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Writing For The Web

Writing for the web in a university environment.

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Writing For The Web

  1. 1. Writing for the web Georgina Hibberd
  2. 2. Overview Web v print Useful content v fluff How people read on the web Tips for writing
  3. 3. Print v Web <ul><li>Print = </li></ul><ul><li>Linear </li></ul><ul><li>Medium dictates experience </li></ul>
  4. 4. Web <ul><li>“ In linear media — such as print and TV — people expect you to construct their experience for them. Readers are willing to follow the author's lead.” </li></ul><ul><li>Jakob Nielsen </li></ul>
  5. 5. Print v Web <ul><li>Web = </li></ul><ul><li>Non-linear </li></ul><ul><li>Action </li></ul><ul><li>User drives own experience </li></ul><ul><li>Instant judgements </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>“ In non-linear hypertext, the rules reverse. Users want to construct their own experience by piecing together content from multiple sources, emphasizing their desires in the current moment. People arrive at a website with a goal in mind, and they are ruthless in pursuing their own interest and in rejecting whatever the site is trying to push.” </li></ul><ul><li>Jakob Nielsen </li></ul>
  7. 7. Useful content v fluff <ul><li>The web is not a place to tell people how you do your stuff, it’s a place to do your stuff. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Less of this: <ul><li>“ Welcome to our website! We are one of the best universities in Australia, if not the world. We love our uni and we’re sure you will too. We have lots of interesting courses and our teachers are top-notch. On this website you’ll find information about our courses and campuses.” </li></ul>
  9. 9. More of this: <ul><li>The Faculty of Arts offers degrees in: </li></ul><ul><li>English </li></ul><ul><li>History </li></ul><ul><li>Philosophy </li></ul><ul><li>Applications are being accepted now. </li></ul><ul><li>Find out how to apply . </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><ul><li>“ Don't waste word count on generic, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>feel good material. It's not going to </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Make customers feel good anyway. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>They care only about getting their </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>problems solved as quickly as possible </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>so they can leave your site.” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Jakob Nielsen </li></ul>
  11. 11. How people read on the web <ul><li>Skim and scan </li></ul><ul><li>Pick out fragments </li></ul><ul><li>Pay attention to only some parts of the page </li></ul><ul><li>Guided by headings, links and chunks </li></ul>
  12. 13. Write for your audience <ul><li>Identify your audience/s </li></ul><ul><li>What are they trying to achieve? </li></ul><ul><li>What information do they need to achieve their aims? </li></ul><ul><li>What kind of language do they use? </li></ul><ul><li>Are they familiar with university / your topic? </li></ul>
  13. 14. <ul><li>Typical higher ed audiences: </li></ul><ul><li>Prospective students </li></ul><ul><li>Parents </li></ul><ul><li>Current students and staff </li></ul><ul><li>Researchers </li></ul><ul><li>Prospective staff </li></ul><ul><li>Businesses </li></ul><ul><li>Media </li></ul><ul><li>Etc etc </li></ul>
  14. 15. If you don’t know your audience: <ul><li>Do some research </li></ul><ul><li>Who are they? </li></ul><ul><li>What do they want? </li></ul><ul><li>What are they trying to do? </li></ul>
  15. 16. <ul><li>The needs of the audience outweigh </li></ul><ul><li>those of the organisation, even though </li></ul><ul><li>the website is there to promote the </li></ul><ul><li>university. </li></ul><ul><li>To do that well the website has to act like </li></ul><ul><li>it is performing a public service for its </li></ul><ul><li>audience and giving them exactly what </li></ul><ul><li>they need to complete their tasks. </li></ul><ul><li>It shouldn’t be telling them how good it is. </li></ul>
  16. 17. Tips for writing <ul><li>Voice </li></ul><ul><li>Structure </li></ul><ul><li>Language </li></ul><ul><li>Layout / formatting </li></ul><ul><li>Writing for small spaces </li></ul><ul><li>Being found and helping find </li></ul>
