21 November 2010 by Web Bureau
1. Know your goals and stick to them
Why do you create content? There must be some need that it addresses, some benefit that justifies the cost of writing and maintaining it. Be clear on what you are trying to say before you start writing anything. Once you've identified your goals, stick closely to them. Don't include unnecessary information.
2. Know your audience and write to meet their needs
There is no point publishing information that your audience struggles to understand, does not answer their questions, or does not help them do the tasks they are trying to do. You'll end up getting phone calls or emails asking for help, so why bother publishing poor content in the first place?
3. Use plain language
Language is ambiguous and so it is easy to miscommunicate, especially when communicating in writing. If your website caters to people whose first language is not English (migrants, international users, those whose first language is a sign language), the risk is higher still. Using plain language is the key to making sure your web content is understood.
4. Be very concise
Studies show that people are very task-oriented when they use the web. They have a particular goal in mind and they are often in a hurry. So they scan rather than read text closely. Concise text is also important because poor screen resolution, screen glare, small text, poor colour contrast, and other poor design decisions all make reading online much harder than reading printed content.
5. Make content easy to scan
Design content to suit the way people read online. Break up text with useful headings. Make sure paragraphs contain only one topic. Keep sentences short. Use bullet-ed or numbered lists where you can. Look for opportunities to use images, tables, graphs or charts to simplify complex information.
6. Avoid hype, fluff and exaggeration
Don't put unnecessary words between your real content and the people who want it. It takes more time and effort for people to find what they've come for if you make boastful claims about your products, services or achievements.
7. Make sure page titles are accurate
Page titles are used in search engine indexing, appear as the links in search results, and are stored in browser bookmarks/favorites and histories. Good page titles will help people find or return to your content. Take care not to publish an "untitled document" or use titles that are ambiguous or misleading.
8. Write meaningful link text
Links embedded in the content on a web page stand out. They are a call to action - or at least they can be. Links like "click here" don't provide enough motivation to act. Link text needs to clearly tell users what the link will lead to.
9. Draft and review
Good web content doesn't happen instantly. Make time to draft and review your content. Use a content review checklist and have a colleague check your work.
10. Don't publish and forget
Websites are not like filing cabinets or library archives. Once published, web content is always available and the assumption is that what is available is current. This simple fact is often overlooked and so a lot of websites get bogged down with out of date, inaccurate content that gets in people's way, misleads them, or causes them to make mistakes.