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May 12, 2008

Against the rules – hints about how to create text for a website

I am sure that many people wonder what the secret of filling up a website with its content is. The recipe seems to be quite simple – clarity and an appropriate outline are crucial. However, there is one thing you cannot forget about. Those who have never published texts or documents outside the Internet will find it easier, as they do not have to get rid of their old habits while learning the new art of website publishing. In contrast, experienced publishers will have to agree that clarity and simplicity do not mean the same as they did in the past. Filling in a website with text is against the rules and principles which they regarded as a strong point of their work until now.

Knowing the audience

The most important thing to be remembered is that a web page contains messages for a particular group of people. The content is to satisfy the informational hunger of our potential website users.

The more we know about them, the easier it is to adjust the texts for their needs. For example we can do the following things:

* choose topics in such a way that they would be really interesting for our audience;

* arrange those topics, so that it would be easier to find them on the page;

* construct the text using the language of our users, not one of experts;

* choose the style of writing that is suitable for the reader;

* set up a form of communication – contrary to other media, the Internet allows us to use a more informal style on our webpage. It is up to us to establish the grade of familiarity, but in order to do it properly, you need to have thorough knowledge about the users.

In everyday situations, we pay attention to the way people react to what we say. In such a situation, we choose our words, tone and style of speaking to show our appreciation for the other speaker. We create a message that builds trust. Difficult as it may seem, our webpage needs to build the same familiarity. We have to guess what people think about us, how we should address to them and what they want to listen to.

Scanner or reader

The text screened on the monitor is less absorbed by the human eye. That is why it reads 25% slower than a text written on paper. Moreover, too many websites found by the search engine are not related to what the reader is looking for and they do not want to read them.

Therefore, we have to prepare our text in such a way, that it convinces the readers as early as the first glance, to read it and then to search through our service. Hereafter, little advice on the subject is presented.

1. Structural construction of the text

While preparing a text that is to be published on the Internet, we think about its structural construction. We start wondering about the template that is to be filled in. For example, if we edit a text about a company’s products, we prepare a scheme of the description. It can look like this:

Name of product Problem Solution Product’s function Benefits Price

The next step is to describe all the products by filling up the same template. Be consistent and try not to change the template for similar items. The reader will expect to find the same schema on each and every page describing all the products.

2. Reduce the text, as nobody will read it

If you want to be sure that someone will read your text, write less! Let’s reduce our text by its half preserving only the main core.

All important information, that is not closely related to the core, should be moved to the additional material. It is better to do it this way, because as we already know, Internet users rarely read long texts. Try to put each new thought into a separate paragraph, but do not make them too long. It is crucial with a reference to the above mentioned remark about scanning the text before reading. Short paragraphs will make it easier to evaluate the usefulness of the text for a particular person. The ideal paragraph consists of two or three sentences

3. Text easy to scan

As research shows, 79% of Internet users scan a page and eventually read it afterwards. Therefore, the headlines informing about the text’s content should be clearly designed. Using headlines and subheadings should be of primary importance while writing such a text. If you need to highlight one part of a text or a word, use bold type. It is the best solution. Do not use capital letters, italics or underlining (in the Internet, the last one is used for marking linked pages). If you highlight using a colour, be consistent and use the same colour every time. Do not exaggerate with highlighted items. It is enough to use it in one or two phrases per one paragraph. If you want to mark many elements of the text, you can put them into a list, but try not to make it a very long one. It is acceptable that the list is not longer than nine points and has no more than two levels of indentation for each point. If the list is long, it is worth dividing it into sections, each of them having a headline. As much as it is possible, let’s help our reader imagine the data and use charts, diagrams and graphs.

4. Paragraphs – short and pithy. Text – written from the end.

Remember that each paragraph is the beginning of a new thought. Therefore, press Enter each time you start a new thought. It would be suitable that a paragraph is given to one problem and answers one user’s question. Start with the easiest information and then move to the new and more complicated kind. Do not forget that the text is to be published on a website. Therefore, put conclusions and the most important information at the beginning of the text, so that it is faster to find out what the text is about and it could make the reader read it in full. Do not keep users in suspense. As a rule they are lazy and expect simple and quick information.

Turn the content on its head. Contrary to text published on paper, start with a summary or conclusions. The Internet user should know in advance what is interesting for him in the text. We have to remember, that our reader will, first of all, scan the text and only then may become its reader.

As we can see, meeting the expectations of our Internet readers is not easy, but still possible. What is important, we can ask ourselves whether what we have created on the website would interest us as Internet users. If we have any doubts about it, it is better to start everything from the beginning and once more have a look at the presented hints.


This article was translated by mLingua Worldwide Translations, Ltd. mLingua provides professional language translations in all major Western and Asian languages, software localization and web site translation services. Please visit http://mlingua.pl

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