When writing for the web, it is important to first identify your main audience, and what they are looking for. Writing and formatting text for the web is a process, and cannot be duplicated from what might already be written for print documents.
Users scan webpages and only read about 20 percent of what’s on the page, so it’s important to think about what you write, how you write, and how it’s presented. The following tips will help ensure that your readers get the information they are looking for on your website.
- The inverted pyramid style
- Begin a page with the shortest and clearest statement you can make about your topic. On average, users only read the first two words on each line.
- Keep sentence structure simple and active.
- Chunk Content
- Write short paragraphs.
- Separate paragraphs by topics, with informative headings and subheads.
- Use bulleted or numbered lists to make the information easier to scan. Place the action first and be brief (Ex: Apply for aid)
- Just the Basics
- Only include necessary information the user needs to complete their task.
- Eliminate jargon.
- Cut out extra words
- Avoid using organizational language that means nothing to a user.
- Write directly to the main audience — in second person (you). Be direct and personable.
- Adopt a casual tone; don’t be overly formal unless context dictates (legal info, policies, etc.). Using conjunctions is okay.
- Use active voice. Ex: Agencies cut jobs vs. layoffs announced
- Watch the use of “parental” language. (You must, etc.)
- Don’t overemphasize: avoid using all caps and underlines. Use bold and italics sparingly. Underlines will confuse the reader and appear to be hyperlinks. Bold and italicized texts are more difficult to read on the web.
- Follow UNLV's Editorial Style Guide. As a general rule, the university follows the Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual. This guide highlights some of the most frequently troublesome issues and clarifies style questions unique to the university.
It is important to keep your content up-to-date in order to maintain the trust of the reader, and to ensure the content accurately reflects your unit.
- Review and update content on your webpages as necessary.
- Try to avoid time-sensitive information. If there are events, deadlines, etc. talk with Web & Digital Strategy on how best integrate the information without it being outdated.
Links connect all of our content together and search engines use this text to help determine the subject matter of the linked in doc or page, so how you present the link is very important. Links can be embedded in a paragraph, in a list, or as a button.
- Use descriptive keywords in the link text that reflect the same topic or keywords the linked in page is trying to target.
- Link to relevant information. If you mention a specific program, link to it. If you include an email address, make it an email link. If you mention a faculty member, link to their bio page. Don't make people go and search for something that you mention if it already has a page somewhere.
- Make your links contextual. Avoid "Click here." Use part of the actual referencing sentence as the link. Users prefer links to be 4-8 words in length.
- Do not use: For commencement information for graduating students click here.
- Do use: Get commencement information for graduating students.
- When selecting photos, pick images that communicate the energy and vitality of UNLV and your department. Try to communicate diversity, including ethnicity, gender, age, fields of study, etc., in your photo selections.
- Be sure to have permission to post a photo before submitting it for placement on your site. If you are not sure about the copyright issues for a specific image, do not use it.
- UNLV Web and Digital Strategy uses professional photography. Whenever possible, utilize Photo Services to ensure the highest quality images. Photo Services can color-correct, retouch, and size images for web use that meets our specifications.
We are committed to making UNLV’s website accessible to the widest possible audience, including individuals with disabilities. We require all content to meet accessibility requirements. Here are some tips for writing accessible content:
- Write in short, clear sentences and paragraphs, avoiding complex words and phrases.
- Expand acronyms on first use.
- Write link text so that it describes the content of the link target. Avoid using ambiguous link text, such as ‘click here’ or ‘read more.’
- Structuring content helps people group information and work out what's important and what they need to read first.
- Introduce each content section with a heading.
- Use heading levels logically to match the structure of the content.
- Write headings that are short and clear.
- Put meaningful words or essential information at the start of the heading.
- Make sure headings accurately describe the following content.
- Use numbered lists when the order of items matters.
- Use bulleted lists where there is no clear order.
- Write Alternative Text to describe any images.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO writing is the process of writing content to rank on the first page of search engines like Google. This involves using keywords, writing high-quality content that matches user intent, and optimizing your headers for easy page crawling.
- Limit your page title to between 10 and 60 characters.
- Keywords are the main topics that define your site content. They are the words and phrases people use when searching on Google and other search engines in order to find what they’re looking for. Choose specific keywords and phrases that are most relevant to your site.
- While there is no magic number for the number of times a keyword or phrase should appear on a page, ideally the keyword or phrase will appear more than three times but less than 10 times.
- Provide relevant, original content that answers searchers’ questions and addresses their concerns.
- Use bullet points – they’re easily digestible, especially on mobile devices.
- Do not duplicate content on multiple pages. Google’s standards for web content include those that have any significant matches, even if they were made unknowingly. Commonly used phrases and other unexpected matches could come up in a plagiarism check.
- Do not use acronyms in a page title or URL. Spell out words.
- Use evergreen content. Avoid time-sensitive or dated information.