What you’ll learn today• How writing for the web is different• How to plan and structure your web content• How to write your web content
How is writing for theweb different?Understanding your online audience
Why write “for the web”?• Writing for online reading is not the same as writing for print.• Online you need to apply different skills and techniques to: • attract and retain your readers • get your message across effectively • achieve your business objectives
How do people read online?• They don’t.• Instead, they: • skim, scan and select • browse before foraging • take quick glances and occasional brief stops • read a little at a time, mostly in short bursts • grab what they need and get on towards the goal
What does this mean for your content?• Users wont read your text thoroughly• It is rarely appropriate to cut and paste from a printed document to produce an identical web version• You must approach writing for the web as a separate task to writing for print
Planning your webcontentOnly write what your users need
Prepare to create less• Online, when it comes to informational, marketing or promotional content, less is always more: • Less content is easier to manage • Less content is more user-friendly • Less content costs less to create
Before you begin . . .• Define what “useful” web content is• Your web content is useless unless it does one or both of the following: • supports a key business objective (promotes the university; encourages students to apply; convinces industry to collaborate) • supports your audience in completing a task (provides your audience with the information they were looking for; helps them make informed decisions)
Our business objectivesOur aim is to help provide an integrated webpresence, which supports the universitysstrategic goal of attracting the best students andstaff, enhancing our research reputation andportfolio, strengthening our collaborations withindustry and increasing our visibility andpresence on a global scale.
Our target web audiences • Prospective •Primary Secondary Opinion formers students • Suppliers (postgraduates / • Job seekers undergraduates / • Government international) • Journalists • Alumni • Local communities • Commercial clients
Define your web content objectives• What are you trying to achieve? • Do you simply want to inform your users, or do you want to persuade, reassure or motivate them too?• What outcome do you want? • What course of action do you want them to take next?
Plan each web page• Who cares?• Is it compelling?• Is it clear?• Is it correct?• Is it complete?• Is it current?
Organise your content: site structure• A good website structure: • balances your goals and your users’ goals • balances breadth and depth • allows users to easily find what they need • accurately represents the content • exposes information as it’s needed • www.hw.ac.uk/student-life/international- students.htm
Building your site structure• Group your content in to categories • Use audience research, business goals and content analysis to help• Modify the structure until your content fits • Create sub-groups where necessary • Write your page descriptions • Anticipate future content• Keep it user focussed
Organise your content: labelling• How do you choose your labels? • User research • Card-sorting • Search / referrer terms• Good labels: • match concepts and reader’s word usage • are used consistently • accurately describe the content
Succinct: bite-sized pieces• Write clear, simple sentences • It’s not always possible to stick to a word limit • Write a long sentence first, then edit back • Look for commas, colons, and “which” as places to split a long sentence in two • Favour simple over short • Remove unnecessary or superfluous words, like tautologies and such like
Succinct: bite-sized pieces• Don’t create new webpages for the sake of it• Split content up into coherent chunks• Don’t replicate printed documents online; rewrite for the web or provide an overview then link to a PDF instead• It is a myth that all web pages should be short
Succinct: front-load your content• Put the most important information at the start so users can: • instantly understand what the page/paragraph is about • decide if they want to read the rest• The opening paragraph should answer: • What? • Why?
Succinct: front-load your contentInverted pyramid style of writing: Information users must have for your communication to be successful Additional information that is helpful but not crucial Nice to have
Scannable: add structure with headings• Structure your content with headings and sub-headings • Only 1 “Heading 1” on each page • Sub-headings should be correctly nested • Include relevant keywords in your headings • www.hw.ac.uk/new-students/uk/before-you- arrive/direct-entrants.htm
Scannable: use bulleted lists• Breaking up paragraphs into bulleted lists makes them: • easier to scan • less intimidating • more succinct• Don’t go overboard • 3–7 items is enough • 9+ and your writing loses impact
Succinct & scannable exercise questionRe-write the following text to make it succinctand scannable:Nebraska is filled with internationally recognizedattractions that draw large crowds of people every year,without fail. In 1996, some of the most popular placeswere Fort Robinson State Park (355,000 visitors),Scotts Bluff National Monument (132,166), Arbor LodgeState Historical Park & Museum (100,00), Carhenge(86,598), Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer (60,002),and Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park (28,446).
Succinct & scannable exercise answer• In 1996, six of the most-visited places in Nebraska were: • Fort Robinson State Park • Scotts Bluff National Monument • Arbor Lodge State Historical Park & Museum • Carhenge • Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer • Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park
Actionable: include a “call to action”• Think about what you want your user to do• Give them a direction• Make it easy for them
Actionable: use descriptive link text• Descriptive link text helps: • users with screenreaders • SEO
Actionable: use descriptive link text• Never make “click here” a link • Link text is already obvious • It’s not a proper call to action • It doesn’t tell you where it’s going to take you • Lots of “click here” links on one page can be confusing
Actionable: use patterns• People like patterns because: • We grasp information more quickly if we can anticipate a pattern • We try to see patterns in information even when there are none • When we have to switch patterns, we use extra mental energy
Searchable• How will users find your 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 users may not even know where they are
Searchable: SEO keywords• Keywords should be used in: • page headings • page descriptions • sub-headings • body text
Searchable: SEO titlesEach page shouldhave a unique titlethat is meaningfulout of context
Searchable: SEO descriptionsThe page description should accuratelydescribe the content of the page
Heriot-Watt brand compliant• Only use the standard CMS styles• Avoid: • Unnecessary Use Of Capital Letters • bold, italics and underlined text • justified, centred and right-aligned text • tables (unless for tabular data) • writing numbers as words