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Writing for the Web
CASE III
February 10, 2009
Presented by: Rosemary Jean-Louis and Barbara Obrentz
Introduction
The Georgia Perimeter College Web site has
become a vital communication tool. It has multiple
purposes for mu...
Why it Matters
•More time for faculty and staff when routine info and tasks
are done on the Web
•The Web works for you 24/...
Communication Leaps
Top Ten
3500 BC The Phoenicians develop an alphabet
1450 Newspapers appear in Europe
1714 Patent on th...
Communications Leaps
1998-Present
• 1998-2005 The WWW size between 275 million and
11.5 billion pages
• 1999 the word “blo...
Paradigm Shift #1
Web Usage in Early Days
• Standard content
was posted into new
electronic medium
• Web was used as an
El...
Paradigm Shift #2
New Media Model
Web pages are
multidimensional:
• Text
• Images
• Audio
• Video
• Interactive
elements
•...
Key Findings
Poynter Institute*
• People read a high volume of story text in both print and
online
• People read in two wa...
Understanding Users
• Usability research
Three factors caused poor performance
• Insufficient reading skills
• Less sophis...
F Pattern’s Three Components
• Users read in a horizontal movement, usually
across the upper part of the page
• Then they ...
Implications of the F Pattern
• Users won’t read your text thoroughly
• The first two paragraphs must state the most
impor...
Measuring Effectiveness
Researchers measured usability by how successful
users were in accomplishing a given task.
•5 vers...
Measuring Effectiveness
Original copy:
Nebraska is filled with internationally recognized attractions that
draw large crow...
Measuring Effectiveness
Revised Copy: Half Amount of Words than Original:
In 1996, six of the best-attended attractions in...
Measuring Effectiveness
Revised Copy: More Concise, Scannable Text, and
Objective Language
In 1996, six of the most-visite...
Scannable Text
Text that communicates to scanners uses
• Highlighted keywords
• Meaningful headings and subheadings
• Bull...
Who is the Audience?
• To whom are your Web pages speaking?
• How does your audience find information?
• What are they loo...
What Key Audiences Seek
• Accurate, searchable online directories
• New information
• Benefits of college
• Updated inform...
Paradigm Shift #3
Organizing Content
• Making the jump to
a non-linear model
Inverted Pyramid Style
Inverted Pyramid Style
The conclusion or ending comes first
• College welcomes largest class ever.
Most important supporti...
Chunking
• Segment writing into smaller, coherent units to
avoid long, scrolling pages. Each page is an
inverted pyramid c...
Redundancy
• Expect related Web pages to have some overlap
• The highest priority is to make things clear to your
reader
•...
Redundancy Examples
Links
• A bonus for online writing; links invite further pursuit
of topic or provide additional aspects
• George Landow, P...
Redundancy Examples
Streamline Content
• Omit needless words
• Keep it simple, unless content dictates otherwise
• Use the active voice
• Spea...
Empower the User
• Make sure people know what your site, and each
page will do for them
• If people need or want to act on...
Proofread and Check
• Read what you have written out loud
• Proofread it backwards, one word at a time
• Double-check all ...
Pitfalls to Avoid
• Visual distraction: colored and underlined text
within a paragraph pulls the eye and disrupts the
unit...
References
• Elements of Style, Strunk and White
• Don’t Make Me Think, Steve Krugs
• AP Style Guide
• Poynter Institute E...
Further Reading
• Ragan’s Web Content Report
• Ragan.com – News, Ideas for Communicators
• Edustyle.net – Latest web desig...
Contact Us
Rosemary Jean-Louis
rose.louis@gpc.edu
Barbara Obrentz
barbara.obrentz@gpc.edu
Download the presentation at:
ww...
