Ryan Boudreaux offers five key tips to help you optimize your writing for the web and develop editorial styles that match specific website users.
Textual content for the web that is fresh, current, and matches with your audience often means that the prose comes from non-traditional sources because, lets face it, writing for the web is not like writing a book or conventional print material. Creating an editorial style that 's appropriate is one of the challenges facing web masters today, and converting traditional printed text to online copy is a whole other test of editorial skill. This segment will cover a number of topics and tips on content and writing for the web, because much of how the substance should be presented online is a result of how it is perceived and utilized by the online reader.#1 Target content for eye scanning
Online reading involves so much more than just manipulating the eyes; the brain interprets information from many sensory inputs, and readers will scan content in a particular pattern; therefore, the content needs to be arranged in logical portions or blocks that follow typical eye scanning movements.
Eye tracking studies have determined that online users typically scan web pages in an "F" shaped pattern, and as the readers eyes are moving at amazing speeds across a website's content, their brisk eye movements travel in a pattern that is similar to two horizontal strips and one vertical strip which forms a shape closely resembling the letter "F". The implications for this eye scanning pattern indicate that users will not read all online text in a word by word manner, and that the first two paragraphs of any content must state the most important information to keep the readers attention. Also, the sub-headings, bullet points, and paragraphs need to include information-carrying words that will keep the reader focused when scanning down the left side of the eye tracking pattern.#2 Practice Much of writing for the web comes down to practice. If you are new to writing copy for the web, then do not be afraid to start off small with sites such as Twitter, which limits you to a only 140 characters, or create short forum posts asking or answering questions. Use these straightforward methods to help you create good habits as an aid to building up your credibility and confidence as a web content writer. And for the experienced web writer, posting several perfectly conceived Twitter entries a day will help sharpen the saw, so to speak. #3 Plan a hierarchy Start out with an outline of the root pages or topics, especially in the early stages of development, and then add any sub-pages or categories that would branch from them. The subject matter can then be represented in a simple bulleted list, a wireframe structure, or flowchart graphic. Once the main ideas and sub-categories are sketched or outlined then the foundation is in place to build on the content. #4 Share and review When you become too comfortable with certain works, documents, and content or you have been staring at the same web document pages for hours on end, then it becomes easy to just gloss over and miss errors or mistakes, especially in grammar or spelling. In particular, if you have a team working toward the same goal or deadline, it makes sense to share the content for peer review; a new set of fresh eyes can spot errors or make any other required changes. #5 Research the key traits of the target audience
Describing your website users in an effective way is one key to creating the ultimate design for a highly successful website and the content it will offer. Writing in the one-size-fits-all approach is like taking a shotgun to a flock of ducks; you might hit a few of the birds, but you will miss the greater part. Web designers should focus on the unique goals of a specific person in order to develop web content and products that will satisfy the needs of many users. This process may take the form of interviewing several hundred customers to devise a key persona or several key personas that will ultimately match with the goals of thousands of users.
Once you have identified your target audiences and the corresponding personas that match them, then you can target the content for each character feature. For example, you may have customers who are designated by several levels of expertise, such as beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert. Each of these four categories would be designated as a separate key persona, and therefore, specific content can then be matched to fit each of the individual user characteristics.