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Think about how you'd read a book or magazine. You'd start at the beginning and keep turning the pages wouldn't you?
Well, the way people read on the web is very different. You might begin at the top of a web page, but then have your attention caught by an interesting headline or a link, for example:
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People scan and select the information they want. They're goal and topic orientated too - they want to quickly do something or learn about something. A typical user will jump around a website, dipping into information he wants to read.
Help your users by:
- 'Chunking' content into bite sized topics
- Keeping headlines clear - do they make sense when taken out of context?
- Making sure link text is logical. Don't use brand names or acronyms.
Keep your content visual, using:
- Bullet points
- Highlighted keywords
Blocks of text on screen are deadly - so don't make your readers work too hard. Visual content keeps your copy lean and gets the message across.
Edit, edit, edit - less is more
Use half as many words as you would for a piece of printed literature. Edit content by stripping it down to the key messages and reconstructing it using just those messages. Be harsh on repetition, waffle, redundant words and flabby text.
Fewer words are easier to read, understand and remember.
- Who is my audience?
- What will they want or need to hear from me?
- What do I want them to do? What is the call to action?
The good news?
Writing for the web is about keeping it simple. Clear, concise language and fewer words will deliver your message quickly and efficiently.