Writing for the Web
Tips to Remember
• Users don’t read, they scan.
• Users follow their intuition.
• Users want to have control.
• Users don’t make optimal choices.
• Users appreciate quality and credibility.
• Users are impatient and demand instant gratification.
• Users are looking for clear and direct information; don't waste their time by thanking them for visiting your website.
- Keep your audience in mind: Consider who will be reading and using web content. Prospective students, current students, alumni, faculty, staff? What are they looking for, and what do they need? You may develop the most creative/beautiful site, but if users don’t find the answer to “what’s in it for me?” they’ll leave the site, likely to never return.
- Be concise: Web writing should be clear and direct. Keep sentences short. Remove words or descriptions that don’t add value to the content. As a general rule, limit paragraphs to 70 words. If possible, fewer is better. Users don’t read, they scan.
- Be approachable. Our content isn’t designed to be a one-way street; we want visitors to engage in conversation with us. Don’t adopt a haughty or distant tone that will turn them off from connecting with us further. Avoid jargon and buzzwords. Users are turned off by content that talks at them instead of with them. Use a more conversational tone.
- Use active voice: Writing in the active voice is more clear, conversational, and engaging than the passive voice. In the active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action. In the passive voice, the subject is acted upon.
- Active voice: Professor Woods gave a great lecture in class this morning.
- Passive voice: A great lecture was given by Professor Woods in class this morning.
- Create once, publish everywhere. Do not duplicate content that exists elsewhere on the university website. Duplicate content can appear in search engine results and cause confusion for users regarding which content is the right source. It can also negatively impact search engine result rankings. Additionally, duplicate content becomes a risk for misinformation if one page is updated and the other is not. It's easy for duplicate content to become out-of-sync and outdated. Common examples of duplicate content include tuition information, course descriptions, faculty profiles, etc.
Steps to avoid duplicate content:
When logged into Drupal, on the content page, click on the tab for “Search and Replace Scanner.”)
Search the wpi.edu website for the content in question using the search box in the upper right corner.
If the content you’d like to include already exists, link directly to the original source rather than duplicating it.
Also, please be mindful of plagiarism, whether it’s intentional or unintentional. Plagiarism and copying someone else's intellectual property is not only unethical, but is also a copyright violation.
What is a Widget?
Widgets are pre-formatted, editable blocks that support various types of media and text. They are designed to show links, news, images, and other types of data in an organized, visually appealing fashion. (This widget is called a "timely box.").
- Use varying design elements. Because users scan website content, you should use a variety of design and layout elements (known as widgets) to break up long blocks of copy and make your content more compelling. For example, a combination of body copy, highlight boxes, and calendar/event widgets presents your content in different, visually compelling ways and makes it easy to consume. On the flipside, eight highlight boxes stacked on top of each other in an assortment of background colors is difficult to scan and is not user friendly. It also makes your page very long to scroll through. (For more content guidelines for specific widgets, see technical instructions here.)
- Be sensitive to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Take a little extra time to construct your sentences so you can avoid having to use gender-specific terms. For example, by using plural pronouns (“they,” “their”), you can avoid having to use the awkward but gender-inclusive construction “he or she” or “his or her.”