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Print media gives you time to ease into what you’re trying to communicate. People are holding a printed piece in their hands, and although they might not take time to read through the whole thing, they’ll probably give it at least a cursory once-over.

The web is an entirely different thing. Writing for the web is like driving on I-405 in Los Angeles. You don’t have time to dawdle and you certainly don’t want to get distracted. People scan a web page in less than two seconds, making split-second, subconscious decisions to either stay on the page or click the back button.

Here are 5 things you need to consider when writing for the web.

  1. Don’t start writing until you know your objective. What do you want each page of content to produce? A phone call? A contact form submission? An e-newsletter signup? A purchase?
  2. Don’t start writing until you know your audience. To capture someone’s attention, you have to know what sorts of things capture that person’s attention. It sounds simplistic, but how many websites have you visited that completely miss what matters to you? You also need to know what types of language –terms, jargon, figures of speech– your audience uses and is comfortable with. Whatever you’d do in an in-person meeting to build rapport, you need to be doing in the writing of your website content.
  3. Write for your audience, not for you. So many business websites sound more like they’re talking to their investors or to their parents, jabbering on and on about how special they are. Write to your audience and talk about what’s important to them, not you.
  4. Make it easy. With web writing, you have more to think about than the size of your font and the background color your text sits on. Everything about your website should be easy to use, including navigational links, search bars, contact forms, layout, spacing, etc.
  5. Break your text up into bite-sized pieces. Even the most educated and patient person will get overwhelmed with long, drawn-out pages of text. Be as concise as possible, and break up long pages by organizing content into bullet points, lists, or paragraphs that can sit on sub-pages and be linked to.

If you take the same approach to writing for the web as you do writing for print, you’ll lost in the rush and lose your audience in the process.
photo credit: BrianHawkins via photopin cc

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