Six tips for your website

Did you know, on the average web page, skimming and scanning text is common behaviour for most visitors? Users have time to read at most 28 per cent of the words during an average visit; 20 per cent is more likely. A typical reader will spend about 2.5 seconds on your webpage and then move on if there is no “hook” to hold his/her attention.

1. Before writing a word of web content, or hiring someone to write it, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is my target audience? (ask participants to think about this)

  • What information are they looking for?

  • Are they likely to read everything that has been written?

  • Is all of the content on the page useful and/or of interest to them?

  • How is this information going to help the reader?

As a check, read the document as if you were the intended audience and consider what may be lacking -- or what may be unnecessary to include. 2. Consider literacy levels: In order to reach lower-literacy users - and create greater ease for all users - target the lowest literacy level, which is a Grade 3 to 5 reading level. Use plain language. We’ll talk about plain language in more detail later. Ask yourself:

  • What does the reader need to know about the topic?

  • What will be the most useful information for the reader?

3. Word usage: If a shorter word works, use it. Keep language as simple as possible to convey the message clearly to your reader.

  • i.e. “use” instead of “utilize.”

4. Active voice: Active voice is easy for readers to understand, so it should be used primarily when writing web content.

  • Active: The man must have eaten five hamburgers.

  • Passive: Five hamburgers must have been eaten by the man.

5. Direct language: Use specific, concrete terms to enhance clarity; avoid using obscure words or phrases unfamiliar to the target audience. Simple sentence structure featuring short phrases and direct conclusions is ideal. Sentence fragments are also permissible.

  • The program is free.

  • Healthy neighbourhoods mean healthy communities.

  • Applications are due Feb. 20.

6. Tone: Write in a conversational, friendly tone and in the first-person (i.e. you, we, us, etc.) where possible, as opposed to one that’s authoritative or educational. Readers would rather see the word “you” over “one” when you’re directing content to them.


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