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Writing for the Web Dugoni School of Dentistry University of the Pacific Lynn Donham Zehno Cross Media Communications.

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Presentation on theme: "Writing for the Web Dugoni School of Dentistry University of the Pacific Lynn Donham Zehno Cross Media Communications."— Presentation transcript:

1 Writing for the Web Dugoni School of Dentistry University of the Pacific Lynn Donham Zehno Cross Media Communications

2 zehno A paradigm shift  Freeze-dried! A dramatically different style of writing  Blend of classically strong writing and new format –“Omit unnecessary words!” — Strunk & White –Use active voice –Usually half the length of standard writing

3 zehno The alternative  Students, faculty and staff avoid using the web, preferring the phone or individual s  Outsiders find the home page confusing and give up before they find what they need  Faculty and staff continue to be bogged down with routine transactions  Limits relationships and impact the College could have

4 zehno How users read*  *They don’t  Web users scan –79% of those tested always scanned any new page –16% read word-for-word  “F” pattern found in eye-tracking usability studies Jakob Neilsen, Neilsen Nelson Group, 1997, 1999

5 zehno Implications of the F Pattern  Users won’t read your text thoroughly  The first two paragraphs must state the most important information  Start subheads, paragraphs and bullet points with words that carry the meaning

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7 zehno Scannable text Text that communicates to scanners uses  Highlighted keywords  Meaningful headings and subheadings  Bulleted lists  One idea per paragraph (users skip over any more if they aren’t caught by the first few words)  Half the usual word count

8 zehno Measuring effectiveness Researchers measured usability by the success rate of users in accomplishing the same task.  5 versions of basically the same web pages  Three improvements boosted usability 124% –Scannable text –Concise writing (omit needless words; distill) –Objective language; no puffery, exaggerations

9 zehno Eyetrack07

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14 zehno Organizing Content  Making the jump to a non-linear model  Inverted Pyramid Style

15 zehno Inverted pyramid style  The conclusion or ending comes first –College welcomes largest class ever.  Most important supporting information comes next –Record SAT scores –Large increase in traditional age students –New faculty hired

16 zehno Then add the background  Increase is pay-off from new Web site  Business is most popular major  Additional parking added  Additional computer lab opened

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18 zehno  Segment writing into smaller, coherent units to avoid long, scrolling pages. Each page is an inverted pyramid connected to the larger subject.  Try to keep most important information above the “fold” — the limit of the initial screen view without scrolling  Take care not to over-divide your information. For critical information, such as Admissions Requirements, users will print out and read. Chunking

19 zehno  Expect related Web pages to have some overlap  The highest priority is to make things clear to your reader  Try to provide a complete account of the subject with an appropriate amount of background or detail. Redundancy

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22 zehno  A bonus for online writing—invite further pursuit of topic or provide additional aspects  George Landow, professor of English and art history at Brown, named both ends of the link –Rhetoric of departure –Rhetoric of arrival  Highlights the need for both ends of the link to give users understanding of where they may go and why the arrival page is relevant Links

23 zehno  Visual distraction: colored and underlined text within a paragraph pulls the eye and disrupts the unit. Most readers will click on link without ever finishing the paragraph.  Disrupting the narrative: Links lead to stories half-told. Users may follow the link, and subsequent ones, and never return to your site.  Highlights the need for both ends of the link to tell users where they may go and why the arrival page is relevant Pitfalls to avoid

24 zehno  Helps people with no interest avoid your page  Reduces traffic and load on your server  Helps guide people to desired pages Writing to levels of interest: None

25 zehno  Write clear and informative titles to make links clearer  Promote your site and links only in relevant locations  Give accurate descriptions and keywords for search engines Writing to levels of interest: None

26 zehno  The page title is the first piece of information you give your reader  Title is the single piece to invite (link) the reader to the page  Clear, meaningful titles improve this first filter of users to your page  Titles should contain the basic idea of the page – like CNN Headline News for Web readers. Writing to levels of interest: Title only

27 zehno  The purpose of the one-sentence summary is for links to your page. It’s the final defense against readers with no interest.  Many hubs and directories publish a one-sentence description with each link. It may as well be yours.  Hubs and directories will often pick up the sentence you provide. Writing to levels of interest: One-sentence summary

28 zehno  Helps readers know quickly if they’ve come to the right spot  Helps readers determine their interest in your page. Consider this the “small interest level” filter.  Gives readers a heads-up into the major point of the page  Make it the first sentence on the page Writing to levels of interest: One-sentence summary

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30 zehno  Will be used by high-quality hubs  Gives you a few seconds to influence the reader  Provides insight into your material  Bookmark choices Writing to levels of interest: One-paragraph summary

31 zehno  Use to make your major points  Need to be pearls of clarity, not cleverness  characters  Make first word important, information-carrying  Often displayed out of context as part of lists –Search engines, subjects, bookmarks –Must stand on its own and make sense  Skip “A” and “The” in titles—n a list this could put it in a confused mess under “T’s” Microcontent: Heads and subheads

32 zehno  Use to make your minor points  Enables reader to scroll down and understand your points without even stopping  Those who skim can easily pick out information  Points are highlighted for those reading all details  People re-reading the page can review quickly  Finding specific points is easier Microcontent: Subheads

33 zehno  Minor points detail the information supporting the major point  Highlight them by –Boldfacing the font –Using topic sentences –Creating bulleted lists  Or consider a combination of these  Consider large, pull-out quotes in magazines as example. Microcontent: Subheads

34 zehno  Use a writing style that assumes strong interest  Structure your content to assume a series of visits to page  Personal, informal, conversational style  Make it useful to your reader, not just of interest to you  The more specific, the more useful Detailed content: Finally!

