Writing for websites is different to writing for paper-based media, so if you’re new to it all, these pointers might help.
The first thing to remember is: reading on screen is hard!
It’s a lot harder than reading on the page. Think about the way you surf the web – you probably skim-read, trying to get to the information you need as quickly as you can – it’s because it’s so much harder to read on screen that you’re doing that.
Remember that your readers are just the same as you. So it’s important to do what you can to help them find the information they want – and make it appealing and easy for them to carry on exploring.
Keep things simple
There are some things you can do from a technical perspective to make your web copy easy to read:
- keep sentences short
- keep paragraphs short
- use bulleted lists where you can
- use informative headings to break up the copy and allow people to jump to the information they want
- better still, if a page is going on too long, break the information up into separate pages so people aren’t intimidated by loads of scrolling text.
(Try this: go to the BBC News website. Pick a story and read it through. Notice how easy to read and understand it is. Now print it out and read it again. Suddenly, the sentences seem short – almost too short. That’s the difference between reading on-screen and on the page.)
Write for your audience
Keep the reader in mind while you’re writing. Ask yourself “what do readers want/need to know?” not “what do we want to tell them?” and remember that while you’re writing.
Try to write as if you’re talking to one person not making a presentation to hundreds – this will help to keep you focussed on giving readers what they need – and keep your style friendly and personal.
Keeping people engaged with your website is one thing. Getting them there in the first place is quite another. That’s where keywords come in, read our post on how to choose the right keywords for if you need help on this.