Outdated information on a website is frequently the primary source of frustration for our users. Time you spend rewriting your content to make it accurate, up-to-date and free of typos is worth the investment. Conducting a content audit before you start will uncover duplicate and missing information.
Using Fewer Words
Less is more on a webpage. Use active voice, get to the point quickly and eliminate generic phrases and throwaway words.
Instead of this:
Sometimes when a current undergraduate student is considering the choice of a concentration, expert help from an academic advisor at Brown University might well be an idea worth pursuing. Should you find yourself in need of an advising appointment, please feel free to contact us.
Choosing or changing a concentration can be challenging. The Office of the Dean of the College can help. Contact us for an appointment.
Making Content Scannable
Use chunks of content with section headings to break up the text and make the page scannable. Format the section headings in title case or sentence case (e.g., "Improving Content" or "How can I improve my content?").
Present just enough information on a page, letting users click deeper into your site (to other pages) when they are ready for more detail. Users know how to click and scroll and only notice scrolling and clicking when they aren’t finding what they want.
Writing from Scratch
First, think about the purpose and organization of your new webpage. Answer these preliminary questions:
- What is the goal of this webpage?
- Who is the target audience?
- What are the three benefits (pieces of information) for the audience?
- What keywords are best for search engine optimization?
- What one thing should the user understand after reading the first paragraph?
Next, draft the first paragraph, capturing the one thing you want the user to know or understand in the first two sentences.
Remember your audience. If readers can’t relate to your content, they won’t read it. Let your users’ needs drive every word you write.
Improving Your Content
- Write or revise the most important pages first. These are usually at the top of your website’s information architecture.
- Use simple, natural language. “Sign up for our email newsletter” is more understandable than “Join our monthly listserv.”
- Don’t recreate (duplicate) content that is owned by someone else. For example, when your navigation includes Academic Calendar, link to the official academic calendar webpage owned by the Office of the Registrar. You can then rely on the University’s owner of that information to keep it up to date.
- Make the purpose of each link clear based on the link text. For example, link the phrase "More housing information" instead of "Click here for more information."
- Keep formatting to a minimum. When you use too much bolded or italicized text, you end up emphasizing nothing.
- Photos are content too. Be sure all of your webpage images comply with Brown's Image Use Policy. Also confirm the images on all webpages have accurate, descriptive alternative text, also known as alt text. (Note: Alt text describes images to visitors who are unable to see them.)
- Use text to convey information rather than images of text (e.g., JPEGs, PNGs and other image files).