Writing for the College Web Site
Writing for the College Web Site
Writing for the College Web Site
Writing for the College Web Site
Writing for the College Web Site
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Writing for the College Web Site

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Co-presented with Barbara T. Obrentz, Chief Public Relations Officer/ Director of Marketing for Georgia Perimeter College at CASE III in 2009, this session taught communications theory as it relates to the usability of Web pages - what information college audiences expect from various Web pages and what written formats best deliver that content. Topics included: research on how people read web pages (usability); samples of well-designed web pages; identifying key website audiences; how to organize website content; how to write scanable website text using key words, meaningful headlines, bulleted lists, etc.; and using common writing styles and new writing formats such as chunking.

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Writing for the College Web Site

  1. 1. Writing for the Web CASE III February 10, 2009 Presented by: Rosemary Jean-Louis and Barbara Obrentz
  2. 2. Introduction The Georgia Perimeter College Web site has become a vital communication tool. It has multiple purposes for multiple audiences.
  3. 3. Why it Matters •More time for faculty and staff when routine info and tasks are done on the Web •The Web works for you 24/7 •Positive experiences through the Web builds relationships within institutions and about institutions •A powerful way to accomplish your mission •Speed of information •Mobility of population
  4. 4. Communication Leaps Top Ten 3500 BC The Phoenicians develop an alphabet 1450 Newspapers appear in Europe 1714 Patent on the typewriter 1843 First telegraph line 1876 Patent on the telephone 1936 First programmable computer 1957 Soviets Launch Sputnik 1982 FCC authorizes cellular service 1990 Berners-Lee coins the phrase World Wide Web 1992 World Bank comes online
  5. 5. Communications Leaps 1998-Present • 1998-2005 The WWW size between 275 million and 11.5 billion pages • 1999 the word “blog” coined • 2003-2006 Social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook and YouTube launched • 2007 iPhone offers first mobile, full Web browsing • 2008 Twitter and microblogging takes off; explosion of online communities/social networking sites
  6. 6. Paradigm Shift #1 Web Usage in Early Days • Standard content was posted into new electronic medium • Web was used as an Electronic Bulletin Board • Text was static
  7. 7. Paradigm Shift #2 New Media Model Web pages are multidimensional: • Text • Images • Audio • Video • Interactive elements • RSS/Twitter feeds • Blogs • Podcasts
  8. 8. Key Findings Poynter Institute* • People read a high volume of story text in both print and online • People read in two ways: methodically and scanning • Alternative forms of reading like Q&A, timelines, short sidebars and lists help readers understand information more quickly • Big headlines and photos attract print readers, but directional elements draw online readers • Photos get a lot of attention *Eyetrack 07
  9. 9. Understanding Users • Usability research Three factors caused poor performance • Insufficient reading skills • Less sophisticated research strategies • Dramatically less patience Jakob Nielsen, Nielsen Norman Group, 1997, 1999
  10. 10. F Pattern’s Three Components • Users read in a horizontal movement, usually across the upper part of the page • Then they move down the page a little and read across again, but not as far across as before • Users scan the page’s left side in a vertical movement Jakob Nielsen, Nielsen Norman Group, 1997, 1999
  11. 11. Implications of the F Pattern • Users won’t read your text thoroughly • The first two paragraphs must state the most important information • Start subheads, paragraphs and bullet points with words that carry the meaning
  12. 12. Measuring Effectiveness Researchers measured usability by how successful users were in accomplishing a given task. •5 versions of basically the same web pages •Three improvements boosted usability 124% -Concise writing (omit needless words) -Objective language; no puffery, exaggerations -Scannable text Source: Jakob Nielsen, http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9710a.html
  13. 13. Measuring Effectiveness Original copy: 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). Source: Jakob Nielsen, http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9710a.html
  14. 14. Measuring Effectiveness Revised Copy: Half Amount of Words than Original: In 1996, six of the best-attended attractions in Nebraska were Fort Robinson State Park, Scotts Bluff National Monument, Arbor Lodge State Historical Park & Museum, Carhenge, Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, and Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park. Source: Jakob Nielsen, http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9710a.html
  15. 15. Measuring Effectiveness Revised Copy: More Concise, Scannable Text, and Objective Language 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 Source: Jakob Nielsen, http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9710a.html
  16. 16. Scannable Text Text that communicates to scanners uses • Highlighted keywords • Meaningful headings and subheadings • Bulleted lists • One idea per paragraph (users skip over any more if they aren’t caught by the first few words) • Half the usual word count
  17. 17. Who is the Audience? • To whom are your Web pages speaking? • How does your audience find information? • What are they looking for? • What response do you seek?
