Website Writing Guide
Web writing and presentation style
The Web is an ideal vehicle for providing instructions, such as applying for a licence or paying online for a product. By employing hyperlinks you can provide the essential instructions while also providing detailed explanations for those who need them.
Instructions are nearly always a sequence of tasks that explains how to achieve a particular goal. However, writing instructions is more demanding than most forms of Web copy writing because just one awkward or ambiguous phrase can undo the whole process leading to a frustrated user and potentially lost revenue and time for the website owner.
Instructions on providing written instructions!
- Determine the aims and intended audiences and note their needs.
- Compose a heading that clearly states what the instructions cover, such as
‘How to obtain a Learner’s Permit’.
- Identify each step or stage in the process and number them or name them Step 1, Step 2 etc. See, Writing for Google for an example of presenting step-by-step instructions.
- For each step, identify the essential information and any explanatory content that should accompany it on the page or via a hyperlink to a separate page. (You can see that these instructions employ both techniques of providing further information.)
- Determine if the steps should all appear on the one Web page or if they need to be split across pages - see the section Scrolling and page length. If they are to be split across pages, determine the method of allowing the user to move through the steps and to back-track.
- Write the directions keeping in mind the preference for writing in the active voice and plain English. Consider whether a video, animation or series of images would enhance the written instructions.
- Test the instructions with colleagues to ensure the validity and accuracy of the process and with intended users to ensure that the instructions make sense.
Avoid using the familiar `you’ when writing instructions. It can often lead to flowery language and long sentences. For example:
- To obtain a learner’s permit, first obtain a driving manual from any Transport Office.
- If you want to obtain a learner’s permit, you must first obtain a driving manual from your local Transport Office.