Friday, August 17, 2007

Writing for the web

We know that individuals read web information differently than they read printed information. In fact, individuals don't read on the web, they scan. In searching tips on how to write specifically for the web, I found these suggestions.

  • Use short paragraphs. (1, 4, 5)
  • Use bulleted lines or lists. (1), 4, 5)
  • Write concisely, reading on the web takes about 25 % longer. (1, 2, 5)
  • Avoid jargon.
  • Use shorter words when possible.
  • Use one idea or concept per sentence.
  • Use active, instead of passive words.
    • Write the introductory paragraph, like a conclusion, concisely summarizing the article. (4, 5)
    • Use subheads, particularly in the later parts of the page. (4, 5)
    • Use 1 column format--not newspaper-style, such as 2 and 3 columns. (4)
    • Consider that graphic placement on the web is not the same as in printed documents.
    • Readers tend to skip graphics when reading. If they look at the graphic, it
      is either before or after they have read most of the content. (4)
    • Refrain from using pdfs. (3)
    • If you are concerned with individuals' reading experience, do not use pdfs. PDFs do not behave like web pages. From Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox, PDF: Unfit for Human Consumption, a user explained that
      • "... It's not the speed. It is like having a solid thing rather than a fluid thing." (3)
    • Do not open a new window for a link. Let the individual decide, unless you are referring to a pdf or application document (i.e MS Word document). (6)
    • Understand that individuals do not always choose the best option; they choose the first reasonable option because it is convenient and there is little risk in choosing a "wrong" option. (1) After all it's the user's choice.


    (1) Chapter 2: How we really use the Web from the book Don't Make Me Think, posted on Advanced Common Sense written by Steve Krug.

    (2) How Users Read on the Web from Jakob Nielsen's, posted Oct. 1997.

    (3) PDF: Unfit for Human Consumption from Jakob Nielsen's, posted July 14, 2003.

    (4) Article Level Page Design: What Matters Inside?

    (5) Content & usability: Writing for the web from web site, Webcredible, posted August 2005.

    (6) Beware of Opening Links in a New Window from web site, Webcredible, posted February 2005.

    1 comment:

    Sheri said...

    Thank you! You said the things I always wished web publishers would realize. You also said it without garrish colors, blinking lights, annoying graphics, or 3-4 columns. I've bookmarked your page for future reference.