Writing for the web – why great content matters
We recently put together this slide deck on how to create great web content that works.
1. Writing for the web – How to write good content and why it matters
2. Writing for the Web is different 1. The medium is different 2. Reading habits are different 3. Ease of Use is different 4. Objectives are different
3. 1. The medium is different – Paper vs. Screens • High contrast • High DPI: 1200+ • Text first – visual second (if at all) • Low contrast • Low DPI: 150 • Text + visual elements equally. DPI = Dots per Inch
4. 2. Habits are different – scanning first • Web users don’t read like a book • They scan & skim first • Then they read (maybe!) This image shows where people focus on in a web page. Red is highest frequency of focus, yellow is least. White is ignored.
5. 3. Ease of use is different – time sensitive Book/news paper/journal readers are… • Not time sensitive • Engagement is frequently > 10-20-30 minutes or even hours • More Comfortable for longer periods For web – look at your site analytics, maybe 1-3 minutes total across all pages…
6. Web users normally want to… • complete a task • that is time sensitive task • with search or with navigation 4. Objectives are different – Web is Task Driven Book/news paper/journal readers want to… digest information typically with less time sensitivity…
7. Time is the single most critical factor • You often have about 3 or 4 seconds to answer the visitors question • You need clear, compelling content • Otherwise you drive traffic away (to call centers), OR visitors churn / disengage.
8. So, what is good web content?
9. Know your Audience – visitor profiles • Who is your audience? − Jill , stay at home mother of 3 kids under 8 OR − Joe, retired school teacher OR − Mary, IT professional OR − Kevin, a fisherman (and many more)…… • What do people want to do on my site? − How can I access a grant? − When will the new regulations start fox XYZ? − Will pylons be close to my property?
10. Visitors are task driven, content needs to match • What do your visitors want? − NOT what do you want to tell them • How do you make it easy for them? − NOT what makes it easy for you
11. Good text content for the web is… • Written with the visitor in mind • Easy to navigate & jump to more detail • Easy to skim • Short and punchy • Using Active voice, (especially for instructional text) • Using shorter words
12. So what about your site?
13. Can we get answers fast ?
14. Can we get answers fast ? • How many CTAs (Call to Actions)? • Who is the target visitor? • The kitchen sink home page • URL-a-rama!
15. A bit like this…
16. What do your visitors want? Is it really this? (all about me, nothing about you) The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has responsibility for the Telecommunications, Broadcasting and Energy sectors. It regulates, protects and develops the Natural Resources of Ireland.
17. And, let’s say we must explain… Then, couldn’t we do it better? The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has responsibility for the Telecommunications, Broadcasting and Energy sectors. It regulates, protects and develops the Natural Resources of Ireland. We are responsible for Telecommunications, Broadcasting and Energy in Ireland. We regulate, protect and develop Ireland’s Natural Resources. Words: 27 Words: 18 VS.
18. And diving deeper… the detail… • Who is visiting? • What do they need? • Content Likely copied from print media (PR or brochure) • Not written for the web https://www.dcenr.gov.ie/Energy/Sustainable+and+Renewable+Energy+Division/Renewable +Energy+Export/Renewable+Energy+Export.htm
19. Quantify the problem – measure your clarity
20. Copyright Visible Thread 2014– Confidential and Proprietary Average words per sentence: 10.5 Hard Words: 2.9% FOG Index (readability): 5.5 VS Average words per sentence: 21.6 Hard Words: 5.11% FOG Index (readability): 10.7
21. A quick example in a different context You are not alone
22. Nice Graphic Design… Nice clean fonts too – how about the copy?
23. The learner registration process will not be deemed to be complete until the appropriate fees have been paid to the Awarding Body. VS. To register as a learner, you must pay appropriate fees to the awarding body this is the actual copy! …this is the target audience – non English speaking students
24. Nobody is innocent….
25. Sections of pages scored in government site. 100 page sample Broadcasting (100 pages scored) Communications (100 pages scored) Natural (100 pages scored) Energy
26. Sections of pages scored in government site. 100 page sample Broadcasting (100 pages scored) Communications (100 pages scored) Natural (100 pages scored) Energy Takeaway: Very Complex content across all sections of the site. Levels of long & run-on sentences very high. Audience will not read or engage.
27. Copyright Visible Thread 2014 Long Sentences in context (blue) 27 A self-insurer must pay a fee as a contribution to the overheads of the WorkCover scheme and this includes a component to cover the liabilities of self-insurers in the event of insolvency
28. Copyright Visible Thread 2014 Passive Voice in context (maroon) 28 Prior to making a decision on applying to be registered as a self- insured employer, you should become familiar with the requirement of self-insurance contained within the Code of conduct for self-insured employers under the WorkCover Scheme.
