What are the basics of writing for the web?
Web users typically scan content for information so when writing for the web, using clear and plain language allows users to find what they need, understand what they have found, and then use it to meet their needs.
Users come to your website with a key task or goal in mind. The content on your website needs to help users complete that task or goal in as few steps as possible or they will leave.
Writing user-friendly content for the web
- Use the words your customers use. By using keywords and phrases that your customers use, you will help them understand the copy and will help optimise content for search engines.
- Break up your content. Splitting content up into chunks makes it more scannable by breaking it into manageable sections.
- Use the journalism model of the “inverted pyramid.” Start with the content that is most important to your audience, and then provide additional details.
- Use clear headings and subheadings. If appropriate, use questions.
- Less is more! Be as concise as possible.
Just start writing
One of the best ways of writing for the web is to quickly pour out your thoughts on the topic or product, and then to finesse the finer points once you have a structure for your post.
Write the opening paragraph last
You’ll find people often start by writing an introduction, only to completely change it after they’ve finished the piece. Don’t labour over your opening: it will pretty much write itself once you have the bulk of the content written.
Writing and Formatting
Keep things short and simple
Shorter sentences are better than longer ones. Try to limit sentences to using just one comma to keep things simple and concise.
Break things up
Headings and Subheadings really help break up the page and sort your page content into easily digestible chunks and are great for readers who skim your page before tuning in properly. Try to limit the number of lines in a paragraph to around 4.
Highlight important phrases
Use bold to highlight certain phrases, words or sentences, especially in longer articles. This helps the reader identify some of the key takeaways when skim reading.
Headings and Subheadings
Optimise your headlines around key-phrases, rather than individual keywords. Consider the phrases your clients will search for online or the phrases they use when speaking to them on the phone or over email. How do your clients refer to your product or services?
Use questions as headings
If appropriate to do so, using questions can be really helpful to users. These headings tell them the section that will directly answer their question.
E.g. What are the uses for XYZ product?
Tone & Voice
Write in plain english
This goes back to keeping things simple and concise. Where possible, avoid unnecessary jargon to make things easier for your readers. Keep in mind at all times the words, language and phrases that your readers will engage with.
Don’t make assumptions
Don’t assume your readers have knowledge of the subject or have read related pages on your site. Clearly explain things so each page can stand on its own.
Use descriptive links
Never use “click here” as a link — link language should describe what your reader will get if they click the link.