Knowing how to write effectively for the web is not only a good practice, it can also improve your website traffic, usability and search engine optimization. Many traditional writing guidelines apply to both web and print. The key is in providing the right amount of information in the right manner.
Write for Your Readers, Not for Yourself
Don’t assume that what makes sense to you will make sense to your readers. Create a mental picture of who your readers are and what goals they are trying to accomplish on your website. Then, put yourself in their shoes as you write.
The journalistic writing style called the “inverted pyramid” is ideal for the web. This method puts the most important information first, followed by a short summary or explanation. Less important details are left for the end.
Write Only Half of What You Would Write for Print
While brevity is important in nearly all marketing communications, it’s even more important online. Research from usability and eye-tracking studies shows that:
- Reading from a computer monitor is 25% slower than reading from print.
- Eye strain and fatigue are greater when reading from a monitor.
- Users are usually on a specific mission and don’t want to waste time reading extraneous information.
Plan Before You Write
Have a clear set of objectives before you begin to write. In other words, make an outline.
- Think of your objectives as your headlines and subheads.
- Under each, list the points you need to make to achieve each objective.
- Aim for no more than three levels of headings. Content that is any deeper than that becomes confusing for readers.
Next month in Part 2, we’ll dig into tips on writing for the web – along with a few pitfalls to avoid.