How to write your own website (part 2)

Here are some more top tips for effective web content.

Follow the F-pattern

Eye-tracking studies show that website visitors tend to glance along the top two lines of text, then scan down the left hand edge taking in only the first two words of each line, and perhaps look across the page once more. They spend very little time looking at the bottom right hand corner of the web page. In fact, the pattern of their views looks like the shape of an F!

When you know about this F-pattern, you can arrange your content to suit it. For example, write a powerful headline at the top of the page that answers ‘what’s in it for me’. Add a sub-heading mid-way down the page, especially if the first couple of words are significant ones. And avoid putting anything important in the bottom right hand corner.

Keep it simple

Because reading light on screen is harder than reading ink on paper, your web copy should be about half the length of your printed copy.

– DON’T use long paragraphs of prose
– DO use bullet points and click-through links for those who want to access more detail

Pass the we we test

Write from your customer’s point-of-view instead of your own. To do this, you need to include the word ‘you’ more than you use ‘I’ or ‘we’. For example:

– DON’T write ‘We sell wonderful widgets’
– DO write ‘If you want wonderful widgets, you’ve come to the right place’

Call to action

As with any piece of marketing, you need to tell readers what you want them to do. It might be ‘Click to read more about noodle-bending’, or ‘Phone now to book an appointment’ or ‘Fill in the enquiry form today’.

Make the language strong, for example

– DON’T write ‘You can contact us on…’
– DO write ‘Please contact us on…’ (or, even better, ‘Click the Callback button now and we’ll contact you within 5 minutes / 24 hours’)

Moving images

Our expectations of on-screen viewing are set by TV and cinema. What’s more, we can’t help looking at something that moves. You have probably noticed this when you’re in a pub with a TV on the corner, and you just can’t help watching even if you don’t want to!

You can use this tendency to make your site come alive. I don’t recommend animated gifs (dancing clip art) or unnecessary Flash, but video is excellent to include.

You don’t always need BBC-quality. You can record your videos cheaply on a Flip camera or smartphone, and upload them to your own YouTube channel at no cost. Be sure to add your keywords in the description (remember, YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine). You can embed videos simply by clicking the ‘share’ button.

Make sure your videos don’t play automatically — that’s just annoying, especially for anyone viewing your site in an open plan office. And people are busy and impatient, so it’s best to keep each video under 2 minutes long.

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking

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