Writing for the Web
Here are a few pointers on writing for the web that we hope will help you create content that's simple but informative and effective.
Remember that people use websites differently from reading printed material. Many people scan and they are often looking for specific information. So when writing your pages get straight to the point and keep it short, relevant and interesting.
It is good content that keeps people coming back to a site. Therefore it is important to maintain content that is informative, easy to find and regularly updated. Ensure that you remove out of date information. If users see the pages unchanged time after time, they will lose interest in the website. Try to refresh material on a regular basis, especially items on the front page.
Organise and plan your material
- Group it into topics and sub-topics
- Use headlines, key facts
- Use titles and headings to help people find their way around
- Use bulleted lists and highlighting (bold type) to help scanning
Generally avoid putting personal addresses and telephone numbers on the internet.
Newsletters may contain sensitive information (personal telephone numbers etc.) so make sure they are not added without careful checking.
Photographs of children and young people on websites can pose direct or indirect risks to their subjects. The content of the photo can also be used or adapted for inappropriate use. You should take the following steps to reduce the potential for misuse:
- Avoid using children's names (first name or surname) in photograph captions. So if the child is named, avoid using his or her photograph. If the photograph is used, avoid naming the child
- Use a parental permission form to request and record parental permission to use an image of their child
- Ask for children's permission to use their image. This ensures that they are aware of the way their image is being used
- Only use images of children in suitable dress to reduce the risk of inappropriate use. For example, certain sports activities, swimming, gymnastics and athletics, present a much greater risk of potential misuse
- Images should focus on the overall activity, not on a particular child, and should avoid full face and body shots. Group shots are preferable to photos of individuals
- The age of children is another factor to be considered when deciding what is appropriate
- Find the appropriate tone of voice; be personal (use we, you). Use the active voice:
- We will send you a report (active)
- A report will be sent to you (passive)
- Try to use plain English. Avoid jargon, such as specialised technical language, wherever possible
- Always write out abbreviations in full the first time they are used, with the abbreviation in brackets after it. People will then know what the abbreviation refers to
- Make sure that links actually describe what they are linking to as this will help with accessibility issues e.g. use 'view our guide' rather than 'click here to view our guide'
Arrangement of text
- Different browsers, screens and computer settings affect how your page is viewed and whether everything on it can be displayed
- Be careful about using lots of colours, it can make the website look too garish
- Try to keep pages fairly short, and break long pages into several shorter ones.
It is useful to keep down the amount of text per page; screen after screen of text is dull and unlikely to be read
- Don't cram in text; use headings to help break it up. You can use larger size letters in lower case bold to highlight headings. Break complex information into bullet points
- Leave lots of blank space. Start lots of new paragraphs and leave plenty of space between objects. Keep your sentences short where possible
- Capital letters should not be used for anything other than proper names. If in doubt, leave in lower case as it makes reading the text much easier. Never use capitals for whole sentences as it is difficult to read and is equivalent to shouting. If you want to emphasise something use lower case bold
- Don't underline text as it could be mistaken for a clickable link. Avoid italics they can be hard to read on screen