Writing for the Web

Guidelines for Writing Content

  • Keep content short and concise. Reducing text ensures the important information is most prominent. Omit needless words and reduce sentences down to the essential information.
  • Format text to support scanning. Visitors tend to scan pages, not read them. Make your pages easier to scan by using the following techniques:
    • use plenty of headings - h2, h3, h4, h5, and h6 (h1 is reserved for the page title)
    • keep paragraphs short (see above)
    • use bulleted lists or tables
    • use inline links where appropriate (ex: “...or speak to an advisor for further information about...”)
    • have clear calls to action, prominent links to guide your visitor to their next logical step
  • Keep your content current. For pages that don’t expect much repeat traffic from the same visitors, changing content arbitrarily is not important. However, it’s critical for all pages to display current, relevant, and accurate information. Frequent checks of your pages will help you ensure that your visitors aren’t presented with outdated or erroneous content.
  • Use conversational tone when appropriate. Remember the audience that you’re writing for (most likely 16-18 year olds) and write in the same tone that you would use in speaking to this audience.

    Using personas to understand your audience

    Personas are profiles of (fictitious) individuals who represent a typical site visitor. Personas can help you connect with your general audience by identifying the characteristics and needs of one such person. For an example, check out the UAH 2014 Website Redesign Personas.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Don't use "UAHuntsville" - see UAH Logo & Brand Guidelines
  • Don't capitalize "uah.edu"
  • Don't use blank paragraphs (<p>&nbsp;</p> or double-return) to add extra space between paragraphs
  • Don't use h1 in pages - see above
  • Don't use colons in headings
  • Don't put text in images - it's not SEO-friendly or accessible