Writing for the Web

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  • Welcome Who reads books? Why do you read a book? How do you read it? What makes a book good – keeps you from tossing it aside? Why do you use the web? How do you use it? (Does anyone read a book online?) With the shift in medium – shift in tasks - = shift in the way the content is presented – Everyone sign on to the PC Self-introductions Steve: what are you hoping to get out of this? Kris: slow down Before we get started, does anyone have any burning questions that I can make sure I address as we go through this?
  • So what are some things we know about prospective undergraduates?
  • Prospective undergrads are: busy multitasking not going to stay long scanning through hundreds of sites to come up with a short list finding us on other sites Not: don’t know, don’t care how the college is internally organized don’t know our jargon, don’t want to (we’ll look at that more later) So those are some characteristics of the people we are writing for
  • Gerry McGovern is the author of Killer Web Content, also writes a very good blog With a college web site, what does “tasks” mean? What do they want to do when they come here? There’s no need to guess about this, or make assumptions.
  • Give them 30 seconds or so to write down what they remembered think about if someone comes up to you and asks you in person "tell me about this program" - what do you tell them? not "the department prepares educators who respect diversity" Cut the welcome and marketese. They know they're on your web page. you can put lipstick on a pig and it's still a pig but you can change the content to make the information easier to find even if you don't have the budget for redesign you can redesign your content
  • This might be what a site visitor would want to know when they visit this site. Next slide is a screenshot; I’ll leave it up for 10-15 seconds and then remove it. Users will spend approximately 10-15 seconds scanning a page before moving on And will only “read” 20% of the text
  • What do they need to know? There’s no need to guess at this Existing research or just ASK THEM
  • F pattern. Placement. Location. most important stuff (FOR THEM) go top left then line down Implications: – Most users don’t read text thoroughly – First two paragraphs = most important info – Subheads, paragraphs & bullets should start with information-carrying words
  • Bullets example: next two slides We’ll talk about care words in just a minute.
  • Answer: you’d have to open up each jar – same as a large body of text -
  • This is the same thing as a bunch of jars without labels…
  • Both use labeling systems, but one is an internal labeling system, that only the owner of that kitchen knows and can therefore use, while the other uses language that anyone walking into the kitchen could understand. So we need to use headings and language on the website that anyone can walk into and use, find what they’re looking for without having to dig into each container, right away, quickly and easily. Can anyone think of internal jargon that we use within the college but people outside these walls wouldn’t know? (New Horizons, Institutional Effectiveness, Experiential Learning)
  • When Penn State went from links in paragraph form , like this…
  • … to links in bulleted form, clicks on just that area doubled or tripled.
  • Care words: anyone know what I mean by this term? Gerry McGovern introduced this Key words… Words that make your customers act. Ex: search dorm life on our site If you don’t know whether the words they use are the ones we use: what do you do about that? How can you find out what they call it?
  • Fictional student development page. What do we want them to do? (What’s the important information here) (first let them know date/time/place)
  • Now can see quickly when and where, also deadline. What’s the careword/keyword in 3 rd para (criteria)
  • Hyperlink now doing double duty : color and underline of the link calls attention to the word while scanning Let’s take this a little further the program isn’t just for this year- the awards ceremony is, though there should be a link to nomination form here, right now there’s no way to nominate also the catalog reference needs to be linked We rearrange:
  • Is this not clearer We have an intro statement Clear info about where and when Forms linked right next to deadline infe Criteria linked, you also have to know something from the catalog, and that’s linked also. Links draw attention to the important bits – Now: Can we use bullets, cutting, headers to help even more? (this doesn’t need to be bulleted, just needed pruning and judicious highlighting and linking) This making sense? Any questions?
  • Added catchy, scannable headings; put key information into bullets; cut the content to the most important key words.
