Writing for the web

People using the web:

  • scan rather than read every word
  • spend only about 30 seconds on any one web page
  • read about 25% more slowly on the web than in print
  • find it irritating to scroll through masses of text

Keep your audience in mind as you write for the web.

Requirements

All UMass Dartmouth sites reflect the university and its mission. Your site's content should be:

  • accurate & up-to-date
  • informative & interesting
  • well-organized
  • grammatically correct, with no typos or misspellings

All links should work. More about links

Content must be web-friendly:

  • the most important information is featured first
  • text is broken into easy-to-scan "chunks"
  • headings guide the reader down the page
  • bulleted lists present important points

Useful & useable

Help your users by providing content that is:

  • useful: information they need to make a decision or accomplish a task
  • useable: presented in a logical, orderly manner

Content that is informative, useful, and well-organized also improves your site's SEO (search engine optimization). 

Improve your content  

Avoid transferring content that has been written for other media to the web. Content from brochures, research articles, and other sources should be reorganized and rewritten for the web.

Think about the purpose of your page and the words your readers would use to search for that information. Those are the "key words" that should appear in the page's title and the first few lines of text.

For your content, try to use:

  • short, familiar words instead of long, formal words
  • simple and straightforward sentence structure
  • active voice, rather than passive voice
  • bulleted lists that draw attention to important points

(Use numbered lists only when the order is important.)

Break up content into concise blocks of information using content chunks.

Begin with the most important information.

Avoid introductory material such as welcome messages and paragraphs about what the reader will find in the site or on the page.

Use brief, meaningful headings to guide the reader through the sections. Heading 2, heading 3, and so on, provide structure to the content (and also improve search engine optimization). Do not use heading 1; it is reserved for the page's title.

Accessibility note: Screen readers for the visually impaired read heading levels and provide a navigable list of headings that allows the user to jump to parts of the web page.

More information

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