Creating effective website content
Find out how to create user friendly and accessible website content in five steps. If your work involves creating or updating web pages then you must follow this guidance.
Follow these steps to create engaging copy:
- Consider your audience - identify and address their needs, and include terms and words your audience are familiar with and likely to type into a search engine.
- Use plain English and simple, short words (Plain English Alternatives).
- Make your pages scannable - web users tend to have a particular task in mind and will scan pages for specific information, looking for headings and links that relate to their objective.
- Be concise and focused - get your point across in as few words as possible.
- Write in inverted pyramids - start with the most important information first like the conclusion, followed by important details and then other background or general information.
- Include a summary - so users can quickly determine whether they’ve come to the right place.
- Write strong sentences that start with the most important information.
- One (or two) sentence paragraphs.
- Search engine optimisation (SEO) - a carefully worded introduction on a page not only gives users an indication of what they'll find, but it also helps search engines (such as Google) pick up keywords to identify the subject matter for search results.
- Consistency and accuracy - adhere to the University Editorial style guide and periodically review your content for outdated information.
The next step, which has been touched upon above, is formatting every page so that content is clearly structured and scannable using:
- A summary. Many site visitors will only read the first few words on the page and draw a conclusion from that. Therefore your summary needs to reassure the reader that they have come to the right place – where they can get the answers they need or get what they want.
- Headings (Heading style 2 or 3) and subheadings (Heading style 3 or 4) should follow a hierarchical order and be used to break up large blocks of text. Do not use bold text for headings.
- Bullet and numbered lists.
- ‘On this page’ anchor links on longer pages with more than two headings.
- Videos where appropriate.
- Embeddable cards.
- Features of the Editor, including block quotes and line breaks between headings.
Users typically browse a website using the top level navigation, so it is critical to get this right. In brief:
- Ensure your website has a hierarchical structure, with all top and second level pages listed in the navigation.
- Do not exceed six main tabs.
- Tab headings should be short, clear and include keywords.
- Ensure there is clear differentiation between each tab heading.
- Avoid jargon, technical terms and abbreviations in heading titles.
- If the tab or menu heading has a lot of content within it (eg ‘Undergraduate study’ on a University department website), split the menu further using subheadings.
- Use sentence case.
- Be consistent with other University websites (see examples below before creating your own).
Best practice examples for external facing websites:
- A department site: Department of Geography
- A faculty site: Faculty of Arts and Humanities
- A research group: Don Catchment
- Products and services: Print and Design Solutions
Users also browse by scrolling pages, so ensure your navigation structure is reflected in your hub pages. Your homepage must include links to your top level pages to provide a logical journey through your website.
There are both stylistic and accessibility considerations when creating and selecting images for web pages.
- Do not include information (eg stats, dates and other key information) in an image.
- For department and faculty sites, use photos of students where possible, ideally using equipment or conducting research in the field.
- Do not overburden your pages with images. A header image is often enough.
When writing content, be conscious that detailed information may already exist elsewhere on University sites. This is especially true for central content (eg course and general student information) so do a search before starting.
To keep your copy concise and pages short, link to further information where you can.
For linked text, avoid phrases such as ‘click here’, ‘find out more’ or ‘further information’. Hyperlinked text should tell the user what they will find before they click on the link. Examples:
- Our programme of events
- Resources for current students
- Getting to the University
Use embeddable content instead of links where possible, as embeddable content is more attractive, more user friendly and ensures accuracy (as cards are centrally managed single-sources of information).
For links to external pages (outside of the University), make it clear that users are being taken to a different website by including the website or organisation name in the link text, eg ‘Visit the Mesothelioma UK website’.
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