Writing

In general, writing for Web sites is different from writing for print. People use the Web to find specific information quickly. They do not “read” Web pages; they “scan” for the information they need.

Web visitors have very little patience. If they do not see the information they are seeking – without scrolling across or down – they are likely to move to another Web site. Here are some ways you can make it easy for them to find your content and encourage them to visit frequently:

Put important information at the top

Your first paragraph should clearly explain who you are, what you do and how your information can help your visitor. Make it brief, informative and engaging. Think about “above the fold” on a newspaper or an executive summary. Create levels of information so the most basic information is at the top and more detailed information is below. If you must use long text, use “anchors” at the top to list key topics and link to information below.

Know your reader

Who is your target audience? It is not everyone in the world. It is a specific type of person: a scientist, a farmer, a business owner, a government official, a parent, a home gardener. What is important to that person? Write as if you were talking to that individual; Web writing is not the great American novel.

Keep text clear, concise and to-the-point

Web text should be much shorter than in print. Look for the shortest, simplest, clearest way to deliver your information. Write in short sentences and short paragraphs; use common words (not jargon) and active voice. Use bulleted lists and headings. Break information into “chunks” – short paragraphs with headings – that can be scanned quickly and easily. Eliminate all unnecessary or confusing words; get to the point and then stop.

Write for the way people search

Ideally, your Web site should cause visitors to take some type of action: change their agricultural practices, adopt a healthier lifestyle, protect the environment, improve their communities. Use keywords that are important to their needs – particularly in the heading. That is the first content people read; if it does not meet their needs, they leave.

Use relevant link names

Make links clearly understandable. Instead of “click here” describe where the link goes: “research details” or “youth camps.” Be sure the link name matches the page name of the linked page. If the title of the linked page is “youth camps” your link name should be “youth camps” not “summer fun.”