Website Writing Guide

Writing principles for the Web

Writing for the Web environment

A website is not static like a book, magazine or brochure. It is a dynamic and organic environment, in which users expect change and expect to read information that is current and accurate.

Writers and editors need to embrace these unique features of the Web:

Linking

Search engines and websites

Users’ expectations

Linking

Perhaps the most unique feature of the Web as a publishing medium is hyperlinking – the act of linking pages and documents within the same website to each other and to other websites and online resources.

Hyperlinking is very liberating for writers and readers. It means information can be presented in layers. Non-essential information can be referred to and access provided with a hyperlink.

When writing, always consider any other Web pages and online documents to which users could be referred.

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Search engines and websites

Most Web users find most of their information via search engines.

Search engines like Google, index Web pages, not websites. Links from search engines, therefore, usually take users to a page within a website, rather than to the home page. So each Web page needs to stand on its own and make sense to the user who has just landed on the page from a search engine or other link.

Do not assume readers have seen the home page, or any other page of the site.

There is no before or after on the Web as there is in a book. Realise when writing a page of text that the reader may not:

  • read all of the text
  • scroll down to reveal all the text
  • have read any other page on the website.

Writers therefore need to avoid using phrases such as, as we saw above, or as mentioned earlier.

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Users’ expectations

Users’ expectations of your website are formed by their experience using everyone else’s website – so understand the prevailing conventions and obey them. Where relevant, the advice provided in this Guide is based on the prevailing conventions.

It is important for writers and editors to consider the range of website content their intended audiences are exposed to in a normal Web session. Prior to visiting your website, a typical user in a typical session on the Web, may well navigate from a bank website, to booking a flight, to viewing a blog. They will naturally compare their experience on those sites with yours. Therefore, your content needs to be as persuasive, professional and dynamic as the competition’s.

 

Other topics in this section...

Guide Home | How people use the Web | Writing for the Web environment | Using plain English |
Users scan first, read later | Layering content | Writing for search engines |

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