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Guidelines for writing for the Web
Web writing needs to support Web site visitors in achieving their main goal: to find useful information as quickly as possible.
- Create short, concise and to-the-point content rather than long rambling paragraphs. Use lists instead of paragraphs since lists are easier to scan than paragraphs.
- Sub-headings allow visitors to more easily skim and scan for information most relevant to them.
- Your first paragraph is the most important one. It should be brief, clear, and to the point in order to quickly engage the user.
- Write in an inverted pyramid style. Place the most important information at the top, extra info toward the bottom.
- Edit your text until you are left with the most essential message.
- Name your page clearly. The page title and the navigation title should match as closely as possible. They should also clearly articulate the subject of the page. The more relevant your headings and content are to the keywords people enter into a search engine, the higher you will rank in the results of those searches.
- Never underline text on the web. Underlined text should be reserved for links only. If a word is underline, it misleads the visitor into thinking that it is a link.
- Use all caps sparingly. Research shows that all caps are harder to read than mixed case.
- Use bold and italics sparingly. Bold should be used for headings and then sparingly for any other emphasis. Too much bold makes text harder to read and differentiate.
- If you make reference to information that exists elsewhere on the site or on another site, link to it. Make an email address or a Web site address into a link. Don’t make people go and search for something that you mention if it already has a page somewhere.
- Avoid “Click here” when linking to files or other web pages. Use part of the actual referencing sentence as the link.
- Research shows that Web users don’t mind scrolling if the content is useful and easy to scan.
- Keep your content up to date. Out-of-date content reflects poorly on the user’s overall opinion of the Web site and the Center.
- Site visitors tend to move through a Web site in a non-linear, unpredictable manner, so it’s best to create content for each page that is not dependent on other sections. Since site visitors can enter a site from any page, providing related links can help to guide the reader to relevant information.