Full day training course offered at Usability Week San Francisco

Writing for the Web

Usability principles for digital copywriting

Increase the usability of your website or intranet by following our “Writing for the Web” guidelines. People rarely read web pages word by word. Instead, they scan pages, picking out individual words and sentences. They do this because they are task-focused and need to ensure the page will have their answer before they commit to reading it. In this course, you will learn the details of users’ reading behavior online and how to present content in a way that makes it easy for them to find and understand information.

"NN/g brought a vast amount of best practice advice and examples and taught our various campus representatives skills to write and lay out usable content."

Scott Wade, Director of Information Technology Services (ITS)
The University of Montana Western

Topics

  • Get eyetracking evidence on how people read online vs. in print
    • Active vs. passive reading behaviors
    • Common online reading and scanning patterns 
    • Designing for how much (or how little) people read
    • When and why people are motivated to read
    • What traditional writers need to know
  • Rules for web writing
    • Writing techniques to increase credibility
    • Converting feature-driven language to benefits-driven language so people relate to your message
    • Search engine optimization (SEO) and usability
  • Best practices for formatting online content
    • Prioritizing information to increase findability 
    • Tips to improve scanning and comprehension
    • Content chunks to reduce information overload
    • Page titles that attract attention and help users find information
    • Headings and subheadings as a technique to encourage scrolling
    • Writing effective summaries for complex content
    • Hyperlinks that encourage clicks
  • Content types that can convince users to take action
    • Effective taglines explain who you are
    • Company information and employee bios
    • Optimizing landing pages for a specific goal
    • FAQs provide answers quickly if they are done well
    • Helpful error messages give instructions on how to fix the problem
  • Techniques for organizing complex content and articles
    • Repurposing print and PDF documents for the web
    • Designing content so people will scroll
    • When to keep information on a single page
    • Benefit of long pages vs. pagination
    • Strategies for layering content
    • Alternative ways to present information
  • How to write for your readers
    • Understanding your audience and their limitations
    • Using personas to inform content
    • Addressing needs of both novice and expert users
    • Help all your users by writing at a lower grade level
    • Measuring readability and comprehension
    • Creating accessible content
  • Dealing with organizational politics
    • Integrating content strategy into a development process
    • Managing the writing process
    • Creating a style guide for content contributors
    • Defining and applying a consistent voice, tone, and style to appeal to users
    • Testing and evaluating your content

Free Material with Course Attendance

This 355-page report offers 83 recommendations for web writing and content layout, plus 102 detailed findings about how people read on the web, including scanning patterns revealed as we used eyetracking technology during usability tests.

  • Checklist: 16 Rules for Web Writing

Format

This course is an interactive lecture. Through in-depth exercises you will learn to apply and practice new principles and techniques while staying grounded in the research that supports them. Individually, and in groups, you will rewrite, redesign, and reorganize existing web-copy according to the guidelines presented in class.

The course also includes:

  • Findings from our own usability studies, including eyetracking
  • Videos from usability testing showing people's behavior in response to content
  • Screenshots with content that works and doesn’t work, and why
  • Opportunities to ask questions and get answers

Instructor

Marieke McCloskey

Marieke McCloskey draws on her extensive experience researching human behavior to help organizations improve the usability of their applications, websites, and intranets. She focuses on providing clients insights and recommendations at every stage of the design process. Her strategy workshops help organizations understand their users to build a competitive user experience. Read more about Marieke