Never tell people what you're going to do for them on the Web.
Just let them do what they came to do as quickly and simply as possible.
Gerry McGovern <www.gerrymcgovern.com>
Seventy-nine percent of users scan the page rather than read word-for-word*
- Write for a reason. What’s the page about? What can the user gain? What do you want them to do?
- Organize your content clearly and logically so it is easy to scan. Your user is going to decide quickly whether to stay or bail.
- Write clear, well-located headings.
- Keep your phrases, sentences, and paragraphs shorter than you would for print.
- Each paragraph should contain one main idea. The second idea in the paragraph can easily be missed.
- Earn your reader’s trust. Don’t scare them off with exaggerated language. Write with an objective style.
- Headings are important. They must communicate the page’s content and entice the reader to stay on your site.
- Link only key information-carrying words. Don’t link “click here” and other self-referential terms. Use links as a quick way to get the reader to relevant information. There are also search engine optimization advantages to choosing linked words carefully. Some links might be better placed in a sidebar.
Reading from computer screens is 25 percent slower than from paper
- Write so your content can be understood quickly. Understand tone, brevity, and action.
- Structure the page by information categories.
- Use visualization techniques of placement, type, and graphics only if they support your purpose. Resist the temptation to add features just because you can. Make them count!
- Limit the number of items in a single list to no more than nine.
Web content should have 50 percent of the word count of its paper equivalent
- Place your most important information near the top (above the fold).
- Solicit the help of an editor to polish grammar and punctuation and to read the content for consistency and clarity.
- Omit unnecessary words. Create a clean, lean website.
Users will enter a site at any page and move between pages as they choose.
- Make sure each page is written for a reason and can exist independently of other pages on your site.
- Create meta titles that describe the topic of the page. The title should be understandable when pulled out of context, because users often scan down long lists of titles on search engines to choose pages. When pages are similar, meta titles should still contain words that explain the difference between them.
*Web facts from “Writing for the Web” <www.sun.com/980713/webwriting>