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Writing For The Web Fall 2011
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Writing For The Web Fall 2011

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Basic practices for journalists when writing and formatting content for digital consumption.

Basic practices for journalists when writing and formatting content for digital consumption.

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  • Who is your audience? Visualize readers - person's purpose have for reading the story. - Use case - what is the call to action? News you can use? - Questions - stories - Obstacles - obstacles to take action
  • Information is what drives web sites. Any site must begin with engaging content.
  • Users stick with one site as long as it delivers what they are looking for.
  • Use half the word count of conventional writing. Be a brutal editor. Google reads the first 66 characters
  • Google reads the first 66 characters
  • With so many competing sources, a unique conversational voice may help distinguish your pages.

Writing For The Web Fall 2011 Writing For The Web Fall 2011 Presentation Transcript

  • Usability and Writing For The Web Marie K. Shanahan University of Connecticut September 2011
  • Why do people visit a website?
  • “ Too many organizations believe that a web site is about opening a new marketing channel or getting donations or to promote a brand. No. It’s about solving your customers’ problems.” - Vincent Flanders, webpagesthatsuck.com
  • Problem Solving
    • Most people visit a website because they want or need one or more of the following:
    • Information
    • Entertainment / Diversion
    • Connect with others
    • Commerce
  • What makes for a good website?
  •  
  • The most popular sites have…
    • Pages that load fast
    • Reliable search function
    • Layouts that are easy to navigate
    • Unobtrusive advertising
    • Information that caters to intended audience
  • The best websites fulfill users expectations with the least amount of stress.
  • Content is king
    • The single most important thing most Web sites can offer to their users is content that those users will find valuable .
  • You have less than 90 seconds
    • Every human being has his/her own distinct thought processes to take him/her from POINT A to POINT B.
    • People make a subconscious judgment about a person, environment, or product within 90 seconds of initial viewing.
  • Don’t Make Me Think
    • Be as obvious as possible
    • Consistency – uniform layouts
    • Keywords
  • The web is a visual medium.
  • The Psychology of Color
    • “ Vision is the primary source for all our experiences.”
    • “ We become bored in the absence of a variety of colors and shapes… Color addresses one of our basic neurological needs for stimulation.”
    • - Jill Morton, “ Why Color Matters”(2005)
  • Visual functionality
    • On a web page, successful communication is influenced by:
    • Text on the screen
    • Page layout
    • Images: graphics and photos
    • Color
  • Satisfaction or irritation?
    • If visitors feel like they have a “ sense of mastery” over a web site, they will achieve their goals and find satisfaction with the experience.
    • If visitors find a web page confusing and difficult to use, many will click away, feeling irritated and unfulfilled.
  • Individuality rules online. Consumers are in control.
  • Web habits
    • Scanning and searching
    • Loyalty only to the page where they started
    • Rarely do web users start and end sessions in the same place
    • Users stick with one site as long as it delivers what they seek.
  • Image courtesy of photoxpress.com
  • Users aren’ t really “reading”
    • People scan pages, using their visual brains.
    • Provide visual hierarchy on a web page with text size, color, emphasis.
  • Prominence
    • “ The more important something is, the more prominent it is. For instance, the most important headings are either
    • larger , bolder , in a distinctive color ,
    • set off by more white space,
    • nearer the top of the page, or some combination of the above. ”
    • – Steve Krug, “Dont Make Me Think”
  • Eyetracking Images from www.useit.com / alertbox / reading_pattern.html
  • Eyetracking Graphics from poynterextra.org
  • “ Inverted pyramid” style of writing works very well on the web.
  • Inverted Pyramid Graphic from: http://www.district196.org
  • Get to the point
  • Put your text on a diet
    • 79% of web users scan any new page for individual words and sentences.
    • Only 16 percent read it word-for-word.
  • Targets
    • Headlines – less than 8 words
    • Sentences – less than 20 words
    • Paragraphs – less than 70 words
    • Pages – less than 400 words
  • Readability on the web
    • Divide up information into logical segments or chunks
    • One idea per paragraph
    • Highlighted keywords
    • Bulleted lists
    • Subheads
  • Don’ t disorient me
    • The computer screen provides a limited view of long documents.
    • Long web pages require users to scroll and remember what is off-screen.
    • “ Chunking” information helps orient users.
  • Always hyperlink. Transparency = credibility
  • Hyperlinking Best Practices
    • Never construct a sentence around a link phrase, such as “ click here for more information .“
    • Write as you normally would.
    • Place the link on the words that best describe the additional content .
  • Examples Poor: Click here for more information on placing links within your text. Better: Avoid problems with Web links by carefully managing their placement within the context of your document.
  • Search engines can lead people to your information.
  • SEO / Headlines
    • S earch E ngine O ptimization
    • Headlines should include obvious keywords that people would use when searching.
  • Headlines: Obvious = Better
    • Online headlines alone must provide enough “information scent” to let users predict what they'll get if they click.
    • Nothing else may be there to explain a story's content.
    • - Jakob Nielsen ’ s Alertbox
  • Cultivate a voice. Readers welcome a measure of individuality from their information sources. (image by photoxpress.com)
  • The Manolo says…
    • “ Do not be afraid to be different. In fact, being different it is the advantage in the marketplace where there are fifty thousand [sources] on the topic you have chosen.”
    • - http://shoeblogs.com
  • Active Verbs, Active Voice
    • Marie was speaking to the audience. (passive)
    • Marie spoke to the audience. (active)
    • Marie shouted / mumbled / whined / whispered / cried/ questioned / growled / declared. (active, vivid, descriptive verbs)
  • REMEMBER: Users expect to be able to read, listen, watch, choose, click and participate.
  • Visualize your readers Always keep your audience in mind before and during your writing and designing . Image by photoxpress.com
  • Constantly ask…
    • Why should readers care about this?
    • How can I make this information useful to readers?
    • How can I design this content to be more interactive and compelling?
  • Writing method
    • Write
    • Read
    • Cut
    • Set aside
    • Cut more
    • Proofread
    • Post
    • Image by photoxpress.com
  • After you post
    • Twitter
    • Facebook
    • Share with sources
    • Share with topic “influencers ”
  • Assignment
    • Take a “print” story you wrote in Newswriting 1 or another journalism class and produce it on the web using the best practices.
    • Give the story a “visual center”
    • Hyperlink to source material, additional information
    • Format your text for ease of reading - bold, subheads, bullets
    • Include plenty of white space
    • Be a brutal word editor