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Writing for the Web in Government and Education

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Writing for the web in government and education: accessibility, SEO, and plain language. Written for the Texas Forest Service in 2014.

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Writing for the Web in Government and Education

  1. 1. W R I T I N G F O R T H E W E B I N G O V E R N M E N T A N D E D U C A T I O N
  2. 2. H O W P E O P L E R E A D O N L I N E
  3. 3. S K I M M I N G A N D S A T I S F I C I N G • F Patterns • Headings and links • Images and captions • Bold phrases
  4. 4. F P A T T E R N S Source: Nielsen Norman Group, F-shaped Pattern for Reading Web Content, April 2006
  5. 5. M O B I L E S C R E E N S I Z E S [ F I N D P E W S T A T S O N M O B I L E U S A G E ]
  6. 6. 91% of all Americans own a cell phone Source: Pew Research, Cell Internet Use 2013
  7. 7. 34% of cell phone internet users mostly use their phones to access the internet Source: Pew Research, Cell Internet Use 2013
  8. 8. 4 years proportion of cell owners who use their phone to go online has doubled (2009-2013) Source: Pew Research, Cell Internet Use 2013
  9. 9. O T H E R W A Y S O F R E A D I N G A N D N A V I G A T I N G • Screen readers • Keyboard controls
  10. 10. S C R E E N R E A D E R S • Software that reads screens to the blind • Reads everything aloud, in order • Can read only headings • Can read only links – out of context
  11. 11. S C R E E N R E A D E R D E M O https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PMuBQ7LyOw&t=5m1 0s
  12. 12. I M A G E S • Images must have a text alternative • Captions are optional • Alt text • Describe the image for the visually impaired • How it looks, not who/what it is • Captions • Identify people and places • Credit the photographer (when necessary)
  13. 13. A L T T E X T A dark-colored beetle with bright yellow stripes and red- brown legs perches on a plant with spindly yellow flowers The Locust Borer is a pest affecting the black locust tree. Both are common in Eastern North America. (Photo courtesy of WikiMedia) C A P T I O N
  14. 14. T R A N S C R I P T S • Audio: for the hearing impaired • Video: for the visually impaired • Required for accessibility • Also helpful for search engines
  15. 15. T A B L E S • Provide a summary of the table’s highlights or trends
  16. 16. P D F S • Text PDFs vs. scanned images • Can you select the text? • Document Properties • Title • Author • Summary • Does this document need to be a PDF? • Probably yes / Probably no
  17. 17. P D F T I T L E S
  18. 18. E D I T I N G P D F T I T L E S
  19. 19. E D I T I N G P D F T I T L E S
  20. 20. A C C E S S I B I L I T Y I S S U E S • Structure vs. presentation • Alt text • Transcripts • Link text • Keywords • URLs
  21. 21. S E A R C H E N G I N E O P T I M I Z A T I O N • Structure vs. presentation • Alt text • Transcripts • Link text • Keywords • URLs
  22. 22. A C C E S S I B I L I T Y & S E O C H E C K L I S T • Are headings styled as headings? • Do all images have alt text? • Do audio & video have transcripts? • Do graphs, charts, and tables have summaries? • Do image map regions have alt text?
  23. 23. W R I T I N G F O R T H E W E B
  24. 24. H E A D I N G S • Page title and subheadings • Keywords • Questions! • Heading styles, not bigger and bolder Source: Usability.gov, Writing for the Web, June 2014
  25. 25. G O O D H E A D I N G S • Verb phrases: • Filling out the Application • Sentences: • You Must Get a Permit • Phrases with pronouns and verbs: • What You Must Do First • Where do I get a permit? Source: plainlanguage.gov, Headings, by Ginny Redish
  26. 26. G O O D H E A D I N G S “How to” buries the action • How to get a permit • How to fill out the permit • How to change your address • Getting a permit • Filling out the permit • Changing your address Source: plainlanguage.gov, Headings, by Ginny Redish
  27. 27. S T Y L I N G H E A D I N G S • Use Word heading styles • Don’t make headings bolder and bigger • Heading styles become HTML heading tags • Structure conveys meaning • Search engines • Screen readers • Appearance is meaningless
  28. 28. W O R D H E A D I N G S T Y L E S N O Y E S
  29. 29. C H U N K I N G • Subheadings • Prioritize • Bullet lists
  30. 30. C H U N K I N G E X A M P L E : H I S T O R Y O F T E X A S A & M F O R E S T S E R V I C E • By subject • Establishment and early leaders • State forests • Urban forestry program • Fire protection program • Seedling nurseries • By date
  31. 31. P A R A G R A P H L I S T S The objectives of the Texas Forest Service were to persuade and aid private owners of forest land in practicing forestry and converting submarginal agricultural lands to productive forests; to protect private forest lands against forest wildfires, insects, and disease; to inform the public of the contribution that forests, a renewable natural resource, make to the economy of the state; to educate Texans in uses and abuses of forest products; and to assist forest products industries in developing new products and improving production techniques.
