Posted by Michael Gaigg
When writing content for the web it is essential to speak the language of your users. Become a word detective, use google trends. Words are the basic elements of links, get them precisely right to provide strong information scent. Identify trends, don't invent them. Look at the evolution of language.
Get to the essence of the message! Stop 'waving' on your webpage ('Welcome to the webpage of our company. We are proud to blah-blah...').
Always remember that the user is in charge, the user is impatient, nasty, demanding, in a hurry and in control to spend its time somewhere else (according to Jakob Nielsen: 'Users spend most of their time on other sites'). Online marketing is about giving attention (versus offline marketing is about getting attention).
Design Guidelines for Content
- Make information easy to find with clear headings and meaningful sub-headings (not ‘clever’ ones).
- Break up the information into manageable pieces.
- Put the pieces in a logical order for your readers.
- Keep your sentences short and employ one idea per paragraph.
- Use the ‘inverted pyramid’ style: conclusion (context) first, results later.
- Talk to your readers. Use "you".
- Write in the active voice (most of the time).
- Put the action in the verb, not in the nouns.
- Use your readers' words.
- Use half the word count (or less) than conventional writing.
- Use bulleted lists where appropriate – for a list of items and for parallel "if, then" sentences.
- Employ scannable text like highlighted keywords.
See my blog entry for Best Practices for accessible Content
- Nielsen, J. (1997, 10 01). How Users Read on the Web. Alertbox: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9710a.html
- Quesenbery, W. (2008, 05). Usability doesn’t stop when you write the content. http://www.apogeehk.com/articles/Usability_doesnt_stop_when_you_write_the_content.html
Michael Gaigg is Lead UI Engineer in Esri's Professional Services Division.
He has been designing map applications for 15 years and is author and curator of UI Patterns for Maps.
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