Writing for the Web

“We’re thinking ‘great literature’ (or at least, product brochure) while the user’s reality is much closer to ‘billboard going by at 60 miles an hour’.”

Steve Krug
Don’t Make me Think
– a common sense approach to Web usability; page 21

Web readers want information right now, so they:

  • Speed through text at a few seconds per page
  • Scan pages for quick information
  • Are reluctant to scroll down

You can deliver  information fast by:

  • Talking directly to the reader (second person)
  • Writing clear, concise, scannable pages
  • Placing key information at the top of the page
  • Linking to more detailed pages

Our publishing model is based on:

  • Decentralized writing: Content partners in UCI departments write most of the text, using the Web publishing guide for consistency.
  • Centralized editing: Your Snr. Editor provides editorial assistance to ensure accuracy and consistency.
  • Specialized templates: A content management tool and text editor reduces the need to know XML and delivers a consistent look.

Starting to Write

Key points:

  1. Delete unnecessary words
  2. Keep sentences short and simple
  3. One idea per paragraph
  4. Use subheads
  5. Bullet point
  6. Important information first – “inverted pyramid”
  7. Choose shorter words
  8. Use the active voice
  9. Identify your audience
  10. Three Esses – Simple Short and Scannable

Writing approach

  • Tone: Content providers communicate in a friendly, conversational tone. Write directly to the reader, use contractions, and read your writing aloud to make sure it sounds like something you’d say.
  • Voice: Voice represents the “person” who is speaking to the reader. Step into the correct persona when you write your site:
    • Your website’s voice is a knowledgeable colleague, a staff member who can clearly explain business processes.
    • If you’re writing for students, the voice is an advisor, a trusted representative of UCI, someone who sits on the same side of the desk as the student to explain academic, financial, or other essential information.

Style

Style guarantees consistency in capitalization, punctuation, and spelling. Is it “a.m.” or “A.M.”? “e-mail or ‘ email ‘ ?  Use the Style guide to keep content consistent – http://apps.adcom.uci.edu/cms/public/AdCom/SNAPMisc/styleguideBusinessContent.doc

Resources