Website Writing Guide

Preparing the content

Using word processors

When preparing text for a Web page using a word processor like MS Word, it is easy to forget that the way it looks in Word is almost certainly not the way it will look to the user on the website. The line length, font size and the number of lines of text the user will see online before scrolling down will almost certainly be quite different from what you see in MS Word.

Of course, what online users can see of your text depends on the screen resolution they set, whether they have adjusted the text size setting or if they use a zoom-in or zoom-out facility.

However, most users leave the text size as normal and do not use a zoom-in or zoom-out facility. About forty-percent of users have their screen set at 1024x768 but the most popular screen resolutions are higher than that – eg 1280x1024.

Instructions for copying in Word, the page margins your users see online

Option 1 – Page margins

Option 2 – Text box

Option 3 – Word table

Why mirror in Word what your users see online

Option 1 – Page margins

  1. With your screen resolution and the text size set to match the way the majority of your users would view your website, find a typical page on your website where the lines of text extend below the fold in the screen such that the user would have to scroll down to see all of it.
  2. Take a note of the last words that appear on the very end of the lines of text.
  3. Copy only the text that users can see on their screen.
  4. Paste the copied lines of text into a blank Word document
  5. Adjust line length - highlight all the text you just pasted and adjust the right-hand margin of the page so that the words that appeared at the end of the lines on the Web page also appear at the end of the lines on the word processor page.
  6. You may need to adjust the font size to achieve this. Sometimes you won’t be able to align the line endings exactly because the online version may have used an unusual font or letter spacing.
  7.  Page length -

Either A

  1. Create a blank line after the last line of text and type a term such as, Bottom of screen or Scroll, and create a new line under the term. This is a visual reminder that everything below that line is invisible to online users unless they scroll down. It might be useful to colour the reminder term so it stands out on the page.
  2. Cut and paste the reminder term into the appropriate line down the page as an on-going reminder of the length of the user’s screen.

or B  

  1. Adjust the page length of the word processor’s page to match the online page length. This can be done in MS Word by setting the bottom margin of the page. It may require a little trial and error to get it right.
  2. This option creates some challenges for writers as it can disrupt their concentration on composing the text. Experienced Web writers probably do not need to follow this step but it is a very useful technique for anyone who is getting used to writing for the Web or for a new website.

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Option 2 – Text box

  1. With your screen resolution and the text size set to match the way the majority of your users would view your website, find a typical page on your website where the lines of text extend below the fold in the screen such that the user would have to scroll down to see all of it.
  2. Take a note of the last words that appear on the very end of the lines of text.
  3. Copy only the text that users can see on their screen.
  4. Create a text box and copy and paste the Web text into it. Some text will disappear out of sight under the text box.
  5. Set the width and height such that the box replicates the line width and page length that online users experience – this usually also requires trial and error with the font size to make it fit.
  6. Copy and paste the text box as many times as required to accommodate the length of the Web page.

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Option 3 – Word table

  1. With your screen resolution and the text size set to match how the majority of your users would view your website, find a typical page on your website where the lines of text extend below the fold in the screen such that the user would have to scroll down to see all of it.
  2. Take a note of the last words that appear on the very end of the lines of text.
  3. Copy only the text that users can see on their screen.
  4. Create a one-column table in a blank Word document.
  5. Paste the text from the website into it.
  6. Adjust the column width and font size to match the width of lines on the Web page. Set borders so they are visible.
  7. Set the row height to match exactly the page length.
  8. When you are on the last line of the row (ie the last line visible to online users), click <TAB> to create a new row and continue typing or pasting. The line indicates the break, or fold, in the screen.

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Why mirror in Word what your users see online?

It is very important as a writer to see your text as the majority of your online audience sees it. Seeing your words on the page as users see them online will alert you to when:

  • a line break is required to avoid an awkward line-ending
  • a new paragraph is required to avoid overwhelming the user with text
  • there is too much introductory text thereby forcing users to scroll down before getting to the instruction or call-to-action such as subscribe, download or buy
  • you might need to provide in-page navigation to avoid users getting lost  if the page is long and uses many headings   
  • might need to split the content across a number of pages.

 

Other topics in this section

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