Tips, Training and Tutorials

Writing for the Web

Writing for the web is different than writing for other, more traditional forms of media. Here are some tips for web authors to help you create more compelling webpages for your department.

Know Your Audience

You should always begin by asking yourself two questions:

  1. What is the purpose of this page?
    Are you creating this page to make prospective students excited to join your department, to explain a process to current students or to share information with other faculty and staff?
  2. Who is this page for?
    Possible audiences include current students, prospective students and families, faculty/staff members, alumni and members of the community.

Once you know why you are writing the page and who will be reading it, you're ready to start writing.

Be Relevant

Make sure that the content on your page is relevant to both your audience and your reason for creating the page. Ask yourself:

  • What topics are necessary to include for this page to fulfill its purpose?
    Everything on the page should relate back to your goal or reason for creating the page.
  • What information will my audience need to know? What questions will they have?
    Different audiences have different levels of experience and knowledge about a topic. Make sure you haven't skipped anything that may seem obvious to one group, but isn't common knowledge to another group.
  • What language or word choices will appeal to my audience?
    A page written for students won't sound the same as a page written for faculty, staff or alumni. Think about who will be reading your page when you write it.

Content that isn't relevant to the purpose of the page or to your audience shouldn't be included. Even if it's interesting to a different audience, including irrelevant content will just make it harder for the visitors to this page to find what they need.

Be Organized

Website visitors are more likely to skim through a page—quickly scanning for relevant information—than they are to read every word that you've written. If important information is hard to find, your visitors might leave the page thinking that it's not there.

  • Put the most important information first.
    Many users won't scroll all the way to the bottom of the page. Make sure the information they need is towards the top and the information that is just nice to have is farther down.
  • Include headers to separate major topics.
    Headers help users find the topics that are most relevant to them, and they also create more accessible webpages.
  • Use bulleted lists and numbered lists.
    Information in a list stands out and is easier to read than information buried in a paragraph. Make sure to use the list tools built into the CMS so your lists are accessible.
  • Use long blocks of text sparingly.
    If information does need to be shared in paragraph form, make sure you've at least included headers so visitors know what that paragraph is about.

Well-organized content and efficient use of headers and lists makes it easier for your visitors to find what they need, and increases the chances that they'll stay on the page.

Be Consistent

Visitors to a webpage notice when you change style, tone, or voice in the middle of a page. 

  • Review the Winthrop University Style Guide.
    The style guide helps to create consistency across our website, and provides guidance on official building and department names, common abbreviations, and how to write phone numbers, dates and more.
  • Read through your finished page before publishing.
    Especially if multiple web authors contributed to a page or you are editing a previously created page, it is a good idea to read through the whole page at once. A few things you can look for are:
    • Do all of the bulleted lists start with capital or lowercase letters? 
    • Do the bulleted list items all end in a period or not?
    • Are all of the phone numbers, e-mail addresses, dates and times formatted the same way?
    • Are links to files formatted the same way (i.e. either "PDF - size" or "pdf - size")?
    • Are the spaces between paragraphs, headings, or sections the same size?
    • Are you using hyphens (-), en-dashes (–), and em-dashes (—) consistently?