Writing for the Web


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Of course, your organization absolutely must have a nice-looking website. But it also must contain content that your users really want to engage with AND can easily find! Your website is a key part of your organization's outreach/marketing effort and needs to speak to your readers THEIR way. This webinar will offer you plenty of tips and techniques to make sure your content is web reader-friendly, while it stresses your community impact.

Published in: Business, Technology, Design
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Writing for the Web

  1. 1. Writing for the Web: Today’s Best Practices Dalya MassachiA Service Of: Sponsored by:
  2. 2. Synthesis Partnership works with nonprofit organizations facing or creating change toalign strategy, identity, capacity and facilities with vision, mission and values.A Service Of: Sponsored by:
  3. 3. Affordable collaborative data management in the cloud.A Service Of: Sponsored by:
  4. 4. Today’s Speaker Dalya Massachi Founder, Writing for Community SuccessAssisting with chat questions: Hosting:April Hunt, Nonprofit Webinars Sam Frank, Synthesis PartnershipA Service Of: Sponsored by:
  6. 6. IMPROVED CONTENT:RESULTS TO EXPECT Better educate, support readers Reach new, varied audiences Accomplish mission more efficiently
  7. 7. OUTLINEI. IntroII. Today’s web usersIII. Best practices to increase usability & accessibilityIV. A bit of technical info(All stats come from leading web usability expert,Jakob Nielsen.)
  8. 8. WHO ARE YOUR READERS? Clients, Potential Clients Partners/Colleagues Researchers Funders Press Activists Casual web surfers
  9. 9. DATA YOU NEED TO GATHER Demographics Geographic location Limitations ($, education, tech) Values, hopes, and fears What they already know or believe Info or tools they need to act
  10. 10. ASK YOURSELF: What info do they want from reading your website? What problems can you help them solve?
  11. 11. EXAMPLE:ENVIRONMENTALEDUCATORAs a middle-school science teacher, you’re alwayslooking for fresh, up-to-date material on today’spressing issues. With diminishing resources in ourpublic schools, you may find it increasingly difficultto keep up with the times.On the Eco-kids website, you will discover a wealthof up-to-date classroom resources that reflectchanging frontiers in the environmental sciences. Getteaching materials that will inspire your students withover 50 lively discussion starters and activities!
  12. 12. HOW DO WE FIND OUT? Check web statistics Review event and service evaluation forms Take online or print surveys Hold focus groups Attend gatherings where they congregate Study published opinion polls Review other online media they use Ask others who also know about them
  13. 13. TODAY’S WEB USERS In general, they… Have short attention spans Rely heavily on first impressions Need to know content is relevant first Read 25% slower than on paper Scan: Usually only the first 2 paragraphs, headlines and/or the end Will spread your content if it’s good
  14. 14. TODAY’S WEB USERS They are looking for: Benefits to their community: NOW Expert advice that’s easily accessible A “quick hit” on the new Inspiration & hope: we can do this! Reasons to trust you
  16. 16. DEFINE SITE/PAGE PURPOSES Increase readers’ understanding of issue Remind how you benefit the community Keep readers up-to-date Offer convenient purchase or donate system Project professionalism; encourage trust Keep readers connected to your org Be a landing spot for links from elsewhere Coordinate with social networking work Act as a pointer to other valuable related sites
  17. 17. COMMON WEBSITE SECTIONS Home: tagline; brief summary; what’s new; where to go from here About Us Our community: “about you”; who this site is for Our Programs: what we do, how we do it Why We Do It: community need/benefit, values Blog Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Calendar of Events
  18. 18. ABOUT USHaving a good About Us section helps usersunderstand your site as a whole. Summary: 1-2 paragraphs at the top about the organizations mission/vision and main accomplishments. Detailed info: people involved; strategic plan; history; partners; include photos if possible
  19. 19. REMEMBER…Your web writing must be: Timely and valuable enough to justify the time, mental engagement you take up In the "need to know" category Relevant NOW Scannable and a quick read
  20. 20. LEAD WITH THE MOST IMPORTANT INFO Inverted pyramid format Summarize the main point: who, what, when, where, why (big benefits to gain, problems solved) Tell what the page is about and why anyone should read it (2-4 lines) Start with an overview and link to details
  21. 21. This heat map shows whereusers’ eyes traveled on a page.Red and yellow are where theyspent the most time. So you want to put your most critical info in the upper left- hand corner and at the left column 1st 2 words of a sentence or paragraph: most seen
  22. 22. “CHUNK” YOUR INFO Use focused, easy-to-understand categories Give a meaningful 1-line subhead to each major chunk of text Use subheads that tell the story, as if they are the only things your reader sees Got a list of 3 or more items? Number (sequenced) or bullet (random) it. Intro: sentence fragment or a sentence w/colon
  23. 23. CULIVATE CONCISENESS:LESS IS MORE KISSS: Keep It Short, Simple & Scannable Cut any text from paper Tell how to act right away — and why Sentences: 14-20 words max Every word should work Each item: 1-3 screens
  24. 24. BUT… Complicated topics, background/tech info often benefit from longer copy: readers need time to make an informed and confident decision Keep to same page (don’t chop it up) b/c search engines like at least 250-300 words Add summary or Table of Contents at the top
  25. 25. ENGAGE BOTH THE HEART & THE HEAD Even left-brained people need an emotional understanding Your reader will remember how you make her/him feel more than anything else
  26. 26. TELL SUCCESS STORIES Capture the essence of your work with short quotes from people similar to your target readers or people they care about Talk about how people have benefited: results and importance
  27. 27. LISTEN TO HOW YOU SOUND Conversational/informal: o use the second person (“you”) o can include sentence fragments o o.k. to begin with a conjunction (and, but, so) Friendly, warm; contractions o.k. Easy to understand (clear over clever)
  28. 28. AVOID JARGON Familiar words spring to mind when users search for you; include them! If you must use technical terms or acronyms, explain them the first time Avoid American slang Would readers use the term themselves?
  29. 29. EXAMPLE“Are you sure you want to navigate awayfrom this form?”“Are you sure you want to close thiswindow?”
  30. 30. TIE BACK TO YOUR MISSION AND VISION…REPEATEDLY Always remember to summarize it in 1 sentence or less Evoke a vision of what things will be like when you fulfill your mission
  31. 31. ISSUE CALLS TO ACTION Use in at least some sections Include all the details they need Provide easy ways to interact with you Feature a special offer (preferably with deadline) Reminder of benefits they will enjoy by acting now
  33. 33. USE LINKS STRATEGICALLYUse links in your sentences to: Send the reader to important background or related material Explain unusual or technical terms Emphasize important info (repeat in strategic spots to follow reader’s train of thought)
  34. 34. HOW TO PHRASE LINKS First 11 characters: most important Use plain, specific language Follow conventions for naming common features Front-load with action and keywords (first 2-3 words) Don’t mislead or promise too much
  35. 35. FOCUS ON YOUR HEADLINES Use a few words to tell the gist of the story Should include at least 3 keywords for SEO Use present tense if possible Often all people see on small screens or RSS feed: must be accurate out of context Predictable before clicking
  36. 36. MORE ON KEYWORDS Need 2-3 “core” keywords and variations (-ing, -ed) for each page Use them: 2-3 times on short pages; 4-6 times on longer ones Call them out with bold, italics, links, etc.
  37. 37. FOR MOBILE DEVICESUse shorter blocks of text with justkeywordsMost relevant, useful info at the topCreate narrow, bulleted listsEliminate unnecessary white space(it forces users to scroll)
  38. 38. SENTENCE STRUCTURE Subject-verb-object 1-2 ideas per paragraph (1-4 sentences) Keep “if” before “then” Click the “Edit” link if your address is incorrect. If your address is incorrect, click the “Edit” link. Use basic verb forms: infinitives, commands, simple tenses Stay positive (avoid negatives when possible)
  39. 39. COMPLEMENT WITH GRAPHICS Not just filling space as an afterthought Use short, lively captions with keywords “Micro-copy”: summarize your story/ highlight your message Add clear alt-text descriptions to images Identify people from L to R, double-check all name spellings Use active, present tense verbs Find action shots, not “posing”
  40. 40. TRACK TRAFFICWebsite metrics tell you: How many hits did we get? How many are unique visitors? How are people finding the website? What search terms are they finding us with? What websites link to us? What are the most popular pages on the site? Who is the average visitor tech-wise (platform/ browser/ screen resolution)?
  41. 41. RECOMMENDED RESOURCES Jakob Nielsen’s Website: useit.com The Yahoo! Style Guide Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works
  42. 42. SUGGESTIONStep 1: Go to your website.Step 2: Find a colleague or two to play a “new user.” You will take notes. READER: Narrate your train of thought.  What do you like?  What’s missing?  What do you skip? NOTETAKER: Resist the urge to explain.
  43. 43. YOUR SPECIAL DISCOUNT! Get your Paperback or E-book copy: www.dfmassachi.net/event.html
  44. 44. Find listings for our current season of webinars and register at: NonprofitWebinars.comA Service Of: Sponsored by: