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Fewer words, lotsa links -- design for skimming

Watch the first of a three-part UUA video series on "Writing for the Web"

You have one chance to make a first impression—on every page of your website. Be sure your content:

  • Supports your mission.
  • Helps your users find what they need.
  • Encourages web visitors to become congregational visitors.

To help you write effective web pages, watch the series of three 10-minute videos called "Writing for the Web." 

Help Users

Work from the perspective that your web visitors know nothing about you or how you operate. Make no assumptions about what they know.

Think about what your visitors want to accomplish or learn. Keep your content very task-oriented. Avoid anything in your presentation that detracts from getting to the point.

  • Organization: Allow people to easily scan your page to find what they're looking for—or determine that it's not there without wasting too much time.
  • Avoid distractions: Be concise. Don't turn away visitors with easily-avoidable mistakes.
  • Make links meaningful: Links catch the eye and tell a user a lot about the nature of your content; maximize their potential.
  • Don’t use PDFs as webpages: PDFs are jolting to the user, often have slow load times, don't include navigation, and can be difficult to track in your traffic analytics.

Writing Tips

People don't read webpages, they scan. Therefore:

  • Put the most important ideas first. Don't start with "happy talk," greetings, and introductions. Get to the point. Consider the F-pattern people follow when scanning pages.
  • Cover one idea per paragraph. Words that are bold, italicized, or linked will jump out when scanned, so use that to your advantage—but don't overdo it: bolding and linking large chunks of text reduces reading comprehension.
  • Use action words, omitting fluff. Edit until every word counts.
  • Use bulleted and numbered lists. They are easier to scan than blocks of text.
  • Use headings to separate the page into topical sections. The reader can scan down to the section of interest.

"Content & Usability: Writing for the Web" contains useful tips.

On the Web, Context Kills, Speed Saves: On the Web you need to avoid context and instead focus on instructional, how-to, task-based content.

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