  • This is an example from Jakob Nielsen’s site; he took a paragraph from a tourism site and rewrote it. He measured the time it took for people to read it, how much they remembered, and how many errors they made in memory. So we’ll show you this first slide for a few seconds and see how much you can get out of it…
  • What’s different about this? (invite response) Concise text – half the word count Scannable layout Objective language (marketese increases cognitive load)
  • Task focus: always focus on what they need to know, give it to them as quickly and clearly as possible Concise: prune away everything that could possibly obscure the core Scannable: quick glance should show what it’s about and where to go Care words: What is your audience looking for? Objective: Just the facts
  • Could I have a volunteer – we will take a look at your page and rewrite it! (mathematics? MBA? Grad studies?)
  • Writing for the Web

    1. 1. Writing for the Web
    2. 2. Who’s it for?
    3. 3. Who’s it for? <ul><li>Prospective Undergraduate Students </li></ul><ul><li>Their Parents </li></ul><ul><li>Current Students, Alumni, Community, Everyone Else </li></ul>
    4. 4. Prospective Undergrads <ul><li>Busy </li></ul><ul><li>Multitasking </li></ul><ul><li>Scanning </li></ul><ul><li>Finding us on other sites </li></ul><ul><li>External </li></ul>
    5. 5. <ul><li>88 percent of respondents said they would drop a school from their search or be disappointed with a school if that institution’s Web site did not have the content they needed. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Scrolling Toward Enrollment: Web Site Content and the E-Expectations of College-Bound Seniors” Noel-Levitz and James Tower Research << http://www.jamestower.com/PDF/9_ScrollTowardEnrollment.pdf >> </li></ul>
    6. 6. <ul><li>“ Websites fail when they focus on the content or the technology. We must instead focus relentlessly on our customers’ top tasks . We must measure success based on our customers’ ability to quickly and easily complete these top tasks.” </li></ul><ul><li>--Gerry McGovern </li></ul>
    7. 7. Why are they here? <ul><li>Find the information they are looking for, quickly and easily </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How will I fit in here </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What will it get me </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How much does it cost </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What do I have to do </li></ul></ul><ul><li>If we’re lucky, they’ll be able to do what they need to do </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Contact </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Apply </li></ul></ul>
    8. 8. 10-Second Test
    9. 10. What did you remember?
    10. 11. Example College <ul><li>Degree? </li></ul><ul><li>Certificate? </li></ul><ul><li>Required courses? </li></ul><ul><li>What jobs/careers can I get by studying here? </li></ul><ul><li>Who can I contact for more info? </li></ul>
    11. 12. Clear, Concise, Apt <ul><li>Include the core: what THEY need to know -- what will answer their question of Why do I care? </li></ul><ul><li>Leave out the “welcome to our page”, jargon, internal politics </li></ul><ul><li>Prune excess verbiage </li></ul>
    12. 13. Location, location…
    13. 14. Content that’s easy to scan uses: <ul><li>Headings </li></ul><ul><li>Bullets </li></ul><ul><li>Keywords/Carewords with emphasis </li></ul><ul><li>As few words as possible </li></ul>
    14. 15. Headings <ul><li>Think of labeling your content, the way you might label jars in a kitchen. </li></ul>Very pretty jars – but how do you know what’s inside?
    15. 16. For example… <ul><li>Virginia's Business One Stop system is a service provided by the Virginia Department of Business Assistance. The purpose of the service is to accelerate business formation in the Commonwealth and thereby contribute to our economic prosperity. This service provides specific licensing, permitting and registration requirements for the user's business situation and assists with partial completion of the necessary forms. While our ultimate vision of the Business One Stop system is to include business formation requirements for all new business types and to be the channel through which existing businesses communicate with the state, the implementation of the Business One Stop system will be in phases. The scope of phase one will help with the creation of NEW Virginia businesses only. Further, Phase One is designed to help with relatively simple business types and in broad industry sectors. Entrepreneurs interested in starting a Professional Corporation (P.C.) or a Professional Limited Liability Corporation (P.L.L.C.) should not use this system. Companies with unique formation requirements like banks, insurance companies, utilities etc. should not use this system. In addition, Phase One of Virginia's Business One Stop system is not designed to assist with registration for foreign business entities seeking to operate in Virginia, or with nonprofit organization and/or charity formation. For questions about using this system to start your business or other feedback, please email the Virginia Department of Business Assistance at [email_address] . </li></ul><ul><li>NOTICE: This is a new service that will be enhanced frequently. If you encounter unexpected issues, you can help by reporting them to the Virginia Business Information Center at: [email_address] . </li></ul>
    16. 17. These two sets of jars both have labels. Why is one preferable to the other?
