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Writing for the Web: Seven Strategies for Success. Virlene Norton Hirschi August 2007 . Intro. About Me Web Projects Mgr; a career on the small screen. About You Webmasters, designers, programmers and more.… About Your Sites U Departments, Student & Faculty Services, etc.

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writing for the web seven strategies for success

Writing for the Web: Seven Strategies for Success

Virlene Norton Hirschi

August 2007


About Me

Web Projects Mgr; a career on the small screen.

About You

Webmasters, designers, programmers and more.…

About Your Sites

U Departments, Student & Faculty Services, etc.

why a quality site is important
Why a Quality Site Is Important
  • Publishing to millions
  • Often the first view of the U
  • Students/faculty may make crucial decisions based on your website
  • Doing business online reduces workload
  • Greater customer satisfaction
forum overview
Forum Overview
  • Learn principles of writing for the web.
  • See common errors at the U.
  • Learn 7 strategies to improve your site.
  • See examples and do exercises.
  • See a sample site: before and after.
  • Get ideas on resources for further help.
a birthday surprise
A Birthday Surprise

Pot roast, anyone?

  • What went wrong?
  • What could have prevented it?
the secret to a successful site
The Secret to a Successful Site

Find out what people need most and give it to them.

to learn what users need
To Learn What Users Need…
  • Put yourself in their shoes.
  • Experience your site through their eyes.
  • Visit competitor sites and compare.
  • Examine Web Trends for popular/least used pages.
  • Check out U search engine terms.
  • Involve users in developing your site.


users need to
Users Need to…
  • Find what they need quickly and easily.
  • Accomplish a task: “buy parking permit”
  • Scan for familiar terms:

-- “Wireless access” instead of WANA

-- “Accounting” instead of “Financial Services”

-- “Parking” instead of “Commuter Services”

Success = Users easily find what they need.

the small screen challenge
The Small Screen Challenge

How is writing for the web different?

  • Most people (79%) scan your site
  • You must say more in less space.

(50% to 75% fewer words)

  • Each page is a mini-poster.
common mistakes
Common Mistakes
  • Info organized by department structure
  • Hard to read: small fonts, dense writing
  • Long menus list unrelated items
  • Lengthy mission statement
  • No search box
  • Typos and spelling errors
  • Header doesn’t link back to home page
2 write as if speaking to a user
#2: Write as if Speaking to a User
  • Imagine you are talking to a visitor
  • Anticipate visitor needs
  • Be friendly and conversational
  • Use short sentences
  • Use “you” (for the student)
  • Use “we” (for your department)
3 create meaningful menus
#3: Create Meaningful Menus
  • Group related items together
  • Have meaningful headers
  • List items in order of importance
  • Use familiar terms or “trigger words”
  • Provide a “scent of information”
  • Keep lists to 7 items (9 max)
3 create meaningful menus15
#3: Create Meaningful Menus

Good Examples:

  • University of Utah home page


  • David Eccles School of Business


  • Marriott Library


3 create meaningful menus19
#3: Create Meaningful Menus

Exercise 1: Subheads for Commuter Services Menu

Trax, Bus & Bike

Special Events Parking


Visitor Parking



Parking Tickets


Contact Us

Parking Maps

3 create meaningful menus20
#3: Create Meaningful Menus

Exercise 1:

Commuter Services

Menu “After”


4 format for easy scanning
#4: Format for Easy Scanning

Good Example: KUER



  • Informative headlines
  • Color divides sections
4 format for easy scanning23
#4: Format for Easy Scanning

Exercise 2: Chunking and Headlining Text

(Rice-Eccles Stadium)

The room rental rate includes tables and chairs and use of the warming kitchen. Food services are NOT provided. Patrons must select a caterer from the approved caterer list. Rice-Eccles Stadium and Tower does not provide any linen, decor or backdrop items. The patron, caterer or decorator must provide all things necessary to decorate and create atmosphere.

Special Discounts Available for Current Faculty and Staff, Crimson Club Members, Fundraising Events, and Weeknights.

4 format for easy scanning25
#4: Format for Easy Scanning

Exercise 3: Condense mission statements into tag lines. Let visitors know what you do for them.

Sample Tag Lines

Career Services:Putting Your Education to Work

Office of IT:Connecting People through Technology

4 format for easy scanning26
# 4: Format for Easy Scanning
  • Summarize (link to detail pages)
  • Put important items first
  • Use short paragraphs
  • Use frequent headlines
  • Use bullet lists
  • Highlight key words
  • Visually group related items
5 put important items center stage
#5: Put Important Items Center Stage

Make important information or buttons (log in, add to cart) easy to find.

Ways to set off items:

  • Box related items.
  • Use a larger font.
  • Create a button.
  • Use color, etc.
6 test with real users
#6: Test with Real Users
  • Test with your target audience

(OR some naïve user)

  • Ask them to perform some common tasks.
  • Watch them work
  • Notice areas of confusion.
  • Revise and test again with a new user.
7 edit and spell check
#7: Edit and Spell-Check

Edit and Spell-Check

  • Run spell-check.
  • Be or find a ruthless editor.
  • Run spell-check before release.

Request Feedback

  • Ask for feedback on your new site.

(Rewards help!)

  • Make it easy for people to contact you.
summary 7 strategies for success
Summary: 7 Strategies for Success
  • Find out what users want most--and give it to them!
  • Write as if speaking to a visitor.
  • Create meaningful menus.
  • Format text for scanning.
  • Put important items center stage.
  • Test with real users.
  • Edit and spell-check your work.
resources books
Resources: Books
  • Don’t Make Me Think, by Steve Krug.
  • Designing for Scent of Information by Jared Spool.
  • Home Page Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed, by Jakob Nielsen.
resources u websites
Resources: U Websites

U Web Resources Site:


  • See U Search Engine Results
  • Arrange a Custom Search for your site
  • Set up Web Trends for your site
  • Access a variety of resources
resources web help for hire
Resources: Web Help for Hire
  • University Marketing and Communicationswww.ucomm.utah.edu
  • Media Solutionswww.media.utah.edu
  • Or a web professional of your choice.
that s all folks
That’s All, Folks…

Thank you for attending this

Writing for the Web Forum!