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When designing content for your website, it is important to consider how it will be viewed and navigated by your users. First and foremost, focus on your audiences and their primary needs. Then create your content to serve those needs.
For example, you might focus on the services your unit provides instead of an organizational chart. In most cases, users visit your website in search of answers, and most often, those answers are more easily found when a website is structured around what you do rather than to whom you report.
The Marketing Communications team follows a user-centered design process that seeks to engage end-users in all stages of design and development. From understanding requirements to testing out designs, we work with you, your users, and stakeholders to find answers to the following questions:
- Who is your primary target audience?
- Why are they visiting your website? What are they trying to accomplish?
- How do their environment, attitudes, and prior experiences impact their expectations of your site?
- How do users refer to and think about your content?
A deep understanding of your end users’ needs will enable you to make strategic, data-driven decisions about your website content, navigation, and design.
Forget everything you think you know about writing. Writing for the web is unlike any other writing you have ever done. It's not like writing for a brochure or poster; it's not like writing a report or a news article; and it's not a place to showcase how cute or clever you are, or how smart you are.
Writing for the web demands brevity, simplicity, and accessibility. It's a unique skill that requires training, even for a communications expert. Writing for the web is unique because people read differently online than they do when they read print materials. Reading long paragraphs on a screen hurts the eyes and is time consuming. Web users:
- Scan pages
- Read in quick, short bursts
- Pick out key words and phrases
- Are action oriented
- Search for information that will lead them towards a goal
Effective web writing involves having the content the primary audience is looking for and presenting it in a way that makes it easy to find. Good web content should either tell the user something they need or want to know or help them get something done. Web content should also drive actions, give your users something they should do – click a link, call a phone number, make an appointment, fill out a form, etc.
Follow the 1-2-3-4-5 Rule.
Use Jon Ziomek’s 1-2-3-4-5 rule:
- 1 main thought, expressed in
- 2 to 3 short sentences, taking up no more than
- 4 to 5 lines on the page
What happens at six lines? Your paragraph becomes more than an inch long. And an inch of type is too thick for most readers. Especially when you’re writing for mobile.
Many people regard web design as decoration; making a website look good. However, design is more about how something works than how it looks. It is about both form and function.
When designing a website, it’s easy to assume that everybody is like you. However, this leads to a strong bias and often ends in an inefficient design. You already know a lot about your services and your website. But your users just want to get things done on your website. They come for the content, not the design.
Content is by far the most important element in design. A webpage with a simple structure but quality content performs much better than a nice layout with subpar text.
- Special type styles (bold, italic, ALL CAPS) should be used sparingly
- Don’t underline anything but links—People expect underlined text online to be a link
- Don’t use centered blocks of text—align text to the left
- Word Spacing—Use only one space!
- Section Headers—Break up large amounts of text (more than 2‐3 paragraphs) into sections so that users can easily skim down the page
- Always check for spelling and grammatical errors before publishing your content
- Do NOT use “Here” or "Click Here" or “More Information” or the URL to label your links—Use concise, descriptive and unique link text
- Try NOT to bury important links within text
- When posting a PDF, make sure the document is accessible
- Always include descriptive alt text
- Name your files with appropriate titles
- Not all users have the luxury of high speed internet and mobile users will have issues with giant images
- Have images or other large files saved in a web friendly reduced size version
AUDIO AND VIDEO
- Caption all audio and video
Caching is the process of saving data temporarily so a website, browser, or app doesn't need to download it each time. Most web browsers cache data by default to increase speed and decrease data usage.
For example, when you visit a webpage, the browser may cache the images and HTML code on that page. When you browse through other pages on the site that use the same images or code or return to the site later, your browser will not have to re-download that information. Instead, the browser can simply load them from the cache.
However, if you or others have made updates to the site's images or HTML code, you may not see those changes if your web browser is still pulling the data from the cached information. Therefore, you would need to clear your cache to see those updates.
How to clear your cache: