Why do technical writers struggle to write web content? Maybe it’s because writing for the web requires a different approach to the writing process. Here are some ways to stop thinking like a technical writer and more like a web writer.
How to Write Web Content
Before you start writing web content, invest some time in understanding the basics of information architecture and also how user interfaces and navigation systems work. Once you grasp this it’s easier to develop content as you’ll understand how the content will be delivered and read by users.
1. Chunk Content
On the web, write in small chucks. Make sure to write titles that fit into the information hierarchy. To create your hierarchy, outline the website as you would for printed material. Create logical orders and help the read find information fast.
2. Identify the Topics
Examine the site’s purpose and outline the main navigation paths (e.g. words people use to navigate), keywords and link structures. Test it before it goes online.
You can do this by writing the topics and links on Post-IT sticky notes and put them on a chart. Show the chart to sample users. Ask them how to get from one page/topic to another.
3. Usability Tests
Next, run usability tests.
- Put the outline of each webpage on a sheet of paper.
- Stack the pages and, sitting next to the user, hold up the pages.
- Tell them what to find and ask them to “click” the headings to get there.
If they choose the right pages then continue; otherwise go back and revise the information flow.
4. Monitor Results
Don’t give any hints or clues on how to navigate. Sit back and watch.
You’ll be amazed how their approach differs from what you had expected. Make notes for later revisions. This paper model helps you see how people navigate through the site.
By writing concise, descriptive headings, you will lead users to the content that they are seeking faster.
For example, do visitors expect to find phone numbers, under “Who we are” or “Contact us”?
5. Develop Writing Guidelines
On the web, one page on print media requires two or three screens. As readers scan text on the Web:
- Write short paragraphs
- Use bulleted lists rather than narratives
- Write one subhead for each idea.
Planning is 80 percent of the work. Once you’ve created a good outline, the writing will have more impact.
What else would you add?