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Effective Web Writing

Jarrad Long, Online Writer, Digital Media Unit
by

Jarrad Long

on 1 October 2013

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Transcript of Effective Web Writing

Double click anywhere & add an idea
Only include links and information that are relevant.
As a rule, people don't like to have to make too many decisions.
Yahoo has reduced its links by 60% over the past
6 years.
Trim the fat
They did it by identifying the audience’s
"top tasks" and focusing on content related to those tasks.

Anything that wasn't relevant was either removed or moved to a more appropriate place.
If you ask people to remove links or move them to a different place, you’ll meet with resistance.
"I'm sure some users will use it."
"Taking things away isn't the right thing to do. We should fix them."
"OK, they’re not useful, but surely there’s no harm in just leaving them there?”
Reducing the number of links on your pages doesn’t necessarily mean removing content. It means organising your site logically so that the user is never overwhelmed by choice.
In some cases, this can actually mean adding pages to your site.
“The assumption is that if choice is good, more choice is better. That's not necessarily true.”

- Barry Schwartz, American psychologist and author of The Paradox of Choice: why less is more
Know your audience
Through usability testing, focus groups and card sorting, we've found that many school leavers don’t understand many "basic" university terms.
School leavers often aren't familiar with:

Prospective

Undergraduate

Postgraduate

Award

Faculty

Recognition of prior learning
“To succeed on the web we need to change our mentality from seeing ourselves as a master to seeing ourselves as an apprentice. The customer is the master and we need to learn about what they need to do, and the language they understand.”

-Gerry McGovern, web content expert
Using Google Analytics, you can identify where most of the visitors to your site are going, and how they’re getting there.
Usability testing

Set tasks (based on your site’s top tasks) and simply watch someone navigate your site. Encourage them to verbalise what they’re thinking as they go. Record the path the user takes to complete each task and any problems they encounter.
Surprisingly, as little as 6 users will identify most of the problems with the way you’re organising and labelling content.
Card sorting

Card sorting allows participants to organise the content from your site in a way that makes sense to them. They group cards that represent the pages of your site into categories and help you name these categories.
Give 'em what they want
“But we’re a university! We have to sound intelligent!”

Sure thing. It’s just that people lose sight of what intelligent writing is.
Intelligent writing is NOT necessarily:

Using multi-syllabic words instead of short, simple ones

Writing “the University” instead of “us”

Writing “the student” instead of “you”
Intelligent writing IS:

Writing that effectively engages the target audience through the use of appropriate language.

Don't be overly formal, smart, clever, obscure, vague.
Be clear, compelling, concise, and always focus on what your audience really cares about. And remember, what they really care about is often not what you really care about.
UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS

Matriculation and Admission Requirements

The University has determined that only matriculants may be selected for courses. There are a number of ways of achieving matriculation status and, once achieved, matriculation remains a permanent qualification for entry. Matriculation to Curtin by whatever means always includes a competence in English requirement.

The principal means of achieving matriculation is by attaining a prescribed level of performance in the Tertiary Entrance Examination or its interstate or overseas equivalents. Other qualifications may also be acceptable but the University reserves the right to determine the appropriate level of acceptability. The attainment of matriculation status does not guarantee a place, particularly in courses for which there is competition for the number of places available.
UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS

How to get into Curtin

The University has determined that only matriculants may be selected for courses. There are a number of ways of achieving matriculation status and, once achieved, matriculation remains a permanent qualification for entry. Matriculation to Curtin by whatever means always includes a competence in English requirement.

The principal means of achieving matriculation is by attaining a prescribed level of performance in the Tertiary Entrance Examination or its interstate or overseas equivalents. Other qualifications may also be acceptable but the University reserves the right to determine the appropriate level of acceptability. The attainment of matriculation status does not guarantee a place, particularly in courses for which there is competition for the number of places available.
UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS

How to get into Curtin

You must qualify in order to gain entry to Curtin. There are a number of ways of achieving matriculation status and, once achieved, matriculation remains a permanent qualification for entry. Matriculation to Curtin by whatever means always includes a competence in English requirement.

The principal means of achieving matriculation is by attaining a prescribed level of performance in the Tertiary Entrance Examination or its interstate or overseas equivalents. Other qualifications may also be acceptable but the University reserves the right to determine the appropriate level of acceptability. The attainment of matriculation status does not guarantee a place, particularly in courses for which there is competition for the number of places available.
UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS

How to get into Curtin

You must qualify in order to gain entry to Curtin. There are a number of ways to qualify. Matriculation to Curtin by whatever means always includes a competence in English requirement.

The principal means of achieving matriculation is by attaining a prescribed level of performance in the Tertiary Entrance Examination or its interstate or overseas equivalents. Other qualifications may also be acceptable but the University reserves the right to determine the appropriate level of acceptability. The attainment of matriculation status does not guarantee a place, particularly in courses for which there is competition for the number of places available.
UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS

How to get into Curtin

You must qualify in order to gain entry to Curtin. There are a number of ways to qualify. No matter how you qualify, you must meet our English requirement.

