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Writing for the Web - Tips and Techniques. Writer and Freelance Journalist Robert Bullard shares his experience
Web users are driven by particular needs and desires. So, when planning your website’s content, think what do they want, rather than what you have to say… they really don’t care when you were set up - unless it is more than 30-40 years ago.
Write for your users’ needs, not to flatter yourself!
Computers sit within today’s hectic lifestyles, which means people have little time, and want the information quickly. They are also global: some users may not be able to read English well, and many not understand your jargon. And can be viewed by competitors as well as clients.
People’s visiting websites just want to ‘Grab and Go.’
It is physically harder to read a computer screen than a page of text - because of the lower resolution, less contrast, and the glare on the screen. As a result people read about 25% slower, their appetite is less, and patience shorter. 100% read the headlines, 60% read down the page, but only 10% read to the end.
Make your web text 50% shorter than print.
People are foraging for information on the web, looking for whatever best answers their needs. Your web pages compete with millions of others for users’ attention and needs. And users will expect sites to be readily accessible, and regularly updated.
Keep your site update and post new material.
As a result of all the above, 80% of readers scan web pages and only read 20%-30% of the words. Their reading pattern is ‘F’ shaped, ie they are most likely to read the top few lines, they scan the left margin looking for relevant words etc., and read the sentences where something catches their eye.
Make your heading and opening lines eye-catching.
Nor do people read linearly, as in a book. They arrive at a web site with a set goal in mind, and ruthlessly browse around, cherry picking information from different web sites. They prefer clear writing and dislike pushy advertising.
People’s attitude to e-newsletters is even more ruthless… more about that another time.