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Goals of User-Friendly Web Content

Usable, readable web content is a marriage of efforts between web designers and web content writers. Web pages must be designed to facilitate the ease of reading content through the effective use of colors, typography, spacing, etc.

In turn, the content writer must be aware of writing strategies that enable readers to quickly identify, read and internalize information.

General Goals:

  • Text and typography have to be easy and pleasant to read (i.e. they must legible).
  • Content should be easy to understand.
  • Content should be skimmable because web users don't read a lot. Studies show that in a best-case scenario, we only read 28% of the text on a web page.

Writing for the Web

Tips for better web content

1. Keep Content as Concise as Possible

What you can do:

  • Get to the point as quickly as possible.
  • Cut out unnecessary information.
  • Use easy-to-understand, shorter, common words and phrases.
  • Avoid long paragraphs and sentences.
  • Use time-saving and attention-grabbing writing techniques, such using numbers instead of spelling them out. Use "1,000" as opposed to "one thousand," which facilitates scanning and skimming.
  • Test your writing style using readability formulas that gauge how easy it is to get through your prose. The Readability Test Tool allows you to plug in a URL, then gives you scores based on popular readability formulas such as the Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease.

2. Use Headings to Break Up Long Articles

What you can do:

  • Before writing a post, consider organizing your thoughts in logical chunks by first outlining what you'll write.
  • Use simple and concise headings.
  • Use keyword-rich headings to aid skimming, as well as those that use their browser's search feature (Ctrl + F on Windows, Command + F on Mac).

3. Help Readers Scan Your Webpages Quickly

What you can do:

  • Make the first two words count, because users tend to read the first few words of headings, titles and links when they're scanning a webpage.
  • Front-load keywords in webpage titles, headings and links by using the passive voice as an effective writing device.
  • Use the inverted pyramid writing style to place important information at the top of your articles.

4. Use Bulleted Lists and Text Formatting

What you can do:

  • Consider breaking up a paragraph into bulleted points.
  • Highlight important information in bold and italics.

5. Make Hyperlinked Text User-Friendly

What you can do:

  • Avoid link names like Click Here or Download Document instead use text that describes the link. (e.g. ...download the XYZ document to...)
  • Use the title attribute to give hyperlinks additional context and let users know what to expect once they click the link.
  • Avoid using images within links.

6. Use Visuals Strategically

What you can do:

  • Make sure images you use aid or support textual content.
  • Avoid stock photos and meaningless visuals.

Adapted from a © Mashable Article (original article)

Understanding Our Audiences

A variety of trade publications, white papers, articles along with other internal data were reviewed to form a better understanding of how students use and perceive the PPCC public website, and how to gear the website for the best possible outcomes.

College students are goal oriented and time limited. When website visitors are faced with a large amount of text they avoid it to the point of not even reading the first line. Content should be succinct, targeted and broken up into easily digestible pieces. Admissions information should not require a lot of reading or searching. There should be a clear focus for information related to student recruitment and retention. The path to program and financial information should be very easy to find and high priority in relationship to the information displayed.

College Website’s Importance to Prospective Students

  • 1 in 4 students reported removing a school from their perspective list because of a bad experience on that school’s website.
  • 92% said they would be disappointed with a school or remove it entirely from their lists if they didn’t find the information they needed on the school’s website.
  • 93% of students compare 3 or more college websites.
  • 75% of prospective students learn about colleges by visiting the colleges’ websites.

College Students and Website Content

  • The top two most important types of information to students are program information and cost-related information.
  • College students tend to be more skeptical and are turned-off by any content that looks or feels like advertising.
  • College students avoid Web elements that they perceive as “unknown” for fear of wasting time.
  • They pass over areas that appear too difficult or cumbersome to use.
  • If a site doesn’t work in the expected manner, most students lose patience and leave rather than try to decode a difficult design.
  • Students often judge sites on how they look. But they usually prefer sites that look clean and simple rather than flashy and busy.
  • Students do not read on the web, they skim. They prefer websites that are easy to scan and don’t intimidate them with a wall of gray text.
  • About 40% of students between 18-24 years old have low literacy skills and will have difficulty reading anything beyond simple sentence structures.
  • Roughly 75% of students are willing to read larger amounts of text if it directly pertained to their topics of most interest.
  • 81% of students place see an easy to use online application as very valuable.
  • 68% of student see an online cost calculator as very valuable.
  • Nearly 50% of student say they do not watch college created videos.

Sources:

E-Expectations Report: Focusing Your E-Recruitment Efforts to Meet the Expectations of College-Bound Students. Noel-Levitz, 2010.
Noel-Levitz Whit Paper: Making Web sites an Effective Recruitment Asset. Noel-Levitz, 2009.
Neilson Norman Group Report: College Students on the Web. Neilson Norman Group 2010.
Keller, Josh. Colleges Rehab Their Web Sites for Major Payoffs. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 17 Apr. 2011

Usability Checklist

When creating web content, it may be helpful for you to ask these questions to ensure your content is relevant, timely, and useful.

  • Is writing optimized for the web?
  • Is wording straight forward?
  • Can text be read on background?
  • Are the fonts readable?
  • Are there spelling errors?
  • Have descriptions been added to alt text?
  • Is critical content above the rest of the information?
  • Is information cluttered?
  • Can contact information be found quickly?
  • Is the page title descriptive?
  • Does FAQ answer real questions?
  • Is page broken into digestible chunks?