Research your audienceSpend time thinking about the people using your website and the kind of information they are looking for. Define your different user groups, think about your key messages for each. Put yourself in their place and then plan your content around them.
Switch them on, not offInternet users are impatient. They're on a mission to find information and they "scan" web pages to get it as quickly as possible. They don't read line-by-line. And often don't scroll down a page.
So to catch their attention, you need to be quick! Make it as easy as possible for users to find those nuggets. Otherwise, they'll quickly log off and go elsewhere.
Mind your languageClear, short, simple bite-sized copy is the answer. A screen choc-full of text is confusing and overwhelming. Help your users navigate the maze and find what they want.
Break up the text into digestible sections, with useful headings and sub-headings to guide them through. Make it easy... use small panels or boxes of information, or bullet points.
People like articles such as "How to" or "Tips on" because they look useful and easy to read.
Remember, millions of people in the UK have literacy problems or learning difficulties. Clearly written text is good for everyone.
Cut the waffleOnline content should have around 60 per cent of the word-count of off-line copy.
So keep editing and boiling down your text but make sure it's not so brief that it's unclear. Cut jargon, abbreviations, purple prose and hyperbole.
Keep sentences short - around 20 words. Use lots of paragraphs - they're easier to read then lines and lines of justified text.
Oh, and you can forget what your English teacher told you ... it's OK to start sentences with "and" or "but"! These transition words help the copy link and flow - making it easier to follow.
Make it funCommunication is a two-way street. So connect and engage with your website users and get them to contribute too.
Be fun, encourage users to interact. Use personal testimonials and case studies. Run a poll, devise a quiz, launch a competition. Or simply provide a comment box for people to feedback.
Looking good?The way you present text online can boost readability and understanding.
- Use a sans-serif font such as Verdana or Arial (no squiggles or decorative edges).
- Keep to 10-12 words per line. More is hard on the eye.
- Dark text on a light background is easiest to read.
- Left-aligned, non-justified text is the most legible.
- Add sub headings to help users scan.
- Avoid block capitals, underlining and italics.
- Use bold keywords throughout your page to draw users attention – but only two or three per paragraph.
- Pull-out quotes and pictures create breaks in a sea of text.