Consider these tips for writing user-friendly and easy-to-read content that meets the needs of your web audiences.
Think about your audience, their goals and your strategic priorities as a department.
Your web content should be aimed at meeting the information needs of the people you serve everyday.
What questions or information is your audience looking for? Your website should answer these questions.
What services do you provide? Your website should show them.
- What do you want your audiences to learn? This is your opportunity to tell your story about you.
You understand your content the best. You know what information visitors of your website need to know. The trick is how to organize and deliver that information effective.
Remember that users are impatient and do not think within the organizational structure of the institution. They come to your website for different reasons at different times.
It's you goal to organize content using terminology that the visitor understands.
When writing for the web, it is important to think like a consumer of that information. If you were coming to the website, what would you look for?
It is important to:
- Front load important information: The most important information should be at the top of the page. Web users tend to scan pages to find key information quickly, rather than reading them word-by-word.
- Structure the page with headings: Headings provide structure to organize content in an outline format. It allows users to quickly scan the page to locate relevant information.
- Use bulleted lists and short paragraphs: Users find online text easiest to consume when it is concise, scannable, and objective. Front-load bulleted lists with keywords users are looking for to make lists easy to scan.
- Provide descriptive link names: Links names should be descriptive to provide context as to what to expect by following it. Links should not rely on surrounding words to rely on context. The link name should provide enough context as to the destination.
- Use common nomenclature: Use terms that the user already knows. Avoid university jargon and abbreviations.
- Provide context: Users can arrive to your site via any page thanks in great part to search engines, so don’t assume they have read through the rest of your content before arriving to a certain page. For example, a page with a single link to a PDF with no explanation of the file does not make it clear to your users who that file is for or what its purpose is.
- Be consistent: Users expect content to be presented consistently throughout the site. They prefer clear content opposed to cleaver.
The Inverted Pyramid is style of writing often associated with news stories where the first sentence is the most important providing a summary of the entire article.
Writing for the web should be the same. The most important information should be at the top of the page with supporting information including the 5 W's (Who, What, When, Where, Why). In the middle of the page is the supporting information. The least important information should be at the bottom of the page.
Do's and Don'ts
Don't label your links with verbs or phrases like "Click Here." When calling the user to action, use brief but meaningful text that:
- Provides information when read out of context
- Instead of: Click here to learn more about our program requirements
- Use: Psychology program requirements are managed by the Behavioral Sciences department and updated yearly.
- Explains what the link offers
- Instead of : Photos of our past events are here, here, and here.
- Use: Photos of our past events: Alumni Day, 30-Minute Mentors, and Homecoming
- Is not a verb phrase
- Instead of: Learn more about student leadership events
- Use: Learn about student leadership events
- Is not a hyperlink
- Instead of: https://umdearborn.edu/admissions/transfer
- Use: Transfer Admissions
Link to existing content rather than recreating it on your pages. This makes for easier content updates and more accurate information, as it eliminates the need to update content in more than one spot on the site.
Only set links to open in new tabs if they link to a file or an external page (outside of umdearborn.edu). Opening new tabs of the same website is redundant and confusing for your users.
Fix broken links. Update or remove broken links from your web pages. They provide a poor user experience and negatively effect Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Buttons and Calls To Action
Don't overdo links and buttons. If everything is emphasized, nothing will stand out as important.
7 is the magic number. Reduce the number of left navigation items to no more than 7. If your site has more than this, consider reorganizing your site into broader categories that is meaningful to your audience to house your content. When navigation menus exceed 7, users have a difficult time locating relevant content.
Consider using the Links Grid or lists to display content in a concise, easily consumed format.
No larger than 1 MB. Images should be compressed to the smallest format possible without losing resolution. JPG images are more compact than PNG images. Larger images require a longer page load and offer no additional benefits in resolution on the website. Slow loading web pages can cause a negative effect in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This can causes your pages to rank lower in search results. To reduce image size, please use graphic programs outside of the Drupal Content Management System (CMS).
Style Guide Preferences
Phone number format
- Do: 313-583-6330
- Do Not: (313) 583-6330
Reference to UM-Dearborn
- Do: UM-Dearborn
- Do Not: UMD, UM Dearborn, UofM Dearborn, U-M Dearborn
Do not capitalize every letter in a word to provide greater emphasis. It is much more difficult to read all capitalized words on electronic devices.
Headings or header tags provide structure to organize content in an outline format. It allows users to quickly scan the page to locate relevant information. It also sends a strong signal for SEO. Google’s Senior Search Analyst, John Mueller says, “when it comes to text on a page, a heading is a really strong signal telling us this part of the page is about this topic.”
Think of headers like a book:
- Heading 1: Title of book
- Heading 2: Chapters within the book
- Heading 3: Subtopics within a chapter
Heading 1 is used as the page title and only used once per page.
Headings 2 and 3 should be used in order. Just like a book, you cannot have a Subtopic before introducing the Chapter.
- Do: Use headings in order to structure and organize content on your web page. This enables visitors to quickly scan the page for important information, assists in accessibility of the site and provides search engines with structure and identifies important information on the page.
- Do not: Headings should not be used solely to make text larger or bold. Headings must used in their hierarchical order.
If Related Resources are not being used on a page, please remove element from the page.