Web pages are important for communicating with other staff and students because they are where many of us expect to find key information and resources.
Writing for the web
Writing for the web is a very different skill than writing for other channels of communication.
Most of us don't read web pages - we scan for key information. So text needs to be easy to read and displayed in a simple manner, while making sure that readers still pick up the most important points.
Here are some tips:
- Keep it short. You should organise your text into short paragraphs or chunks of no more than 60 words - around half the typical length of a printed document.
- Start with a summary of two or three sentences.
- Use subheadings, bulleted lists and feature boxes to show your readers at a glance what the page contains and where they will find the content they are interested in.
- Put key information at the top - people don't like to scroll down.
- Start each paragraph with the most important point. Studies show that people scan down the left part of sentences and paragraphs and don't always read to the end.
- Highlight important things. You can make them bold (not italic, which is difficult to read) or link to another web page.
- Pay attention to headlines, photographs and captions. Research shows that people look first at these elements on a web page. Make sure that headlines describe what follows and are meaningful. Don't use vague phrases like 'Important information'; instead say what the important information is. Photo captions should accurately describe the photo and add context.
- Point people to related pages. People expect to be able to find what they are looking for in, at most, three clicks. You can help by linking to other web pages that have relevant information. The WCM has a feature that allows you to create a 'See also' box.
- Don't assume too much knowledge. Remember that people can land on a web page from a number of places (eg via a search engine), so each page must make sense on its own.
- Add meta data. The WCM allows you to describe your page and add key words or 'tags'. This information doesn't display on the page but does help people to find your page. Eg if you tag your page 'revision', somebody searching the Sussex website for revision tips is more likely to find it.
For more help with content, contact us in the internal communications team - email firstname.lastname@example.org
For technical information and guidelines visit the Web Team's web pages.