    17. 18. Some tips for writing helpful headings: <ul><li>1) Label with words anyone can understand and that accurately describes the content </li></ul><ul><li>2 ) When possible, use concrete, specific labels instead of vague or general terms. For example: </li></ul><ul><li>“ Successful Student Stories” vs. “Features” </li></ul><ul><li>“ In-Depth Study Materials” vs. “Resources” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Research Academic Publications:” vs. “Related Links” </li></ul>3) Ask questions – IE, “How Do I Apply?” or “What’s My Next Step?” 4) Use action verbs – IE, “Calculate Your Academic Scholarship”
    18. 19. The Beauty of Bullets
    19. 21. Key Words <ul><li>Carewords </li></ul><ul><li>What are they searching for? </li></ul><ul><li>Not internal jargon </li></ul>
    20. 22. Scannable Care Words <ul><li>Bolding – sparingly </li></ul><ul><li>Underlines – no </li></ul><ul><li>Hyperlinks – link the key words </li></ul><ul><li>When scanning, the eye only picks up 2-3 words at a time </li></ul>
    21. 23. <ul><li>Student Organization and Leadership Awards </li></ul><ul><li>sponsored by the Division of Student Development </li></ul><ul><li>The 2007-2008 Student Organization and Leadership Awards Program honors East Central University's finest student leaders. </li></ul><ul><li>The annual awards ceremony will be April 24, 2008 at 7:00 p.m. in the Estep Center. </li></ul><ul><li>Please read the criteria for each award carefully ( click here ), and submit your nomination by the deadline, March 28, 2008. </li></ul><ul><li>All nominees must have no formal discipline record with East Central University and must be in good academic standing as defined by the ECU Catalog. This is in addition to the criteria associated with each individual award. Individual awards are by nomination. To be considered, nominations should relate directly to the criteria listed for each award. </li></ul><ul><li>If you have any questions, please contact: </li></ul><ul><li>Bonita Coble </li></ul><ul><li>Student Development Office </li></ul><ul><li>Room 103, Administration Building </li></ul><ul><li>580/559-5208 </li></ul>
    22. 24. <ul><li>Student Organization and Leadership Awards </li></ul><ul><li>sponsored by the Division of Student Development </li></ul><ul><li>The 2007-2008 Student Organization and Leadership Awards Program honors East Central University's finest student leaders. </li></ul><ul><li>The annual awards ceremony will be April 24, 2008 at 7:00 p.m. in the Estep Center. </li></ul><ul><li>Please read the criteria for each award carefully ( click here ), and submit your nomination by the deadline, March 28, 2008 . </li></ul><ul><li>All nominees must have no formal discipline record with East Central University and must be in good academic standing as defined by the ECU Catalog. This is in addition to the criteria associated with each individual award. Individual awards are by nomination. To be considered, nominations should relate directly to the criteria listed for each award. </li></ul><ul><li>If you have any questions, please contact: </li></ul><ul><li>Bonita Coble </li></ul><ul><li>Student Development Office </li></ul><ul><li>Room 103, Administration Building </li></ul><ul><li>580/559-5208 </li></ul>
