WRITING FOR THE WEB
Article by Lonny Hallsted (Kazeli - Business Referral Network)
"Ultimately, users visit your web site for content"
Jacob Nielsen (Designing Web Usability)
Writing for the web is distinctly different than writing for any other medium for several reasons:
- 79% of web users scan rather than read through a website
- Computer monitors are tiring to read
- The web is a ‘user-driven’ medium where users feel they need to interact and keep moving around a site
- There are millions of pages online competing for the user’s attention
- Web Users don’t have the time or patience to search for information – Web content needs to provide fast useful answers.
The Principles of Successful Web Content
- Identify Your Target Market Once you have identified your ideal customer you can then go ahead and tailor your content so that it appeals to this specific consumer market. Based on this you will set the tone so that the content appeals to the emotional needs and wants of your target market.
- Define Your Most Wanted Response (MWR) Ultimately the goal of any website is to provoke a specific response from the web user and defining what you want this response to be is a defining step in writing your web content. You must make it a simple natural progression for the user to know what to do.
- Leave Your Competition Behind You must find the niche that will set you apart from your competition. Define and present your company’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and let it fuel your marketing strategy.
- Appeal to the Emotions If a person can’t connect emotionally with whatever task he is undertaking, he will not be able to make a decision. To make an emotional connection with your customers you need to: focus on the benefits, not the features, of your product or service. Certainly features imply benefits but successful marketing demands that you spell out the benefits for your visitors. Clearly communicate the benefits of your product or service and meet the emotional needs your visitors – that’s the best way to persuade your users to take action and secure your online success.
The Golden Rules of Web Writing
(Based on “The Seven Qualities of Highly Successful Web Writing” by Kathy Henning)
- Clarity: Make sure you test your text for clarity; web users have an extremely low tolerance for unclear text.
- Relevance: If web users don’t find what they want quickly, they leave.
- To-The-Point: As a general rule online text should have half as many words as print text, often much less. Cut every unnecessary word, but never sacrifice clarity.
- 'Scannability' and Readability: Online, readers tend to scan, looking for something to act on. Make it easy for them. Whenever possible, break up text by using headlines, bullets, and frequent paragraph breaks.
- Use two or three levels of headlines. Make good use of H1, H2, H3…
- Use meaningful rather than witty headings.
- Use bulleted lists and white space to control the flow of text.
- Use highlighting and emphasis to help users notice important words.
On writing good headlines, Jakob Nielsen advises:
- Headlines should make sense out of context.
- Always write in plain language and don’t try to be cute.
- Avoid teasers.
- Skip leading articles.
- Make the first word an important information-carrying one.
- Consistency: Navigation, terminology, tone, and style should be consistent throughout the site. Inconsistency tends to confuse and annoy readers.
- No Errors: Grammatical mistakes, typos, and misspellings can spoil or even ruin a reader's experience. Not all readers notice, but plenty do. And chances are a few will be outraged.
- Good Integration with site design: The site text and design must be in-tune and complimentary to each other, so that the overall target style and feel is achieved.
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