Writing for the Web
People read differently on the web. To get your message across, you need to write differently too.
How is it different?
Most people don't read word-for-word on the web. They skim, they scan, they quickly search the page for the specific information they're seeking.
There are two key reasons why we read this way online:
- It's physically more difficult.
- Reading a screen is slower than reading a printed page.
- It's more fatiguing to the eyes.
- They're busy multi-taskers with no time to waste.
- They're on a quest for specific information.
- Web users are on a mission.
Good web writing is...
- Scannable. Break up long paragraphs into shorter ones, and use bulleted lists and helpful subtitles to help make your content easier to absorb at a glance.
- Inverted. Put results, conclusions or must-know information at the top of the screen, not way down below the scroll line.
- Concise. Eyes fatigue more quickly when reading long articles online vs. on paper, so keep it short. A good rule of thumb is to keep it half the length you'd use for a printed piece.
- Focused. Don't overload a single web page with multiple topics. If you have information to convey on many different subjects, consider a top-level page that quickly directs "traffic" to separate sub-pages for each topic.
- Real. Avoid flowery language and obvious marketing messages. Keep your messages direct and your language objective and honest.
- Error-free. Ask someone else to proofread. Even if your spelling is perfect, a second pair of eyes may notice things that are ambiguous to a reader who doesn't know the material as well as you do.
These links will help you learn more about effective writing for the web:
- Reading on the Web
Learn about people's online reading habits, courtesy of web usability guru Jakob Nielsen.
- Lazy Eyes: How We Read Online
A humorous, but spot-on summary of the best research about online readers
- 9 Simple Tips for Writing Persuasive Web Content
Web copy is scanned. Or glanced at. Not read. So how can you inform or persuade web visitors if they don’t read your text?
- Why Writing Like a College Student Will Kill You Online
The academic writing style has its place in the ivy-coated corners of the world. But it doesn’t belong on the web.
- 10 Web Writing Tips
To write well for the web, you need to understand what today's Internet users want and expect.
- Attack of the Zombie Copy
Want to write a web page people will actually read? Get out the axe and start chopping.
- Web Writing for Many Interest Levels
How to write for every audience, from the completely uninterested to the most dedicated reader.
- Web Writing That Works
Six detailed, thorough, and research-based strategies for effective web writing. An old article on an ugly website, but the content is still good!
- The Internet Is A Zoo
The ideal length of everything online is: as long as it takes to convey the message, and no longer.