distract the user from their key task, but helps them achieve it
    • Editors check:
    • Text conforms to web best practice
    • Images and captions enhance the content and are relevant
    • Ideas are clearly expressed and appeal to the audience
    • Fundamentals: punctuation, spelling, links, metadata, consistency with house style
    • Editing establishes credibility and trust
    • SLV websites are publications with global reach
    • Would we publish the Annual Report without editing it?
  • 28. Peer editing
    • Everyone needs someone to love their text
    • Double-check your own work
    • Ask others to check your text
    • Offer to check others’ work
    • Use an industry style guide
  • 29. References
    • Standard dictionary:
    • The Macquarie Dictionary
    • Style guides:
    • Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers , AGPS Press, Canberra
    • SLV Style Guide
    • Web gurus:
    • Jakob Nielsen,
    • Gerry McGovern,
    • Us:
    • Ask questions – now and any time.