Writing for the web require a different approach than for print. Text on a webpage (often called copy) needs to be more concise, targeted to your visitors and optimised for the search engines. Here’s my dos and don’t’s:

  • Do write in short paragraphs as reading speeds on screen are slower than in print and users can scan the text more easily.
  • Don’t use industry jargon for a B2C (Business to Customer) website, write in plain language for your target audience.
  • Do keep a consistent tone of voice. Write in friendly first person tone about yourself or in an informative second person tone about your company.
  • Don’t copy text from other websites. Your web pages need to be unique otherwise the search engines will punish your ranking for duplicate content.
  • Do use headings, sub-headings, lists, bold text and italics. Break up the text instead of publishing a boring page of paragraphs and emphasise important words.
  • Don’t underline text in a paragraph. On the web users expect underlined text to be a link to another page.
  • Do include search engine keywords in the text (searches that you want visitors to find the page for). These should be included naturally in sentences.
  • Don’t copy formatting from Word. It’s tempting to copy text straight from Word but this may include hidden code which may corrupt your web page – best to input text directly into your Content Management Systems (CMS) or copy and paste it into Windows Notepad first to strip Word formatting.
  • Do use photos to illustrate text. A picture can paint a thousand words but remember an photo placed on a web page must be related to the text.
  • Don’t forget the ‘call to action’. This could be a link to your contact page or online shop. Direct the visitor to other pages to make a sale or enquiry.
  • Do use the default font, size and colour.  Your CMS will give you many options for formatting text but your Web Designer has chosen the defaults for reasons. e.g. contrast, readability, accessibility.
  • Don’t centre justify paragraphs of text – keep it left aligned for best readability.
  • Do use Blockquotes for quotes. Your CMS may allow you to put text into Blockquotes, this is handy for displaying quotes or sayings separately from the main text.
  • Don’t publish without a spell and grammar check. There is nothing worse than spelling mistakes and typos to make you look unprofessional and lose your customers trust.
  • Do write detailed product descriptions. You may think your products are obvious, but research has shown the more you describe the product the more the customer is likely to purchase. It also helps with your search engine rankings.
  • Don’t worry if you can’t write – hire a freelance copywriter. This could save you time and make you look more professional.

These are just a few tips for writing for web pages. For more information read these web pages:

http://www.nngroup.com/articles/how-users-read-on-the-web/
http://styleguide.yahoo.com/writing/write-web/test-your-copys-readability
http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/2660-How-to-Write-Product-Descriptions-that-Sell-Boost-SEO-Efforts