  17. 18. Voice <ul><li>Personal </li></ul><ul><li>Active </li></ul><ul><li>Friendly </li></ul><ul><li>Informal without being too casual </li></ul>
  18. 19. <ul><li>Example: </li></ul><ul><li>Active: The Faculty of Arts is holding an </li></ul><ul><li>open night for prospective students. </li></ul><ul><li>Passive: An open night for prospective </li></ul><ul><li>students is going to be held by the </li></ul><ul><li>Faculty of Arts. </li></ul>
  19. 20. <ul><li>Example: </li></ul><ul><li>Impersonal: Prospective students may </li></ul><ul><li>qualify for a scholarship. </li></ul><ul><li>Personal: Do you qualify for one of </li></ul><ul><li>our scholarships? </li></ul>
  20. 21. Structure <ul><li>Inverted pyramid: tell the story in the first sentence or two. </li></ul><ul><li>Short paragraphs: one idea per paragraph, one to two sentences </li></ul><ul><li>Short sentences </li></ul>
  21. 22. <ul><li>Example: </li></ul><ul><li>When you can expect your refund </li></ul><ul><li>NOT </li></ul><ul><li>You filed your tax return and you're </li></ul><ul><li>expecting a refund. You have just one </li></ul><ul><li>question and you want the answer now: </li></ul><ul><li>Where's my refund? </li></ul><ul><li>Source: Gerry McGovern </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.gerrymcgovern.com/nt/2009/nt-2009-04-27-traditional-writing.htm </li></ul>
  22. 23. Language <ul><li>As simple as possible </li></ul><ul><li>Never use a long word when a short one will do </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid jargon </li></ul><ul><li>Beware of acronyms </li></ul>
  23. 24. <ul><li>Example: </li></ul><ul><li>Allow NOT afford an opportunity </li></ul><ul><li>Decide NOT make a decision </li></ul><ul><li>Use NOT utilise </li></ul>
  24. 25. Layout and formatting <ul><li>Chunk </li></ul><ul><li>Subheadings </li></ul><ul><li>Use bullet points whenever possible </li></ul><ul><li>Use bold intelligently and sparingly </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid italics </li></ul><ul><li>Write numbers as numerals </li></ul>
  25. 26. <ul><li>This: </li></ul><ul><li>The research activities of this group are diverse. </li></ul><ul><li>Some aspects of the team’s interest investigate </li></ul><ul><li>the inter-relationships amongst physical </li></ul><ul><li>disability, exercise capacity and degree of </li></ul><ul><li>handicap in cardiac and neurologic populations. </li></ul><ul><li>Another focus is upon exercise training and </li></ul><ul><li>functional rehabilitation utilising assistive </li></ul><ul><li>technologies. </li></ul>
  26. 27. <ul><li>Becomes this: </li></ul><ul><li>The research activities of this group are </li></ul><ul><li>diverse. They include: </li></ul><ul><li>the relationships between physical disability, exercise capacity and degree of handicap in cardiac and neurologic populations </li></ul><ul><li>exercise training and functional rehabilitation using assistive technologies. </li></ul>
  27. 28. Writing for small spaces <ul><li>Headlines </li></ul><ul><li>Subheadings </li></ul><ul><li>Links </li></ul><ul><li>Page titles </li></ul><ul><li>Category names </li></ul><ul><li>Labels </li></ul>
  28. 29. Writing for small spaces <ul><li>Keep it short </li></ul><ul><li>Be accurate </li></ul><ul><li>Most important keywords first </li></ul><ul><li>Understood out of context </li></ul><ul><li>Predictable </li></ul>
  29. 30. <ul><li>Example </li></ul><ul><li>A. Shock pregnancy for star x </li></ul><ul><li>B. Lindsay Lohan pregnant  </li></ul>
  30. 31. Being found and helping find <ul><li>Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is important, but not THAT important </li></ul><ul><li>Orient the user </li></ul><ul><li>Accommodate entry from any point </li></ul>
  31. 32. Context is everything <ul><li>Different audiences </li></ul><ul><li>Different needs </li></ul><ul><li>Different language </li></ul><ul><li>Different sites </li></ul>
  32. 33. Find out more <ul><ul><ul><li>Gerry McGovern </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.gerrymcgovern.com </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Jakob Nielsen </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.useit.com/papers/webwriting/ </li></ul></ul></ul>