Web readers multitask, are mobile and access websites on a variety of devices. User testing has demonstrated that web readers scan websites, but switch to reading when a subject interests them (Neilsen, 2013). In order to encourage readers to switch from scanning to reading, we need to write differently for the web than we do for printed documents. (For starters, web content should be half the length of printed content). Brand+Aid 2014 discussed how you can help move people from scanning to reading online. Check out the presentation.
Tips for web writing
- Ensure your information is clear, correct and concise.
- Understand your audience needs and wants and write for them.
- Use plain language to ensure your content is understood. A grade eight reading level is recommended for post secondary websites (Cohen, 2013).
- Structure your writing in the inverted pyramid style, presenting the who, what, where, when and why first. When doing this, use short words, sentences and paragraphs.
- Encourage scanning by using headings, bulleted lists, bold and italics.
- Consider breaking lengthy information across multiple pages.
- Rather than duplicate information, link to original sources.
- Use descriptive links to identify what readers will get when they click a hyperlink. Avoid “click here.”
- Avoid using underline and ALL CAPS.
- Choose active over passive voice.