Writing For The Web
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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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    Writing For The Web Writing For The Web Presentation Transcript

    • Writing for the web Philippa Costigan Kelly Gardiner Web Services Team ‘ Title’on this keyline. Arial Bold 36 pts
    • 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, ninemsn.com.au
      • Author (kids’ books)
      • Web Services Manager, SLV
    • 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.
    • 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.
    •  
    •  
      • 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
    • 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?
    • 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?
    • 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
    • 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)
    • 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
    • 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!
    • Inverted pyramid
      • Summarise information in the headline and lead paragraph
      • Follow with key facts arranged in diminishing order
      • Forget essay writing techniques.
    • 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 .
    • 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.
    • 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
    • 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.
    • 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?”
      • Lead with the need. Keep your headings under eight words; four words or less would be even better.
      • - Gerry McGovern
    • 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.
    • Page title Summary
    • Page title
    •  
    • 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
    • Context links
    • 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?
    • 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
    • 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, www.useit.com
      • Gerry McGovern, www.gerrymcgovern.com
      • Us:
      • Ask questions – now and any time.