Presentation on theme: "Writing for the Web. A paradigm shift Freeze-dried! A dramatically different style of writing Blend of classically strong writing and new format –“Omit."— Presentation transcript:
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
The alternative Students, faculty and staff avoid using the web, preferring the phone or individual emails 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
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
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
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
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
Organizing Content Making the jump to a non-linear model Inverted Pyramid Style
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
Then add the background Increase is pay-off from new Web site Business is most popular major Additional parking added Additional computer lab opened
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Use to make your major points Need to be pearls of clarity, not cleverness 40-60 characters Make first word important, information-carrying Often displayed out of context as part of lists –Search engines, email 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
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
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
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!
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
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
“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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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.
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.
Begin with the end in mind Vision and Mission Core Values –Humanism –Innovation –Leadership –Reflection –Stewardship –Collaboration –Philanthropy
How do you show this? Simplicity Tell stories Keep it concrete Be specific Know why it matters to your audience
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, email 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: