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Things to think about when writing for the web

Things to think about when writing for the web

In her post How to write for translation – thinking multilingually from the outset, my colleague MY gives a list of useful things to think about when writing texts that will be translated. These points are very relevant for web texts, too, but when writing for the web it can also be worth thinking about the following issues.

Published 10/26/2015

Style

  1. The style and register you choose (formal, informal or target group-specific) must harmonise with both your own brand and what your intended target groups expect. Who are your readers? Where are they located geographically? Are they young, older or both? What are their needs? How does all this affect the language and the choice of information on your website? A combination of what you want to reach out with and what your target groups expect is probably what is needed. You want the text to reach its target quickly – to appeal to the people you want to attract without putting others off.
  2. A consistent style across all texts on your website will affect the impression you give. More than one writer is often needed for text materials, and in this case someone needs to coordinate the website and ensure uniformity. It will make things easier if you take the time early on to plan, assign responsibility and draw up a style guide with examples and a format template that the writers can use.

Content

  1. We no longer tend to read as much online, instead skimming through and scanning. We only start reading properly when we find what we’re looking for or when we stumble across something that captures our interest. Keywords and headings are what capture our attention as we skim through, so spend time on them.
  2. You only have a very short amount of time to capture interest online – often just a few seconds – before a visitor decides to click away somewhere else. Your texts should therefore be short, concise and informative.
  3. Terminology is linked to point 2 under Style above. Consistent, logical terminology always conveys better information. Things should be named consistently throughout, but it is also important to use terminology that a visitor expects to see. For example, a professional will use the term materials recovery to refer to what most of us call recycling. An electrician will say lamp where the rest of us say light bulb. This affects not only search engine optimisation but also how a visitor interprets your information.
  4. The global online trend is moving towards more videos rather than text combined with ordinary images. Many people appreciate this, while others find it irritating when they are looking for concrete facts. Videos also impose additional demands on technical performance, so think about what will give your visitors added value.
  5. A website’s credibility is often of crucial importance. Appearance, sound, colours and layout all affect a visitor’s experience, but it is also important to remember that credibility means different things to different target groups. If possible, I would recommend using a reference person or reference group who represents your target group in order to obtain information.
  6. Proofreading your web texts is incredibly important, particularly in view of point 2 under Style above. After all, you don’t want your text to end up being used on a blog poking fun at bad writing! 

Layout

  1. We don’t read online texts in the same way as a printed publication. The important thing is to think about how you yourself would read the piece of text you intend to write, and to test it out as much as possible. Also bear in mind that some languages may require an adapted layout, not least because many languages expand or contract in translation.
  2. Use images to illustrate your points, but ensure that they are clear and relevant, and that they fit with what you want to say. And remember that images and colours can be perceived differently in different cultures.
  3. Today, images and text must also work whether the visitor is using a computer, a mobile phone or a tablet. Responsive web design is becoming increasingly common. This means that the site material can adapt its form according to the space available on the screen.
  4. Structure your text in a logical manner – Heading 1, Heading 2, body text, etc. – for clarity. Most web tools include support for format templates.

Test, test and test again

When you think you have material that works, test it out on friends, acquaintances or a professional testing group. Think about how you yourself surf and look for information, and whether the material works as you would want it to and how you think your visitors would expect it to.

Further reading

Here on our blog we have previously written about localising visual content, terminologycolours and pictograms and icons, which link to the above. You can find more general related information in the following posts:

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