January 19, 2012
That’s because we read websites differently than we read print. When we use the web, we are scanning for specific information. We are looking for an answer to a question, and anything that isn’t relevant is in the way.
When we read on the web, instead of reading the text from beginning to end, our eyes quickly scan the page for keywords, headlines, or links that will give us the information we need, and we ignore everything else. If we can’t quickly find what we’re looking for, we go somewhere else.
That’s why writing for the web is so different than writing for a print publication. Here are five problems to avoid when writing web content.
1. Too much text.
Nobody takes the time to read through long paragraphs of text online. Paragraphs and sentences should be short and to the point, and information should be organized into discrete chunks, using headlines or links. Get rid of as many words as you can until the message is clear, simple, and to the point.
2. Use of unfamiliar terms.
Jargon confuses the reader. Terms that may be clear to employees may not be clear to the average user. The titles of links should be clear and easy to understand.
3. No way to quickly start key activities.
Forms and key activities should be easy to find and accessible from the home page.
4. Lack of organization.
The path to find answers to your questions should be intuitive and logical. Users shouldn’t have to think about which link to click.
5. Busy home page.
The home page should include a title, a tagline, and a brief paragraph explaining your site if necessary. The home page should be a launching pad to help users quickly find the page they need. If you provide a link to everything directly from the home page, it becomes too cluttered and frustrates users.
The bottom line: don’t assume anyone is going to actually read your website. Instead make sure users can quickly scan it to find key information.