Web Writing SeriesPeople don’t read web pages the way they read magazines or books. If they don’t see what they are looking for right away, they click a link, or press the Back button in their browser, or use the search box. Jakob Nielsen (the web usability guru) calculates that people have time to read perhaps 18% of your words before they move on.

You have only seconds to deliver your message! How?

Steps for Improving Web Pages

  1. What’s the question? Put the key points at the top; people may not scroll down to read the whole page. Don’t call it a FAQ, just answer the questions that people are likely to be asking.
  2. Omit needless words. Yes, we want to be friendly and personal, but not at the expense of usability. Those welcome paragraphs we asked you to write a few years ago? We were wrong! Get rid of them!
  3. Break up your text. Use headings and lists, which are more scannable than paragraphs of text.
  4. Move background information out of the way. Most people don’t care about the history of our projects, or the names of the committee members who created the resource. They want information they can act on. Move other information to separate pages, or to the bottom of the page, or just delete it.
  5. Make an overview page that links to detail pages. If your topic is too complex to cover in a few bulleted lists, break it into several pages. Summarize the topic, then provide a list of links to the pages that contain the detail. If people are interested in what they see, they will click.
Once you have finished, get a drink of water, refresh your tea, and go back to see if you really did cut to the chase.  Less really is more on the Web.

Example

If you have a page about how to run a church bake sale, think about the most likely questions that the page would answer, and list the answers.

Not so good:

The UUA Office of Bake Sales has lots of useful information about best practices for your congregation, and we’re glad you’ve come to our page. Bake sales are a time-honored tradition among many congregations. Who among us doesn’t have fond memories of looking forward to buying a brownie during coffee hour, or of stocking up on that great granola that the RE Committee chair neighbor makes?  …

Better:

Bake sales can raise money and liven up your congregation’s coffee hour.

Tips for a successful bake sale:

  • Recruit bakers at least a week ahead.
  • Set prices so items will sell.
  • Put a notice in the announcements section of the order of service.
  • Include gluten-free and sugar-free items.

If you have a UUA.org page that needs a makeover, contact web [at] uua.org for help.

P.S. I’ve written about 25 books in the …For Dummies series, and they use many of the same guidelines: lots of numbered steps and bulleted lists. And they sell like hotcakes!

About the Author
Margy Levine Young
Margy Levine Young is the Manager of the ITS Web Team, part of the Information Technology Service staff group of the UUA.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *