Writing good web content – Top 10 tips

Posted on March 22, 2011 in Writing for the web

good website content
During the last 18 months I have reviewed around 100 websites for companies across the UK (as part of around 20 training courses I have run in ‘Writing for the Web’ for 4 different clients).  I say it myself but this makes me well placed to know what makes good web content, and to share with you some top tips.

Elsewhere I have written on How to improve your website’s homepage.

In the meantime, here are my ‘Top 10 Tips’ for writing good web content – and the most common web writing mistakes.  My 10 top tips on good web content cover issues such as website structure and style, language and layout.

1) Get to the point quick
Tip no. 1 is keep the text on your home page short. People don’t want to read a great long introduction; they can read all that stuff on your ‘About Us’ page. Welcome them, of course, but then direct them quickly onto the pages they are looking for.

2) Tell us about YOU
Take time to prepare your ‘About Us pages, is tip 2 for good web writing content. Convey your organisation, and its character, and do it in an interesting way – maybe with a timeline, some personal names, or key dates. I am amazed by how many organisations have boring, poorly written or uninformative text – which is a complete turn off.

3) ‘Mind the gap’
‘Any old Joe’ can put up a faceless web site, so try and bridge the gap between you and the reader. Use ‘We’ and ‘You’ etc. rather than referring to your company name all the time. Imagine you are speaking to a customer face-to-face, not writing corporate babble.

4) Make reading easy
Reading text on a computer screen is ten times harder than in print because of the fewer pixels and backlit screen.  So tip 4 for writing good web content is make the reading easy.  Use short sentences and paragraphs, narrow columns, and bullet points – the latter are excellent for slowing readers down and emphasising key points.

5) Who do I contact?
As a journalist, there is nothing more annoying than finding a press release on a website with no specified name or phone number to contact. So I have to ring the switchboard, listen to Elgar for several minutes, till finally I am put through to the right person. Why can’t their details be on the company news/media page? Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

6) Shout loud and clear
If you have won an award, or have some testimonials on your site, don’t hide them away. SHOUT about them and ALERT US to them. And another tip: give the testimonials headings. This conveys the help/service you provided (eg ‘Company branding’) and makes them stand out to readers.

7) Tell us your message
Got a strap line? Then use it on your home page – and other pages too if you like. That is tip 7 for good web content.  When people visit organisations, they are usually totally unaware of that company’s strap line. But when used on web sites they get noticed, stand out and sink in

8) Don’t be annoying
Got any pdf files on your site? Then tell us their size. It is annoying to discover, when you start downloading one, that it’s several meg big – especially when you are short of time, have a slow connection, or doing so causes your connection to crash. If you put the pdf file size in brackets, however, readers can decide when to download it – at their convenience, and when they know it’s best. That is tip 8 for good web writing.

9) Think of different audiences
Make your site accessible – not just for people with disabilities (and not just for people with visual impairments), but also people whose first language isn’t English, for technophobes, and anyone unfamiliar with your work, ie avoid jargon.

10) Tip no. 10 = Be up-to-date
There is nothing more revealing than an out-of-date web site, where news releases are months/years old and the latest activity – be it new products, employees or special offers – are not even mentioned. It just ain’t professional. Updating a web site can be a chore, I know, but be sure to do the minimum.