Creating User-Friendly Content

Writing for the web is unlike any other writing you have done. It's not similar to writing for brochures or posters; it's not like writing a report or news article; and it's not a place to showcase how clever or how smart you are. 

Writing for the web demands simplicity, accessibility, and is a unique skill set that requires training, even for communications experts.

Key goals of writing for the web #

Users scan. They do not read!

People read differently online than they do when they read print materials, and reading long paragraphs on a screen is time consuming and can hurt some users eyes.

Scanning on the web is dictated by:

  • Users' motivation
  • Goals they are trying to achieve
  • Layout of the page and formatting of text
  • Page content

It's hard to control people's motivation or their goals, but you can optimize content and presentation so that users can find what they need quickly.

Tips to help your users #

  • Include the most important points in the first two paragraphs on the page.
  • Use headings and subheadings.
  • Start headings and subheadings with the words carrying the most information.
  • Visually group small amounts of related content.
  • Bold important words and phrases.
  • Take advantage of the different link formatting (links, buttons, etc.), and ensure links include information-bearing words (instead of generic “go”, “click here” or “more”).
  • Use bullets and numbers to call out items in a list or process.
  • Cut unnecessary content.

Shorten Your Content #

Use Jon Ziomek’s 1-2-3-4-5 rule:

  • 1 main thought, expressed in
  • 2 to 3 short sentences, taking up no more than
  • 4 to 5 lines on the page

What happens at six lines? Your paragraph becomes more than an inch long. And an inch of type is too thick for most readers. Especially when you’re writing for mobile.

Learning why content needs to exist before design