>Writing Material for the Hurried Web User

>There are many people who feel like they are a good writer. You, reading this blog, are quite possibly one of those people. In school we all learned how to write an essay or do a research paper. Writing for the web is a bit different. Erin Anderson provides some insight into this topic in Chapter 5 of Interact With Web Standards: A holistic approach to web design.

What’s different about web writing compared to print?
The main difference is the content. Web writing goes beyond what is just on the page. Web writers must understand the website inside and out before they can create quality content. Web writers must also consider the audience. People read online material different than print material. Online readers frequently scan material looking for only what they need. Websites are also harder to read for long periods of time when compared to print.

So what does this mean for me, a web writer?
It means you have a lot to think about before you even begin to write content. You need to understand the website you are writing for. You also need to consider ways to keep the website accessible to impaired users. A good web writer will also find the right balance between user goals and business objectives. There are certain skills and traits a good web writer possesses. They are:

  • Solid organizational skills and a knack for understanding information taxonomy techniques
  • An ability to adjust the voice and tone of your writing
  • An interest in making the Web more usable
  • A desire to work with a team
  • A thick skin
  • Ability to spin client feedback into great web content
  • A sense of humor
  • A sense of adventure

What is good Web writing?
Good web writing needs to be useful, usable, engaging and findable. Having content which is findable and readable can be a challenge. Having a findable page means a lot of keywords being used multiple times. If too many of the keywords are repeated this can make the content less readable. Just remember that your goal is not to write for search engines but to write for your users. Some tips for doing this are:

  • Give the user what they want and how they want it
  • Help the user accomplish something
  • Be consistent
  • Anticipate questions and answer them before being asked
  • Write clear navigation
  • Avoid unnecessary text
  • Be descriptive with headings
  • Make your users feel smart
  • Be personable
  • Be authentic
  • Avoid “marketing speak”
  • Place keywords early
  • Use synonyms to avoid overusing a word
  • Never sacrifice readability

So I hope I leave you with a better understanding of writing for the Web and its challenges. Writing for the Web is not an easy task and requires a high level of dedication by you to your users, team members and to your overall goals or writing good web content and making the web more usable and accessible for all.

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