4 Ways to Write Better Web Content

What’s the secret to writing great web content? This article explains how to write content and how to tailor content to online audiences.

The primary differences between web-based text content and printed media are related to:

  • Hypertext — users have the ability to jump to another page with one click
  • Points of Entry — users frequently enter article at mid-point after finding it in Search Engines.
  • Scanning — users scan text on the web: users don’t read word-by-word.

The last point is probably the most interesting and is critical to developing better ways to write for the web.

Lets take a look at Location, Headlines, Content Chunking and Scanning.

1. Location

When a reader arrives at your site it is critical that they know the:

  • Current location — where they currently are on your site
  • Help location— where to go if they do not understanding the site navigation.
  • Nature of content — nature of the content they have came cross
  • Next location — where navigation links and visual icons will take them

By giving you readers a sense of location they will relax and feel comfortable using your website. If their experience is positive, it will improve the chance of them returning and also recommending the site to their friends.

2. Writing Web Page Headlines

The first sentence that most users read is the Page Headline. Bearing in mind that web-users are fickle creatures and that another site is only a click away, it pays dividends to write great headlines. Good headlines re-enforce where a user is located and what content is available at this page.

Every web-page should include:

  • Website title — www.klariti.com
  • Individual pages titles — Basics of Good Web Writing
  • Subheadings — Writing Web Page Headlines

Don’t use very witty puns and avoid wordplays if possible. These will slow the reader down, confuse non-native speakers, soon look dated and cause misunderstandings. In addition, as many users will find your content through search engines, make sure your page titles describe exactly what you are publishing otherwise you are defeating your own efforts and frustrating the

3. Chunking Content

Large content publishers such as Time and Newsweek frequently republish articles from their magazines from the hardcopy magazines, without re-editing for the web.

The archives of these magazines have 16 page articles that were transferred to the web in one large chunk.

These large unedited slabs of text are very unattractive to readers and often encourage them to visit other sites where the content is more readable on their computer screen. When you are transferring content from print media to the web it is necessary to ‘chunk’ it accordingly.

Chunking is the process of dividing up large portions of text into smaller portions which makes it easier to read, download faster, and quicker to scan.

Large slabs of text overwhelm readers.

Well-prepared chunks will fit neatly within the browser’s real estate i.e. the page space that the reader can see without having to scroll. Most users do not scroll down to read more text. Remember that many users will be tired and impatient when they find your content. Do not make them work to read your content. Offer them links to go to the next page — avoid forcing them to scroll and scroll and scroll. Keep the font size medium or large. They will be very grateful and come back.

How to Organize Chunks

When chunking content, it is best to number the sub-sections that you have created. This will help with Version Control (i.e. for archiving content), content control and assisting readers navigate through the article.

If you chunk an article into, for example, three pages then let the reader know that the articles has three pages in total and they are currently on Page 1 of 3, and that there are two more to come. This will again re-enforce confidence in your website.

*You can also offer a long one-page printer friendly page that readers may also appreciate.

Hyperlinks from each chunk should clearly state where it leads when clicked. Links should include a clear, easy-to-ready explanation. Avoid puns and wordplay. Make sure the link it of sufficient length for the reader to click — avoid small one-word links as these will frustrate tired surfers or those with poor eyesight. Aim to assist your readers.

4. Writing Microcontent

Web text is content becoming micro-content. Write-edit-rewrite your text so that it can be scanned in one attempt. Keep one idea to a paragraph. The more you can condense your text while retaining its meaning, you will retain readers on your site.

When transferring text from print media to the web, aim to edit 75% of the original print text. Even if you don’t get that far, the more you can reduce the better. Paradoxically the shorter you can edit your content the longer users will stay on your website. After they have finished one nugget they will look for another.