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Best Practices for Writing Web Content

Writing Content for Online Readers

People come to our website with a specific question or task in mind. When writing content, be sure you provide the answer to their question quickly and ensure the content will help them accomplish that task.

Online reading is similar to reading a newspaper. When you pick up a newspaper, you don't start with the first word and read all the way to the bottom of the page. You scan for headlines that stand out, stopping and reading the ones that seem interesting.  Here are some basic tips for writing user-friendly online content:

  • Use short paragraphs. Large blocks of text can look like walls, and act as such to the user.

  • Front-load your text. The first paragraph is key. It should be brief, and to the point to quickly engage the user.

  • Use Headings or tables to break up long content. Studies show pages are viewed in blocks of content.

  • Keep content as brief as possible. Web users skim to find what they want or they quickly leave the page.

  • Don't use text images as the only content on a page.  These are not SEO or accessible friendly.

  • Write in an active voice. Get to the point. The active voice has a naturally more urgent tone.

Important!! When you think you're done, look again. Cut & cut more until you convey the most concise message.

Web Writing Best Practices

Below are some additional "best practices" and guidelines to follow as you create and maintain your web pages:

  1. Use easy-to-understand words and phrases. Don't get fancy.

  2. Always use a title on the page.

  3. Combine information into a scrolling page so users don't have to click on several pages.

  4. Put descriptive alt text on images.

  5. Limit use of photos, unless they promote the message. Always reduce the image size before uploading.

  6. Don't "hide" links by removing the underline or using color only. It affects accessibility.

  7. Keep all text left-aligned as much as possible.

  8. Avoid using too much color (especially red).  Bold or italicized text should also be used sparingly.

  9. Avoid using all caps (except for acronyms). Research shows it is harder to read.

  10. Acronyms & abbreviations should always be spelled out the first time.  Don't assume people know what they mean.

  11. Remove Word formatting (via Notepad -see User Manual) if copying text onto page.  It affects accessibility.

  12. Use 4-8 word descriptive text for hyperlinks instead of generic terms [click here, learn more, download now, etc.]

  13. Keep your folder, page and document names as brief as possible - short URLs rank higher in SEO.

Keep your content up to date. Out-of-date content reflects poorly on the website and the College and degrades the trust of the user to believe information they find on our website. Use Outlook Calendar to remind you to remove outdated info.

Listing URLs on the Web or in Printed Materials

URLs should usually be hidden but there are times you may want to show the URL.  Here is the proper way:         --> Don't show the http:// or  default.aspx part, it is already known        --> And, capitalize the last part of the URL for easier reading

Always link people to the home page of an area, not inside pages and not to PDFs.
The URL is shorter and won't likely change.  They can then navigate to specific information.

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