29. Copyright Visible Thread 2014 Readability – what is it? 1. Flesch Reading Ease Index (Rudolf Flesh – Austria) 2. Attempt to generically measure how readable your content is 3. Formula – number between 0 and 100 4. 0 – most complex, 100 least complex Readability for content
30. Copyright Visible Thread 2014 Readability – a note on readability in the context of tech pubs (206.835 – (1.015 x Average Sentence Length) – (84.6 x Average Syllables per Word)) heavily weighted towards syllables per word Score: • 0–29 (Very Difficult); • 30–49 (Difficult); • 50–59 (Fairly Difficult); • 60–69 (Standard); • 70–79 (Fairly Easy); • 80–89 (Easy); • 90–100 (Very Easy) 1. For non-tech pubs, readability measure is important. e.g. Consumer Facing Credit Agreements 2. BUT, if you have a tech heavy document you may see limited improvements. 3. Focus more on reducing long sentences and passive voice. These will improve the readability score, but it may not be significant.
31. What’s driving your scores? Let’s consider a sample page
32. Back to our sample page – from Energy Content was Likely copied from print (PR or brochure) https://www.dcenr.gov.ie/Energy/Sustainable+and+Renewable+Energy+Division/Renew able+Energy+Export/Renewable+Energy+Export.htm
33. Lots of sentences are >20 words Lots of Passive Voice How can we easily tell? VisibleThread Web report https://www.dcenr.gov.ie/Energy/Sustainable+and+Renewable+Energy+Division/Renewable+Energy+Export/Renewable +Energy+Export.htm
34. 57% of sentences > 20 words 32% use passive voice Readability level requires 3rd level degree https://www.dcenr.gov.ie/Energy/Sustainable+and+Renewable+Energy+Division/Renewable+Energy+Export/Renewable +Energy+Export.htm
35. Copy like this… Words in sentence: 52 2 passive constructs Readability of this sentence = 0 (between 0 and 100) https://www.dcenr.gov.ie/Energy/Sustainable+and+Renewable+Energy+Division/Renewable+Energy+Export/Renewable+Energy+Export.htm
36. Direct copy from print not effective for the web https://www.dcenr.gov.ie/Energy/Sustainable+and+Renewable+Energy+Division/Renewable+Energy+Export/Renewable+Energy+ Export.htm Remember: 1. The medium is different 2. Reading habits are different 3. Ease of Use is different 4. Objectives are different
37. The problem is pervasive but fixable…
38. How can we do better? The framework and associated environmental assessments (including Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment) will be prepared over the coming twelve months and will provide an opportunity for all stakeholders including local authorities, potential project developers and local communities to be consulted and have an input into the national policy for wind export. – We will prepare the framework and associated environmental assessments in the next 12 months. – You will then be able to provide feedback into the national policy for wind export. 1 sentence – 52 WordsVS. 2 sentences – 14 / 15 Words each Pronouns – we / you ’12’ versus ‘twelve’ Dialogue between you and visitor
39. It’s not just your site…
40. Example of 12 US banks Takeaway: Very Complex content on multiple pages. Level of long & run-on sentences very high. Audience will not read or engage.
41. Detailed reports flag the content
42. What about jargon?
43. Jargon – negative impact on your audience?
44. Take this page… https://www.dcenr.gov.ie/Energy/Sustainable+and+Renewable+Energy+Division/Offshore.htm
45. and this example text… “The Stakeholder Forum was intended to provide the relevant industry stakeholders with an opportunity to get an update from Redpoint and Garrad Hassan on the study approach and methodology to be applied.” https://www.dcenr.gov.ie/Energy/Sustainable+and+Renewable+Energy+Division/Offshore.htm
46. So how much jargon is there here?
47. We created a fairly simple dictionary of jargon phrases
48. Scan results across different sections of the site Jargon checked Takeaway: jargon likely in the pages we scanned.
49. ‘key’ is very popular
50. The content… A key focus of digital inclusion is getting more people to use modern digital technologies, in particular internet related technologies. The Department, through the eInclusion Section of the Knowledge Society Division, is seeking to promote higher levels of digital inclusion in Ireland. In pursuit of this objective we work with other key stakeholders to identify the most effective approaches and strategies to promote more digital inclusion. The National Digital Strategy launched in July 2013 outlines these approaches. The Department also represents Ireland on the Digital Inclusion Workstream set up under the British Irish Council . David Puttnam was appointed as Ireland’s first Digital Champion in December 2012. His focus is on digital engagement and on the priorities set out in the National Digital Strategy. In this short clip recorded for the EU Commisison, he outlines some of the opportunities and challenges of his role as Ireland’s Digital Champion. David Puttnam’s key objectives . Some Key Stats https://www.dcenr.gov.ie/Communications/Knowledge+Society/Digital+Inclusion/
51. …in the page https://www.dcenr.gov.ie/Communications/Knowledge+Society/Digital+Inclusion/
52. What about Acronyms?
53. Again we created a simple dictionary of acronyms If used, then is it used sparingly? with a definition?
54. Scan results across different sections of the site Acronyms Takeaway: probably acronym heavy copy in the pages we scanned.
55. So here’s a sample page full of acronyms Takeaway: Overused DCENR No definitions
56. …and the page https://www.dcenr.gov.ie/Communications/Knowledge+Society/BenefIT/BenefIT+Digital+Ski lls+Training+Grant+Scheme.htm
57. Key content likely not findable and searchable Your audience may be confused and may not engage due to a mix of terminology Your SEO keyword strategy may be diluted Your content may not align with Brand/Corporate Standards. We care about language consistency – why?