Online Writing Skills

As a technology blogger  I continually have to remind myself that online readers are not tucked up in bed reading your website with a nice cup of hot chocolate with all the time in the world.  They are:

  • Annoyed
    On-line readers are often annoyed by the struggle to find the information they need. There are confusing menus, distracting adverts and weird layouts.
  • Uncomfortable
    They may also be uncomfortable with tired eyes from staring at the screen for too long or trying to access the web on their phone.
  • In a hurry
    Web readers are often in a hurry with a few minutes snatched during a lunch break, for example, to find the information that they need to know.
  • Confused
    The people visiting your site are often confused as they do not know where they are. They may not have arrived at your home page and followed the journey you planned for them. They could have popped up absolutely anywhere.

How to Write Online

To address the problem outlined above you need to consider the following when writing for the web:

  • Appropriate Headings and Summaries

    These must accurately reflect the content and include the either the key message or a summary of the article.

  • Use Plain English

    Your sentences should be short, jargon free with a simple structure. For example:

“It would be appreciated if all those who choose to comment on this post would be create a Gravatar for themselves.”

Compared to

“Commenters please create an avatar using Gravatar“

  • Gain Credibility and Trust
    Your readers are sceptical as they know that anyone can create a web site in a matter of minutes. You need to build credibility and trust with your audience.
    1. Provide the author’s name and information about the author
    2. Make sure there is real address, e-mail address and phone number
    3. Write material that is factually correct.
    4. Use all the tips in this guide.
    5. Every single page needs to tell the reader who owns the website and what the purpose of the page is. Remember a visitor may pop up anywhere on a web site and will not always start from the home page.
    6. You also need to consider other areas that are nothing to do with writing. These include the site design, layout and ease of navigation.
  • Help Skim Readers

    The majority of reader will skim a page first. If you have an article which is three hundred words of dense text, then the chances are they will hit the back button. Remember your site is just one click away from the rest of the web. To help skim readers you should provide clear headings, summaries, break up the text into paragraphs with meaningful subheadings and use link formatting that stands out.

  • Search Engines

    To help people searching the web you should write unique content and restrict each page to a specific topic. This will help the search engines to categorise your page and help the searcher find what they expected. Content is an important aspect of  search engine optimisation.

  • Accessible Content

    Accessibility is about making your website available for any reader regardless of their abilities, disabilities or the device they are using to access your site. Not everybody is using that latest version of Internet Explore and not everyone has 20:20 vision. This is quite a big area which I will cover later, but from a writing perspective you should check that your pages look OK in a variety of different web browsers with a variety of different window sizes.

  • What Next

    On many pages you will just expect a reader to read the content, but what then. Think about what might be an appropriate next action. Suggest some more pages to read, suggest they buy a product or service, fill in a form, or perhaps make a comment. If you liked this article or have anything to add, leave a comment below : )

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