  32. 32. B U L L E T L I S T S •The objectives of the Texas Forest Service were: • to aid private landowners in practicing forestry and converting submarginal agricultural lands to productive forests • to protect private forests against wildfires, insects, and disease • to inform the public how forests contribute to the state’s economy • to educate Texans in uses and abuses of forest products • to help industries develop new products and improve production techniques
  33. 33. O M I T N E E D L E S S W O R D S “ C U T T E X T B Y H A L F , T H E N B Y H A L F A G A I N . ”
  34. 34. E X A M P L E Like the term “weeds”, insect pests should be reserved for those insects causing unreasonable problems to the products we are trying to produce.
  35. 35. U N N E C E S S A R Y ? R E D U N D A N T ? Like the term “weeds”, insect pests should be reserved for those insects causing unreasonable problems to the products we are trying to produce.
  36. 36. R E P H R A S E Like “weeds,” the term “pests” should be reserved for insects causing unreasonable problems. Source: plainlanguage.gov, Wordiness Made Spare
  37. 37. P L A I N L A N G U A G E V S . B U R E A U C R A C Y “Online readers expect a personal, upbeat tone in web writing. They find bureaucratic writing so offensive and out-of- place that they simply ignore the message it's trying to convey.” Source: New York University, Writing for the Web
  38. 38. P L A I N L A N G U A G E I N G O V E R N M E N T • Plain Writing Act of 2010 • PlainLanguage.gov • Usability.gov • Center for Plain Language
  39. 39. E L I M I N A T E J A R G O N • Arcane industry terms • Acronyms • Abbreviations • Euphemisms
  40. 40. T H E O F F I C E O F N A T I O N A L S T A T I S T I C S Statistician: Each Geographical Statistical Output (GSO) depicts an enumeration district. Manager: Do you mean ‘each map’? Statistician: No. We cannot call it a map because each GSO also contains a table. Manager: OK. It's a map with a table. Source: plainlanguage.gov, Keep it Jargon-free, by Nick Wright
  41. 41. “I soon realized solving Bosnia would be easier.” -- George Robertson, English Defence Minister, on his attempt to cut out abbreviations and acronyms at the Ministry of Defence Source: plainlanguage.gov, Keep it Jargon-free, by Nick Wright
  42. 42. E U P H E M I S M S A N D J A R G O N Jargon Plain Reduction in force Layoffs Economic downturn Recession Friendly fire Shot our own troops Involuntary undomiciled Homeless Riverine avifauna River birds Sources: plainlanguage.gov, Keep it Jargon-free and Avoid legal, foreign, and technical jargon
  43. 43. G O O G L E S E A R C H E S P E R M O N T H 40,000 “Low fares” Source: Gerry McGovern, Choosing the Right Classification Words, October 2008 25 million “Cheap flights”
  44. 44. T O N E • Active voice • Avoid passive verbs (it was done by…) • Take responsibility • Invite the reader to take action • Personal address • Talk to a person, not an abstract group • The reader IS the audience • Be relevant Source: plainlanguage.gov, Pronouns Can Establish a Personal Tone
  45. 45. A C T I V E V O I C E Before: The Texas Forest Service was established by the legislature. After: The legislature established the Texas Forest Service.
  46. 46. P E R S O N A L A D D R E S S Before: This article will help students improve their study habits. After: Learn to study more effectively.
  47. 47. L I N K S • Descriptive • What will the reader find when she gets there? • Unique • Starts with a keyword • File type and size warnings (PDF, 200MB) Source: Nielsen Norman Group, Writing Links, March 2014.
  48. 48. N E V E R W R I T E “ C L I C K H E R E ” • What is the destination? • The method doesn’t matter • And it might not be “clicking” anyway • Tapping mobile screens • Keyboard navigation • Puff sticks and joysticks • Voice recognition
  49. 49. W H A T S C R E E N R E A D E R U S E R S H E A R •Click here •Click here •Click here •Click here •Click here •Click here •Click here
  50. 50. D O N ’ T L I N K T O N O N E X I S T E N T P A G E S
  51. 51. N E V E R U N D E R L I N E N O N - L I N K E D T E X T
  52. 52. 3 W A Y S T O I N S E R T L I N K S I N W O R D 1. Control-K 2. Insert -> Hyperlink 3. Select phrase, right click, “hyperlink”
  53. 53. K E Y W O R D S • How would people search for this page? • “how do I…?” is common • Jargon AND vernacular • “low fares” and “cheap flights” • Two- to four-word phrases are best
  54. 54. U R L S http://tfs.tamu.edu/main/article.aspx?id=13944 http://tfs.tamu.edu/request-assistance-with-forest-recovery- after-wildfire /foresthealth/ /foresthealth/insects/
  55. 55. S U M M A R Y
  56. 56. W R I T I N G A G O O D W E B P A G E • Identify and address the audience • Chunk the text by topic or task • Cut half the words • Eliminate jargon • Write task-based headings and descriptive links • Add alt text and captions to images • Summarize tables and charts • Include keywords in the URL
  57. 57. T O O L S • Style Guide and Page Template • PlainLanguage.gov Quick Tips • Plain language checklists • Center for Plain Language checklist • PlainLanguage.gov checklist • Accessibility checklist

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