35 zehno  Omit needless words  Keep it simple, unless content dictates otherwise  Use active voice  Put statements in positive form  Keep to one tense  Write in a way that comes naturally  Do not overstate  Do not affect a breezy manner  Do not explain too much  Avoid fancy words  Be clear Detailed content: Strunk & White

36 zehno  Make sure people know what your site, and each page will do for them  If people need or want to act on your information, provide them what they need. –request a transcript –join a student organization  Use italics for emphasis and clarity I said I liked it.I said I liked it. I said I liked it. Detailed content: Empower the user

37 zehno “Killer content” examples  Research by Gerry McGovern  Out of 18 choices, why does one piece of content get 49 percent of the vote while another gets 0?  Tested a range of headings and summaries in 14 countries, with almost 3,000 people.  People were asked to scan 31 headings and 18 summaries about a particular subject and quickly choose the one that stood out for them.

38 zehno Research con’t Subject areas:  The launch of iTunes  A pet food scare  A launch of discount software by Microsoft  The launch of the final Harry Potter book Top headings:  Tons of tunes (22 percent)  Poison found in pet food (30 percent)  $3 software for developing countries (23 percent)  Flying off the shelves (31 percent)

39 zehno Research con’t Bottom headings  Apple's Music Store breaks the mold and sells technology (0 percent)  Rodent poison found in now-recalled pet food blamed for animal deaths (0 percent)  Three-Dollar Windows for Govt-Subsidized Student Computers... (0 percent)  'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' sells 2.6 million copies in 24 hours (0 percent)

40 zehno Research con’t Top summaries  99 cents per download, no restrictions. One million tracks sold online in one week encouraging sign for ailing music industry, Apple... (49 percent)  By Josh Fineman and Michael Quint. March 23 (Bloomberg) -- Rat poison killed at least 16 cats and dogs and prompted last week's recall of 60 million cans of... (38 percent)  Microsoft plans to offer a $3 stripped-down package of Windows, Office and other software to people in developing... (34 percent)  WARNING: If you don't want to know what happens in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," stop reading now. JK Rowling is far too savvy a... (38 percent)

41 zehno Research con’t BOTTOM SUMMARIES  The music industry owes a lot to technology. But the new millennium has brought slumping sales. Technology now terrifies music executives... (0 percent)  BY MICHAEL AMON. At first, the pet food recall didn't much worry Jack Friedman. His cats love Iams canned food but had never eaten the "cuts and gravy"... (0 percent)  In its effort to remain competitive and relevant to today's new generation of Windows users around the world, Microsoft unveiled on Thursday a new program... (0 percent)  Cash tills around the world rang to the tune of Harry Potter over the weekend and the seventh and final book in the... (0 percent)

42 zehno Lessons learned-McGovern  The Web is the ultimate laboratory for content. It allows us to know, with increasing precision, what content leads to a positive action, and what content leads to the Back button.  The content that works on the Web has one key characteristic: it is customer-centric.  The content that doesn't work on the Web also has one key characteristic: it is organization-centric.

43 zehno Lessons learned-McGovern  People today want an immediate answer to the question: What's in it for me? They want brutal, pared-down content that gets to the point immediately.  Your website is not a murder mystery. Short, sharp, second person and active; that's web content.  Get to the point. Then stop.

44 zehno Words that count  McGovern’s Customer Carewords™ approach is built on the foundation of knowing the exact words your audience cares about most  If you use these words with your audiences, your website will deliver more value  For you, its using everyday words that convey the key messages and core values central to your school.

45 zehno Begin with the end in mind  Vision and Mission  Core Values –Humanism –Innovation –Leadership –Reflection –Stewardship –Collaboration –Philanthropy

46 zehno How do you show this?  Simplicity  Tell stories  Keep it concrete  Be specific  Know why it matters to your audience

47 zehno Save the white space …  Gouch

48 zehno … it’s endangered  Gouch

49 zehno Short and snappy  Penn Dental

50 zehno Headlines too long  Penn Dental

51 zehno Not tailored for Web  Oregon

52 zehno Good but could be great  Gouch

53 zehno Culling powerful quotes  Gouch

54 zehno Good news, bad news  Headlines that pull in the reader  No “dumped” press releases  Why should I care factor  Don’t tell them what they already know

55 zehno Headlines, not labels  Harvard

56 zehno Is this interesting to you?  Columbia

57 zehno They know who you are…  Penn Dental

58 zehno Good news  Headlines that pull in the reader  No “dumped” press releases  Why should I care factor  Don’t tell them what they already know

59 zehno Do departments have to be dull?  Gouch

60 zehno  Never post anything without someone reading behind you  Read what you have written out loud. Then proofread it backwards, one word at a time.  Double-check all contact information: phones, addresses, web links, and mailing addresses  Double-check any financial information  Double-check any direct quotations  Know the editorial style chosen by the College and stick to it  Avoid acronyms Proofreading and checking:

61 zehno  Jakob Neilsen, Nelsen and Nelson  Catherine Tittle, Technical Documentation specialist, Arbor Technicomm  Nathan Wallace, E-gineer.com  Daniel Will-Harris E-fuse.com  Gerry McGovern, Killer Web Content  Steve Krugs, Don’t Make Me Think Acknowledgements

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