Writing for the web is not the same as writing for print. That’s because reading from the screen is hard on your eyes.
Rather than reading word for word, web users scan the page looking for relevant information (much like the way people read newspapers). Good web content is written to be scanned.
This is a fundamental principle that’s overlooked by many website owners.
You can’t just cut and paste your brochure copy and hope it will be read online. It won’t. You need to create original content that is specifically written to be read online. Here’s how.
Web writing guidelines
Web usability guru Jakob Nielsen has studied how people gather information from web pages and developed a web writing style. Its elements include:
- Concise writing – get to the point quickly and cut any waffle
- Simple and relevant page titles that clearly explain what a page is about and will make sense when read out of context in search engine listings
- Inverted pyramid structure – start every page with a summary of its content (just like a newspaper story)
- Facilitating scanning and skimming – group information into discrete sections with appropriate sub-headings, use short paragraphs and bulleted lists, and highlight key phrases, and
- A simple writing style free of marketing fluff works best online.
Content that’s written for the web enables readers to find information quickly, improves memory recall and adds credibility to your site.
Good web writing drives action
The web is a highly action-orientated marketing channel. So good web writing motivates the reader to take action: sign up for our newsletter, view our product range, download our new report, ring us for a quote, click here, and so on.
People want and need clear instructions, so make sure you give them. Every single page on your site needs a call to action, even if it’s only to read another page.
Things to do
- Read Jakob Nielsen’s articles on writing for the web
- Hire an experienced web copywriter or send your content creation staff to a web copywriting class.
This post is part 7 of the series Your Website Sucks!