The first and most important fact to understand about Web use is this:
People don't read Web pages, people scan Web pages.
Several studies support this premise. Web usability gurus John Morkes and Jakob Nielsen found that 79 percent of test users always scanned any new page they came across, while only 16 percent read word-by-word.
Web users seek specific information, or they browse in the hope of finding items of interest. They scan the page, searching for words that pique their interest. Huge blocks of brochure-like text that visitors have to wade through just to determine if your site is valuable overwhelm people.
Write for the reader, not for yourself
Always keep the reader in mind. Think of them as busy, impatient people who are on the Web to find out something quickly [The Web Content Style Guide, 2002].
To write efficiently for your Web audience:
- First ask yourself, what's my point? Start with the conclusion (the inverted pyramid method of writing)
- Keep sentences brief
- Use clear, concise prose (avoid using clichés and modifiers)
- Highlight keywords
- Chunk ideas into short paragraphs
- Employ meaningful subheadings
- Use bulleted and/or numbered lists
Most importantly, halve the amount of content.
Use fewer, more precise words to make your message stick. Your content must be optimized for the way people navigate the Web.
If you need assistance editing your documents and posting Web optimized content, please contact Dyan Ciccone, Assistant Director of Web Communications at 656-6184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.