Web Writing: Best Practices
Guidelines, tips, and hints for writing more effective web content. This article is for students, faculty and staff.
Write Meaningful Headers
Allows a reader to navigate on-page content. Use headers to clearly describe the content in each paragraph.
Use Common Language
For SEO (Search Engine Optimization) use the same words and phrases your readers do. When creating page titles, headers, list items and links, choose keywords carefully and use them consistently. This practice reinforces keywords relevancy for search engines.
Do Not Copy Directly from Word
MS Word and other word processors will add unwanted formatting information to the webpage. Paste content into Notepad (PC) or TextEdit (Mac) to remove the formatting first.
Keep it Short
Writing for the web needs to be much shorter than other writing. Research shows that people scan more quickly than they read every word. Make it easy for your visitors to scan for information quickly. A paragraph should consist of 70 words or less.
Subheadlines, Lists and Boldface Make Content Easier to Scan
Along with short, easily read blocks of text, you should also make good use of boldface, lists and subheadlines. These elements help guide readers' eyes towards the most important content, and make it easier to absorb large content.
Use a bulleted list to break up content. Write a short sentence and then support it with bullet points.
Campus Mail cannot be used for:
- Greeting Cards
- Personal Mail
- Political stances/campaign literature
- Solicitations for outside interests
- Sale or rental of houses or personal property
Do not end sentences in a bulleted list with a period. They stop the eyes from scanning.
Use Links Effectively
Write short, to-the-point pages and link to other pages on or off your site to allow visitors to find more information. The average time new visitors spend on any one page is around 30 seconds. Take advantage of that short attention span by providing lots of links to explore.
Web usability experts discourage the use of the phrase "click here" for links. Instead use an accurate description of the linked content worked into a sentence.
"To find out more about the Print Policy at EKU, click here."
"For more information, view the Print Policy at EKU.
Use "Inverted Pyramid" Construction on Top Level Pages
Load the most important information at the top of the page and at the top level of the website. Often this is a few sentences or bullet points. The goal is to capture the interest of site visitors. Save the more specialized and lengthy pages for deeper levels of the site.
Downloadable File or Webpage?
Web content is generated from a collection of various word processor documents, PDF's and spreadsheets.
Criteria for uploading content:
- If the content is longer than 10 printed pages, or intended to be read as a whole, post the document for download.
- If the original document contains complex graphics or layouts it is better to post it for download. Complex documents generally can't be rendered into standards-compliant HTML.
- If the content if short and non-graphical , it is best to turn it into a straight-HTML page.