Because users are likely to be on a specific mission, web content must get to the point quickly.
According to studies conducted by the Nielsen Norman Group, only 16% of website visitors read word-by-word. An overwhelming 79% scan new pages in an F-shaped pattern. In short, people don't actually read much online, and when they do, they skim.
So when writing for the Web, keep information as simple and concise as possible.
Define and Understand Your Audience
You should be able to answer these questions before you begin writing content:
- Who is your audience?
- What is the message you're trying to convey?
- What are your users trying to find or do?
Make a list of the top words users will be seeking on your site. Use these keywords to guide your page titles, headings, and writing.
Is your site for prospective students? They'll probably be trying to find out what majors are available at UChicago. That means they'll skim right past a phrase like "programs of study" while looking for the keyword "major." Finding the right keywords requires talking to actual site users and using a tool like Google Analytics to see what search terms lead people to your site, and what words they search for while they're there.
Create Scannable Pages
Help your users quickly find what they're seeking by following these tips:
- Keep the most important information on the left side of the page
- Write concise and meaningful headlines
- Avoid jargon, which increases the cognitive burden on your audience (and slows them down)
- Break content on your pages into easy-to-digest paragraphs
- Edit your content down to half as much as you'd write for print
- Where possible, use bullets and lists
From time to time, Web Services partners with our friends in UChicago Creative to offer a Writing for Web workshop. Join the campus communicators group to be notified about this and other useful workshops.
- Writing Style for Print vs. Web, by Jakob Nielsen
- 10 Principles of Writing for the Web, by Mark Nichol
- This collection of web writing tip sheets from 4 Syllables
Web Writing Services We Offer
Web Services doesn't offer writing and editing services, but we're happy to recommend our partners in UChicago Creative for this type of work.
We do provide organization, frameworks, and expertise to help you craft great, meaningful content—and then maintain it. These content strategy services are part of our usual development process, and are also available in smaller advising engagements.