Ah, yes, writing for the web. So easy anyone can do it. Which may be the problem, of course.
Let’s rewind for a sec.
Ever read Blink? Malcolm Gladwell explains why we make critical decisions ‘in the blink of an eye’.
If you run an online business, or spend any time writing on the web, it’s worth thinking about this.
When a customer visits your website.
What’s the first thing they notice?
What’s the next thing they notice? Or. What did you want them to see, do, think, or feel?
At this point, they’ve decided to hit the Back button or read on.
Of course, you can’t see this. But if you look at the stats closely enough, you should see where they leave and be able to work out why.
Why do they leave?
But, for sure, writing for the web requires new a different approach than the way you wrote in high school, at work, or with your friends.
Also. NEVER. Never write as you speak.
This is arguably the worst writing advise ever.
Instead, write to affect the reader.
Before you start writing web content, try to understand the basics of information architecture, navigation, and micro-content.
As readers scan text on the Web, make sure that you:
- Write short paragraphs instead of large blocks of text
- Use bulleted lists to break out the key points
- Give one subhead for each idea.
- Add H2 and H3 to highlight the key points
- Use simple, everyday language.
Using ‘Paper Models’ to Develop Better Web Content
If you use even half of the suggestions here, you’re 90% ahead of the rest:
- Remember, on the web, one print page requires two or three screens. So, refine your text for the web.
- Write small digestible chucks.
- Create a hierarchy for all the content you intend to develop. Think of it as a content pyramid.
- Outline your website as if you were preparing a printed publication. Create a Table of Contents and work outwards.
- Identify your site’s purpose and outline its main sections (e.g. the keywords people will use to navigate) and the links within those headings.
- Write headlines and links on Post-IT sticky notes and put them on a chart. Show the chart to sample readers.
- Run a usability test. Ask them how to get from one section to another.
- Draw the outline of each webpage on paper.
- Stack the pages and, sitting next to the user, ask them to “click” the headings to get there. If they chose the right pages, continue; otherwise go back and see what didn’t work.
- Don’t give any hints or clues on how to navigate.
- Sit back and watch. You’ll be amazed how their approach differs from what you had expected.
- Make notes for later revisions. This paper model helps you see how people navigate through the site.
- By writing concise, descriptive headings, you will lead users to the content that they are seeking. For example, do visitors expect to find phone numbers, under “Who we are” or “Contact us”?
- Planning is 80 percent of the work. Once you’ve created a good outline, the writing will have more impact.
What else would you add?