The principal means of achieving matriculation is by attaining a prescribed level of performance in the Tertiary Entrance Examination or its interstate or overseas equivalents. Other qualifications may also be acceptable but the University reserves the right to determine the appropriate level of acceptability. The attainment of matriculation status does not guarantee a place, particularly in courses for which there is competition for the number of places available.
UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS

How to get into Curtin

You must qualify in order to gain entry to Curtin. There are a number of ways to qualify. No matter how you qualify, you must meet our English requirement.

Most undergraduates qualify by successfully completing the Tertiary Entrance Examination (TEE) or its interstate or overseas equivalents. Other qualifications may also be acceptable but the University reserves the right to determine the appropriate level of acceptability. The attainment of matriculation status does not guarantee a place, particularly in courses for which there is competition for the number of places available.
UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS

How to get into Curtin

You must qualify in order to gain entry to Curtin. There are a number of ways to qualify. No matter how you qualify, you must meet our English requirement.

Most undergraduates qualify by successfully completing the Tertiary Entrance Examination (TEE) or its interstate or overseas equivalents, however other qualifications may be acceptable at the University’s discretion. The attainment of matriculation status does not guarantee a place, particularly in courses for which there is competition for the number of places available.
UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS

How to get into Curtin

You must qualify in order to gain entry to Curtin. There are a number of ways to qualify. No matter how you qualify, you must meet our English requirement.

Most undergraduates qualify by successfully completing the Tertiary Entrance Examination (TEE) or its interstate or overseas equivalents, however other qualifications may be acceptable at the University’s discretion. Qualifying for entry does not guarantee a place, particularly in courses for which there is competition for the number of places available.
http://futurestudents.curtin.edu.au/school-leavers/how-to-get-in/how-to-apply.cfm
Try making this text more web-friendly:

The Organisational Development Unit (ODU) has been established to focus on the University's strategic objectives and to further support the Faculties and Areas manage change and help build the capabilities of their staff and teams through development programs, learning events and consulting. Find out more about what the ODU has to offer by visiting their website.
The Organisational Development Unit (ODU) helps Curtin manage change and build the capabilities of staff through development programs, learning events and consulting.

Find out more about the ODU
“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”

- E.B. White in The Elements of Style
Using simple language doesn’t stop at page content. Make sure the navigation of your site is labelled in a way that makes sense to your audience.
Happy talk must die!

Happy talk is the introductory text that’s supposed to welcome us to the site and tell us how wonderful it is, or tell us what we’re about to see in the section we’ve just entered.

Unlike good content, it tells us nothing useful. It’s the web version of ‘small talk’. It’s just there to fill a gap.

You should eliminate as much happy talk as possible.
A bit about grammar:

Don’t over-capitalise. Words like faculty, school, student, staff, bachelor, master, degree are often common nouns and should be lowercase;

Lists and tables should be ordered logically. Decide whether alphabetical order or ordering by importance suits your content better.

Acronyms should be used sparingly and almost never in navigation.
Test your readability
Flesch Reading Ease Test

This test rates your text on a 100-point scale.

The higher the score, the easier it is to understand.

0 – 40: difficult to read;

40 – 80: easily understood by 12-15 year old students;

80 – 100: appropriate for children.
Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test

This test gives your text a score that correlates to the U.S. school grade level.

For example, a score of 8.0 means that an eighth grader can understand it with reasonable ease.
UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS

Matriculation and Admission Requirements

The University has determined that only matriculants may be selected for courses. There are a number of ways of achieving matriculation status and, once achieved, matriculation remains a permanent qualification for entry. Matriculation to Curtin by whatever means always includes a competence in English requirement.

The principal means of achieving matriculation is by attaining a prescribed level of performance in the Tertiary Entrance Examination or its interstate or overseas equivalents. Other qualifications may also be acceptable but the University reserves the right to determine the appropriate level of acceptability. The attainment of matriculation status does not guarantee a place, particularly in courses for which there is competition for the number of places available.
Checklist for good web writing

My work is laid out logically and the user isn’t overwhelmed by choice;

I’m using language my target audience understands;

I’m using acronyms sparingly;

I’m not over-capitalising;

Links have meaningful labels;
Further reading

Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

Subscribe to Gerry McGovern’s NEW THINKING emails at gerrymcgovern.com

Find out more about Google analytics at http://www.google.com/analytics/
Effective web writing
Focus groups

A focus group involves encouraging an invited group of participants to share their thoughts, feelings, attitudes and ideas on certain subject.
Good content is:

useful
user-centred
clear
consistent
concise
supported
Contact me:

Jarrad Long, Digital Media Unit

j.long@curtin.edu.au

9266 1995
Full transcript