Here’s a mantra for writing web content: long, long, short, short, short, short, short. Would your auntie understand what you’ve written? If not, fix these problems first.
Long, clear, informative headlines
Do you read every web page from start to finish? Of course you don’t! Most people just glance at the headline and then decide whether to read the rest of the page. So make your headlines utterly clear. Don’t be tempted to use a short heading. For example, “About Us” tells people nothing. Write at least 5 words and make every word count. Put your key message right there in the headline. A 2- or 3-word headline can never say enough.
Write links like headlines
I’ve noticed in my classes that about 10-20% of people don’t glance at headlines on the Web: when skim-reading, they only look at links—nothing else! So treat link-text like headlines! (Link-text is that clickable text, often blue and underlined.)
- Write long, clear, informative link-text. Write at least 5 words. Never write “Click here” or something vague like “More information”. Instead tell people exactly what they’ll find if they click. Remember, some people judge your whole page by the links.
- Present your links like headlines, one line per link, beside the left hand margin. Don’t spatter them through paragraphs. Line them up like the link at the end of this article. Why? When people follow spattered links from content, they get distracted, they understand less and they remember less.
Short everything else
Write less, say more. Short paragraphs and sentences give relief to tired eyes. Don’t over-explain. On the Web, the less you write, the more people remember.
- Short web pages.
- Short paragraphs.
- Short lists.
- Short sentences.
- Short words.
Photo Credit: Erin Kohlenberg
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