Some simple guidelines for writing for the web.
Everything is contextual. Consider your audience and what their needs will be before starting.
Generally shorter than print articles, as people consume more web pages, are more easily distracted and they are reading on a screen.
Generally 300-500 words for a short article is appropriate.
If you are New Scientists and you expect people to read something a bit more involved on a tablet on their way to work you might get away with 10,000 words.
Generally top-down. That is, start with a summary regarding what the article is about.
Use headings, images and lists to break the page up and make it easier to scan.
As simple as possible is the rule here. You want your website to look professional so CAPITAL LETTERS, excessive bold and formatting should be kept to a minimum. Emphasising too many things, ends up with nothing being emphasised and we have graphic design methods that are more effective and look professional. Search engines may also penalise you here if they can't readily identify the main heading and sub headings.
Ideally use only built in styles. Start with Heading 1, then use Heading 2 to break the document up. Use Heading 3 if you have to, although the document is probably becoming too complicated. Using a quote style for appropriate quotes breaks the text up, adding a nice touch.
If you find that you are 'shifting things to the right' or 'adding padding', colours etc. Tell MountainRiverCMS and we will take a look at the site style sheet. It is nice have some content and adapt the site to a style that works effectivley for you audience. This is best reveiewed and formalised - consistency is the king.
Here are a few ideas:
- Audience is everything in information article. List the top things that people are coming to your site for. Keep it simple so that people will find your best work. Common patterns are:
- Chronology. With an ongoing discussion, everything can be organised into a blog date format. This works well for topical information but does mean that if a particular article collection captures half the value of the site it won't be the latest and won't stand out. This format is a bit over used these days with the proliferation of blogging software.
- About us, News, Events, Contact us. Again a bit overused but for a corporate site this is the expected organisation and visitors to the site will know where to find things quickly.
- Ball of mud. Randomly surface things on the home page or place nothing on there other than the search box, interlink pages and provide a search engine. Interesting for collections of articles, dictionaries, Q&A sites etc. Allows people to 'discover' but could be an excuse for being lazy and not trying to understand the site audience.
- Carefully curated. Organise into specific audience areas, rank documents according to chronology where appropriate, subject or 'facet'. Can add value to the site, but if not correct can put people off. The structure in most cases shouldn't be too complicated as people won't spent a lot of time learning the structure.
Keywords and SEO
The view of MountainRiver CMS once more is that the audience should come first. In most cases this will also work best for SEO. People will get more value from the site and as a result bookmark, backlink and share articles. Search engines will penalise most obvious SEO techniques and are sure to adapt algorithms each time a 'blatant gaming' of the index surfaces. The end game is to engage in some way with an audience rather than 'tricking into clicking'.
- Keep it simple.
- Consider your audience.