  18. 18. What Key Audiences Seek • Accurate, searchable online directories • New information • Benefits of college • Updated information • Photos, especially action photos • Student testimonials • News releases • Events • Universal navigation: same on every page • Consistent look and feel • Links and cross-references
  19. 19. Paradigm Shift #3 Organizing Content • Making the jump to a non-linear model
  20. 20. Inverted Pyramid Style
  21. 21. Inverted Pyramid Style The conclusion or ending comes first • College welcomes largest class ever. Most important supporting information comes next • Record SAT scores • Large increase in traditional age students • New faculty hired
  22. 22. Chunking • Segment writing into smaller, coherent units to avoid long, scrolling pages. Each page is an inverted pyramid connected to the larger subject. • Try to keep most important information above the “fold” — the limit of the initial screen view without scrolling. • Take care not to over-divide your information. For critical information, such as Admissions Requirements, users will print out and read.
  23. 23. Redundancy • Expect related Web pages to have some overlap • The highest priority is to make things clear to your reader • Try to provide a complete account of the subject with an appropriate amount of background or detail
  24. 24. Redundancy Examples
  25. 25. Links • A bonus for online writing; links invite further pursuit of topic or provide additional aspects • George Landow, Professor of English and art history at Brown, named both ends of the link -Rhetoric of departure -Rhetoric of arrival • Highlights the need for both ends of the link to give users understanding of where they may go and why the arrival page is relevant
  26. 26. Redundancy Examples
  27. 27. Streamline Content • Omit needless words • Keep it simple, unless content dictates otherwise • Use the active voice • Speak in one voice • Put statements in positive form • Keep to one tense • Write in a way that comes naturally • Do not overstate • Do not affect a breezy manner • Do not explain too much • Avoid fancy words • Be clear Elements of Style Strunk & White
  28. 28. Empower the User • Make sure people know what your site, and each page will do for them • If people need or want to act on your information, provide them what they need. • Give to the college • Register for class • Join a student organization
  29. 29. Proofread and Check • Read what you have written out loud • Proofread it backwards, one word at a time • Double-check all contact information: phones, email addresses, Web links, and mailing addresses • Know the editorial style chosen by the College and stick to it • Avoid acronyms
  30. 30. Pitfalls to Avoid • Visual distraction: colored and underlined text within a paragraph pulls the eye and disrupts the unit. • Most readers will click on link without ever finishing the paragraph • Disrupting the narrative: Links lead to stories half- told. Users may follow the link, and subsequent ones, and never return to your site
  31. 31. References • Elements of Style, Strunk and White • Don’t Make Me Think, Steve Krugs • AP Style Guide • Poynter Institute Eyetrak 07 • Jakob Nielsen, Nielsen and Norman • Catherine Tittle, Technical Documentation specialist, Arbor Technicomm • Nathan Wallace, E-gineer.com • Daniel Will-Harris E-fuse.com
  32. 32. Further Reading • Ragan’s Web Content Report • Ragan.com – News, Ideas for Communicators • Edustyle.net – Latest web design, content trends of higher education sites • Don’t Make Me Think, Steve Krugs • Net words, Nick Usborne • Content Critical, Gerry McGovern and Rob Norton • Killer Web Content, Gerry McGovern • The Unusually Useful Web Book, June Cohen • Yale University Press Web Style Guide, 2nd Ed., Patrick J. Lynch and Sarah Horton
  33. 33. Contact Us Rosemary Jean-Louis rose.louis@gpc.edu Barbara Obrentz barbara.obrentz@gpc.edu Download the presentation at: www.gpc.edu/mpr/presentations.html

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