Seven tips for writing for the web

Writing for the web is different to any other style of writing. Web content follows unique writing conventions, and the usability of the content is just as important as the content itself.

1. Break it up

Use headings, lists and subtle formatting such as bolding to highlight key points.

Good headings with a clear hierarchy will help users who are scanning your pages to find information fast. Good headings also give structure and context to the content.

Do not bury your information in blocks of text. Use headings, different fonts, subheadings, lists and bullet points to assist your readers down the page and allow them to quickly find the information they want.

2. Important info at the top

Keep the most important information in the first couple of paragraphs, readers tend to lose interest as they move down the page.

The internet is not a treasure hunt and your visitors do not want to dig for the information.

3. Use plain English in short sentences

Keep the number of words to a minimum. The more words, the harder it is to scan and the more likely the user is to miss the important points.

Short sentences can be achieved by:

  • using just one word to express a phrase e.g. change ‘at this point in time’ to ‘now’;
  • stating the obvious e.g. ‘planning’, not ‘future planning’; and
  • simplify sentences by breaking one sentence into two or more.

4. Understand your audience

Use a style and tone appropriate to the aims of the content and intended audiences.

What information is your audience looking for? The more interesting and relevant your content is, the more people will link or forward it, and the better your results will be.

5. Consider every page as a landing page

It’s easy to place a high value on a home page or particular landing pages – however the reality is most visitors will arrive through a search engine to a specific content page.

Writters should not assume visitors have seen the home page, or any other page of the site. The text displayed on each page needs to stand on its own and make sense to the user who has just landed on the page from a search engine or other link.

6. Writing for SEO (search engine optimisation)

Think about the phrases people might enter to find your information in a search engine. Try to include these in your writing.

7. A website is a work in progress

A website is not a static environment. It is a dynamic environment in which users expect to see change and read information that is current and accurate.

Embrace the concept that a website is a work in progress. The benefits will be significant:

  • writers should not concern with the scope and depth of information on the website as new content can be added removed, errors or omissions corrected and old information archived;
  • writers will seek feedback from users and respond to it; and
  • readers will always have access to current information.

Why all gmail users are now seen in Mountain View California

gmail-images1Late last year Google made two significant changes to the way images are displayed in their email clients.

The first change is the default automatic display of images. This means that recipients will no longer be prompted to ‘Display images below’ (although this option can still be toggled in the settings menu).

The second change was the way images are served. All images are now served through the Gmail servers – which are based in Mountain View California. Previously they were delivered from the original host server.

This has three consequences for email marketers:

  1. Your open rates are going to jump – but not in a good way! Emails send to gmail users will appear as if they were read as soon as they were received.
  2. Your reports will show emails sent to gmail users as ‘opened in Mountain View, California‘.
  3. Your reports will not show the device or browser that gmail user has – they will all appear as Gmail if they’re using the Gmail app on an iPad/iPhone, Android, or the website.

(Here’s a really good run down of the issue for email marketers:

The skewed reporting is because systems like Campaign Monitor (a very popular email marketing system) use images to detect when and where an email is loaded. However with gmail the images will be loaded as they are received by the servers, which are in California.

The good news for Gmail users is these changes makes loading images quicker and safer:

  • Senders can’t use image loading to get information like your IP address or location.
  • Senders can’t set or read cookies in your browser.
  • Gmail checks your images for known viruses or malware.
  • Gmail scans every message for suspicious content and if Gmail considers a sender or message potentially suspicious, images won’t be displayed and you’ll be asked whether you want to see the images.