One of the best ways to maintain search engine ranking and visitor interest is fresh, informative content that people will want to read. If you’re used to writing lengthy business documents or academic essays and are appointed in charge of website maintenance, then this is for you.
People who read on the web aren’t like people who read off the web. The same person changes their reading habits dramatically if they are confronted with the local newspaper, a good novel or a webpage… So the content you offer has to alter accordingly.
A few facts about reading on the web
- Reading off a screen is way harder on the eyes than reading off paper
- People hate reading advertisments (or anything that looks like one, so hold off on the self-promotion)
- Like things to be short and snappy – get to the point quickly, then leave it. This is not the place for waffle
- Are extrememly goal focused – browsing the web is anything but what the name suggests, people read each page in order to get to the next point in reaching their goal
As a result, people don’t read your content word by word, they just scan it. This means you have to use text styles and formatting to help them along
Good Practise for web writing
- Write content in small snippets
- Seperate content using lots of informative headers
- Use lists instead of paragraphs
- Provide a lot of relevent links within or outside of your site
- Make everything informative – headers, link text, article titles, don’t try to be tricky or clever, just say it how it is.
- Good grammer and spelling are vital. Not for the same reasons they were at school, but because unless people can understand what they are reading they will not read it.
If this all sounds very fascinating and you want to find out more about how much the experts know about your web reading habits, read ‘Be succinct’, and ‘how users read the web‘, both by usability Guru, Jakob Nielson (in 1997!). Or (slightly) more recent ’10 tips on writing the living web’ by fellow usability experts at A List Apart.