Creating text for websites

Online copy writing best practices

Before you start writing, you should be clear about the purpose of your site. Who is it aimed at? What are your customers' motivations and expectations when visiting your site?

When you're writing content for your website be sure to think about what image and personality you want your brand to project.

Writing a good content for the web starts with understanding the user. Is broadly accepted that online readers have a shorter attention span than people reading hard-copy text. For tips on how you can optimize your written site content use the link below.

Understanding the user

In general users are impatient. Your text needs to be both compelling and short to catch attention. Keep a few facts in mind before you start typing:

  • Visitors visit a site with a specific task in mind, and leave quickly if they can’t find what they want.
  • Visitors tend to quick scan pages and headlines, they don't read every word.
  • Users switch quickly between pages extracting only the most relevant information.
  • Most users have limited tolerance for scrolling up and down a page.
  • Many visitors navigate around your site in ways you didn’t expect and can’t control.

Things to avoid

There are a few general pitfalls you should always attempt to avoid when writing your text for a website:

  • Boasting and overly dramatic PR 'fluff' 
  • Long, dense blocks of text 
  • Inconsistent terminology
  • Using ALL CAPITAL LETTERS (it’s hard to read on a screen)
  • Avoid duplicate content - do not copy/paste the same text in multiple places - this will be penalized by search engines.

Things to remember

  • Use informal language, write the way you speak – use active verbs and use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
  • Remember that people often scan web pages quickly – so highlight key words, use bullet points and numbering, use sub-headings to entice people to keep reading, and link brief summaries to longer, downloadable files.
  • Call to action - Tell your readers explicitly what you want them to do next: 'Order', 'buy', 'visit' etc.
  • Remember SEO - Use plain English, the kind of words people actually use when they’re searching. Use popular search keywords as much as possible in your content.
  • Make the names of your buttons and links intuitively meaningful to the reader.
  • Delete content that’s irrelevant to the user’s task
  • Be consistent in your spelling  (e.g. British or American spelling; the way you write dates, times, telephone/fax numbers, place names etc.)
  • Make your error messages helpful, not accusatory.
  • Communicate only one idea per paragraph, and keep each page short.
  • Get to the point – think like a newspaper journalist writing his headline - put the most important points/conclusions upfront.
  • Check your content for: spelling, grammar, consistency, style and tone.