    23. 25. <ul><li>Student Organization and Leadership Awards </li></ul><ul><li>sponsored by the Division of Student Development </li></ul><ul><li>The 2007-2008 Student Organization and Leadership Awards Program honors East Central University's finest student leaders. </li></ul><ul><li>The annual awards ceremony will be April 24, 2008 at 7:00 p.m. in the Estep Center. </li></ul><ul><li>Please read the criteria for each award carefully and submit your nomination by the deadline, March 28, 2008. </li></ul><ul><li>All nominees must have no formal discipline record with East Central University and must be in good academic standing as defined by the ECU Catalog. This is in addition to the criteria associated with each individual award. Individual awards are by nomination. To be considered, nominations should relate directly to the criteria listed for each award. </li></ul><ul><li>If you have any questions, please contact: </li></ul><ul><li>Bonita Coble </li></ul><ul><li>Student Development Office </li></ul><ul><li>Room 103, Administration Building </li></ul><ul><li>580/559-5208 </li></ul>
    24. 26. <ul><li>Student Organization and Leadership Awards </li></ul><ul><li>sponsored by the Division of Student Development </li></ul><ul><li>The Student Organization and Leadership Awards Program honors East Central University's finest student leaders. </li></ul><ul><li>The 2007-08 awards ceremony will be April 24, 2008 at 7:00 p.m. in the Estep Center. </li></ul><ul><li>Nomination forms due March 28, 2008. </li></ul><ul><li>In addition to individual award criteria, all nominees must have no formal discipline record with East Central University and must be in good academic standing as defined by the ECU Catalog. </li></ul><ul><li>If you have any questions, please contact: </li></ul><ul><li>Bonita Coble </li></ul><ul><li>Student Development Office </li></ul><ul><li>Room 103, Administration Building </li></ul><ul><li>580/559-5208 </li></ul>
    25. 27. <ul><li>Student Organization and Leadership Awards </li></ul><ul><li>Join us for the 2007-08 awards ceremony April 24, 2008 at 7:00 p.m. in the Estep Center honoring our finest student leaders. </li></ul><ul><li>Do You Know an Amazing Student Leader? </li></ul><ul><li>You can nominate any student who: </li></ul><ul><li>Meets the award criteria </li></ul><ul><li>Lacks a formal discipline record with the university </li></ul><ul><li>Resides in in good academic standing as defined by the ECU Catalog </li></ul><ul><li>Nomination forms due March 28, 2008. </li></ul><ul><li>Questions? Contact: </li></ul><ul><li>Bonita Coble </li></ul><ul><li>Student Development Office </li></ul><ul><li>Room 103, Administration Building </li></ul><ul><li>580/559-5208 </li></ul><ul><li>Sponsored by the Division of Student Development </li></ul>
    26. 28. Another Example
    27. 29. Example <ul><li>Nebraska is filled with internationally recognized attractions that draw large crowds of people every year, without fail. In 1996, some of the most popular places were Fort Robinson State Park (355,000 visitors), Scotts Bluff National Monument (132,166), Arbor Lodge State Historical Park & Museum (100,000), Carhenge (86,598), Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer (60,002), and Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park (28,446). </li></ul>
    28. 31. 124% better <ul><li>In 1996, six of the most-visited places in Nebraska were: </li></ul><ul><li>Fort Robinson State Park </li></ul><ul><li>Scotts Bluff National Monument </li></ul><ul><li>Arbor Lodge State Historical Park & Museum </li></ul><ul><li>Carhenge </li></ul><ul><li>Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer </li></ul><ul><li>Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park </li></ul>
    29. 32. Ask Them <ul><li>Put yourself in their shoes </li></ul><ul><li>Go to the source </li></ul>
    30. 33. Summary <ul><li>“ Task” focus </li></ul><ul><li>Concise </li></ul><ul><li>Scannable </li></ul><ul><li>Their words </li></ul><ul><li>Objective language </li></ul><ul><li>Test it </li></ul>
    31. 34. Exercise

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