Category Archives: Writing for the web

How to improve your web content

1. Don’t try to be a web designer

Improving your web content shouldn’t involve adding design elements to make your page more eye-catching.

Your reader has already got to your page, they aren’t browsing the pages of a magazine or shop windows looking for something to jump out at them.

If someone is already on your page then they need a reason to stay.

A meaningless picture that doesn’t add value or a page with seven different types of font isn’t going to entice them to stay.

Good web content speaks for itself. It doesn’t need “fluff”.

2. Don’t be afraid of just words

As long as your page isn’t a dreaded wall of text then plain old words are ok.

When words are well crafted they can hold attention really well.

Think really hard about what your page should be about. Is it trying to tell a story or get someone to do something?

  • what would a visitor to this page want to read?
  • how could you give them that information in the best way?
  • can you improve their experience?

3. Stop being selfish

Web content isn’t really about you. It’s about your user.

So stop trying to tell people the history of everything. It’s really boring.

Pick out the good bits.

4. Don’t be bullied

There are many people who have an opinion about what they think belongs on a web page.

They might not have your experience or knowledge about web practice, but their opinion counts – and sometimes carries a lot of weight.

One of the hardest parts of being a curator of web content is trying to convince other people that sometimes less is more!

  • stick up for what you believe in
  • use your knowledge to convince them that you are right
  • give them examples and proof

Above all, remember that sometimes people make bad choices because they don’t know what the good ones are. They are looking to you with your expertise to educate them and support them. Don’t make people feel stupid, give them positive reinforcement for their good ideas and steer them away from the ones that aren’t the strongest.

5. Keep writing

Don’t be offended if someone tells you that they don’t like what you have written.

I’ve learnt that my first attempt is never my best. I’ll rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. (And I’m often still not happy!)

I move words around, I delete bits, I add bullet points and change how the page feels.

Be prepared to take advice from others and weigh up how valuable it is.

Stay open in your opinions and don’t be a diva!

(Although, occasionally I’m a diva.)

Actually, all the time when it comes to web content. I suppose no-one is perfect!





How reading a book made me think about reading online

This weekend I started reading Clout: the art and science of influential web content, written by Colleen Jones.

My initial thoughts (I’m up to page 82) are:

  1. I really should have read this already
  2. it smells nice (I’m a bookophile).

I’ve littered it with post-it notes already to remind me to go back and re-read some really interesting sections – and do some further reading around the points.

Something I have already talked about in the office was written as a sidebar. It was the heading that caught my eye:

Blasting the myth that people don’t read

If you aren’t familiar with Jakob Neilsen then you can read his article ‘How users read on the web‘ to get the main points, but he (and others) believe that users don’t read online. They scan.

I’ve never been entirely comfortable with this, I know that I do read online – and surely I can’t be the only one?

Collen points to the Poynter EyeTrack07 study that supports the idea that users read more deeply online than offline.

Erin Kissane puts it succinctly in her blog post on the subject, “people read on the web almost exactly the way they read anywhere else: they skim till they find what they need.”

I think the key difference here is the difference between skimming and scanning:

  • scanning implies speed but no depth
  • skimming is a precursor to delving in.

If no-one reads online then why do we bother with text at all?

I’m happy to agree with lots of points about the way we read online, however it’s important that the art of web writing still remains. It’s not just about bullet points and highlighted key words.

Depth of knowledge about our user and how our words can connect with them is key to creating quality, influential content that is read and understood.

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