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Writing for the Web

What's Different About the Way People Read Web Pages?

According to recent studies:

  • 70% of users always scan text on a page
  • 16% read word-by-word
  • Reading from computer screens is 25% slower than from paper
  • In print, your document forms a whole and the user is focused on the entire set of information. On the Web, you need to split each document into multiple hyperlinked pages since users are not willing to read long pages
  • Users can enter a site at any page and move between pages as they choose
  • Web users are impatient and critical
    • They have not chosen your site because you are great but because they have something they need to do
    • Write in a style that allows users to quickly find the information they want
  • Teenagers are even more impatient than adults and are poorer readers!
  • The Web is a fluid medium – people expect to see information up to date

So writing for the Web needs to be different!

Writing for Different Page Levels

  • Home page level writing needs to be extremely brief
  • The second level is where most of your Web writing occurs
  • The third level can have text-heavy content
    • People will probably print it
    • Test for printability or offer an alternative format

Writing to Make Reading Easier

  • Eliminate needless words: This is the NUMBER ONE improvement you can make. Make the word count about half that used when writing for print 
  • Make a point: Bulleted and numbered lists slow down the scanning eye and can draw attention to important points
  • Prioritize: Users don't like to scroll through masses of text, so put the most important information at the top
  • Be semantic: Use headings and subheadings (appropriately coded) to pique user's interest
  • Be simple: Use simple sentence structures. Convoluted writing and complex words are even harder to understand online.

Writing for Search Engines

Use key words people will use to search for your pages. These are the most important areas to use them in order to produce the best indexing in various search engines:

  • Title tag
  • Headings
  • Meta Keyword and Meta Description tags – Use keywords plus their synonyms
  • First few paragraphs of page
  • Use words frequently but not too frequently
  • Use alternate text on images
    • This is also important for accessibility for individuals with disabilities