How to write for the web:
Speaker: Donald Malone
Donald Malone scrambled to redirect his pre-planned speech to accommodate the miscommunication about his intended audience. Prior to arriving at room 301 in the Ferg he had rehearsed a presentation to inform university staff about the “how to’s of writing for the web.” To his surprise he was then informed the audience would be 6 freshmen.
In his presentation he simplified the topics and redirected his discussion with a viewers approach. The first comment he directed to us was that from the start of our schooling to about middle school we are taught to read but middle school and beyond we are taught to skim. This applies directly with web design and writing. We see the design and colors not the text. With this in mind we as writers for the web we must do everything we can to keep them reading.
Donald Malone shared his top 8 guidelines for web writing
1. Keep your language clear and simple. Avoid slang uses and keep words, sentences, and paragraphs short.
2. One paragraph, one idea. Get the info to the reader quickly and keep it general.
3. Front loading is the structure that should be used. This is also referred to as the inverted pyramid. This means to put most important information on top descending accordingly.
4. Make the headings descriptive, many people will only read the heading so you want to give them the greatest amount of information. Also, use subheadings within the writing every two paragraphs to keep the reader engaged.
5. Bolder words are great to use for the vital information but use them sparingly. To many bold words will distract the reader.
6. When using links, don’t do click here! This has nothing to do with the information this will be distracting. Instead use words that apply to the information. Links can stand out just as much as bold words.
7. Readers like lists, the representation of words vertically instead of horizontally is easier to scan and are less intimidating.
8. Make sure to keep your text aligned or justified to the left. Justifying to the middle and the right is exciting because it looks different but the annoying spaces make it hard for the reader to find the beginning of the lines. When the text is hard to follow the reader will stop reading.
Donald Malone says he has been working within writing and maintaining websites for 12 years. He started his involvement in maintaining websites as an undergraduate at the University of Alabama, graduating in 2005.
The university uses the column ruled grid system to organize all university webpages. This, he believes is the best method to keep pages from looking “cluttered.” I have never really thought to observe if a page looks overwhelmed or not but I did notice that the University of Alabama websites are smoother to use than most other school pages.
He also touched on a point that has been covered in my JN 101 class that when putting out information including a picture is the best thing to do. He quoted that people take in information 600 times faster when an image is provided. Also the chance of readers clicking on the article is increase significantly when an image is included. As a writer the over all goal is to have people read what you wrote so attach a picture!
You can follow the UA web office on twitter at @uawdp or @drcometrue
When reading/ writing on the web?