For the last several months, I’ve been working on re-writing web content for a large organization. Instead of writing corporate-speak, the writing is client-centric. In other words, writing for the audience.
Some of the basic premises and techniques used are:
- Ask questions and give answers – “Do you need something?” “You can find your something here, if you do this, this, and this.”
- Write in active not passive voice – “Create anchored links for content pages” not “Anchored links can be created for…”
- Keep paragraphs short and sentences simple, not complex.
- Use bullets or a numbered list.
- Choose a style of writing and stick with it. If your organization doesn’t have a style guide, perhaps this is something you can suggest and help develop.
In small organizations where all employees are the web content managers, a style guide will help the writing seem uniform, and not as if you have a thousand monkeys in the room while you hope that eventually you get at least one sentence that makes sense. You don’t have to reinvent the web, just search for “web content guidelines” and you’ll find sites such as Dalhousie University’s guide [http://www.dal.ca/webteam/web_style_guide.html] or, my personal favourite because it’s plain and fun, the New Zealand Government’s guide. https://www.govt.nz/about/our-style-guide/
You can’t expect Shakespeare and you shouldn’t because your clientele doesn’t want to read Shakespeare; they want to purchase your goods or hire you for whatever it is you do.
Be clear. Be concise. Keep cleverness at a minimum (not everybody gets puns). Keep your pages clean with a minimum of photographs or graphs, which are memory hogs on a smart device or tablet. Make your information easy-to-find and easy-to-read: don’t ask potential clients to click down several levels before they reach what they’re looking for because they’ll leave after the third click.
And don’t forget about accessibility. Some of your clients – past, present, or future – may use text readers, may have vision impairments, etc. Don’t leave them outside your website trying to get in. The Ontario government has a guide on how to make your website more accessible. http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/documents/en/mcss/accessibility/iasr_guides/website_en.pdf. Besides if you are building a new site or refreshing your old, your site MUST conform to the WWW Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Some fixes are easy; others will take a bit of time, but it is worth it both in terms of accessibility for persons with disabilities and for your company’s reputation.
Sure, I know you all knew this before, but do you put it into practice?
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