skip to content

Communications

 

Guidance on creating useful and easy-to-digest web content for those writing for the University's websites.

 

One starting concept

 

Organise your webpages so that the first thing people see is a summary of the most-important information. Using the 'inverted-pyramid', or front-loaded, style of writing allows you to convey your key message at the point that your reader's attention is at its highest. If you need a refresher, see this description of the inverted pyramid [on the UK Office for National Statistics' website].

 

Back to top

 

Two ways to make a good first impression

 

1 | Make your first sentence a gem

   • This is the hook with which you will 'reel in' the reader
   • Get straight to the heart of your subject and grab your reader's attention

2 | Use visuals

   • Use charts, images, infographics, graphs or a relevant table where you need to reinforce meaning or put your message another way

 

Back to top

 

Three things you need before you start

 

1 | Have the right source information in front of you

   • Read it through thoroughly
   • Make sure you understand the information you have been given so that you can explain it to others
   • Have our house style guide open

2 | Maximum word-counts

   • These will help you edit content you have been given down to match online concentration spans
   • As a rule of thumb, 250 words in total per page
   • And 30 words or fewer for your first paragraph and page summary

3 | Know what message(s) you are trying to convey

   • Ensure that your message matches the needs of the target audience — if the information is not relevant, omit it

 

Back to top

 

Four techniques for writing for the web

 

1 | Be clear what your page is for

   • What might a user expect to be able to do on the page?
   • What would you like the user to be able to do? — eg retain one key fact / find an answer to their question / book an event

2 | Have your reader in mind

   • Who is your intended reader?
   • How do they describe what you are describing in their own words? That is the vocabulary you need to use

3 | Think about time

   • Avoid using relative time descriptions (eg 'Today' or 'Last year') — a page may be read tomorrow or next year
   • Create yourself a reminder to review and update the page on a regular basis

4 | Be guided by CRABS [but probably not crustaceans]

   Your content should be:
   • Chunked — each paragraph should be one or two sentences
   • Relevant — only show what matters to the reader
   • Accurate — check facts, dates and spelling
   • Brief — clear, concise writing is the easiest to read on-screen
   • Scannable — online, people read without reading every word; the eye will pick out words at the start of paragraphs and those emphasised

   With thanks to Smith and Chaffey (2002)

 

Back to top

 

Five tips for making best use of our web templates

 

1 | Summary

   • Describe what the page contains in a compelling way; you need to convince people that they want to read your page
   • Keep it as short as possible: 30 words or fewer

2 | Body

   • Place the most important information first
   • Use sub-headings to help signpost different sections of content to your reader
   • Write-out acronyms and abbreviations the first time they are used
   • Avoid using a long word when a short one is available
   • Limit your use of bold or italic text — see our house style guide for advice

3 | 'Image is everything'

   • Use good quality, relevant photography and ensure that you have permission to use it (eg licence or usage rights)
   • Ensure that you add alt[ernative] text to all images — this is used by any reader using screen-reading software and also by search engines

4 | Link clearly and sparingly

   • Be clear — use link text that describes what your reader can do when they follow it eg 'Order your copy now'
   • Use sparingly — unless you want your reader to become distracted and head off in multiple directions. Save related links until the bottom of your page
   • Leave space between links — this makes it easier for your reader if they are on their mobile and using their thumb to select the link they want

5 | Publish in web pages not PDFs

   • Information in PDFs is harder to find online, harder to use on smaller screens and harder for us to keep up-to-date

 

Back to top