Writing for the Web
Yes, Gentle Reader - writing for the Web is different.
The Web is not a paper media, or a print media, or a TV media. It's separate - with rules of the road all it's own.
If you don't know and obey those rules, then you're just wasting your money.
How Is it Different?
There's actually several big differences.
Reading is More Difficult.
Reading text on the Web is a lot more strenuous. You may not think so, but it takes about 25% more energy when you read something off your computer screen than if you have it on a piece of paper.
The Web is a Level Playing Field.
A big company can afford to create stunning color brochures and fancy presentation materials - in the hundreds of thousands or even millions if necessary. You probably can't even come close.
However - the Web is a great equalizer. Almost everyone views the Web from a monitor - and that usually means a 17" wide window. So Walmart and the corner general store have the same playing field. The only difference is in the presentation.
Large or Small Makes No Difference
Which leads us to a very important point: On the Web, a small company can compete toe to toe with the big boys. A large company can have a lousy website and get lousy results. A small company can have a great site and get fantastic results. In fact, due to their very size, large companies are less likely to have a site that pulls in the buying traffic!
Simply because they tend to use material already written. They just re-use existing text and paste it on their site, hoping that a couple of snazzy graphics will transform it into a thing of magic. Nope!
Take a look at some of the large company websites. Try and read their copy. Some will make your eyes glaze over and have you wondering what in heck they're trying to say! Many will have their company name repeated a dozen times in a couple of paragraphs. Hey! You know where you landed - you don't need to be reminded every other sentence!
Scanning is Different as Well!
When someone reads a direct mail letter, they look at the headline, then skip to the Signature and PS.
The Web is different!
When a person gets to your site the sequence goes like this:
When writing for the Web, you'll have to take this into account. For example, if you put important information at the end or bottom of the screen, you're just burying your copy where fewer people will notice.
Turning Theory Into Cash
Very nice you say! But what does that mean for me in nuts and bolts language?
FIRST: Put your Logo and Company Name in the upper left. Let your customer know where they landed. The URL should be along there as well.
SECOND: Global Navigation goes either along the top or down along the left side.
THIRD: Your Main Selling Point or Points should be in the center. Be Bold! Something your clients can't miss.
FOURTH: Put your "call to actions," assurance blurbs and guarantees along the right side.
The Copy Itself
If you feel the need to put your company name in every other sentence, get over it fast! It makes your site boring. And boring equals bad.
Use the "second person ( YOU ) viewpoint" when writing. This means nix on the first person ( "I" ) perspective. Same with using the third ("they.") person perspective.
And please!! Write to your audience! Use the lingo that your visitors normally use. For example, if you're selling sports shoes to teenagers don't go into how the darn things are made. Your audience couldn't care less. The shoes aren't "fine quality" they're "rad." They aren't "great bargains" they're "awesome buys."
Special Tip: How do you find the latest lingo on a budget? Go to the appropriate chat rooms and just read! Find out what people are writing and how they are writing. Then use it!
OK - here are some more tips that'll cull the heifers from the herd.
Text is more important than graphics. Believe me, its true. Graphics are fine as supporting cast. But never make the mistake of using them as lead actors.
Flash. Never, ever open your page with Macromedia's Flash. I don't care if ten thousand web designers swear by it. "Open with flash, lose cash."
Font. Use either Arial or Verdana. These are easiest on the eyes.
Clutter. Don't be afraid of white space! Some sites are so cluttered it's the same as trying to listen to a dozen hard rock stations at the same time.
3 Click Rule. Anything your customer wants should be no more than three clicks away. More and your customer will get frustrated. And frustration equals a lost opportunity.
Last Tip: And yes - I'm going to shout this one.
"NEVER PUT UP BUYING BARRICADES!!!"
What does this mean? I've been to sites that require you to register before you buy! What the heck were they thinking! Listen - what would you do if you went to your local bookstore and before you could checkout, you had to give someone your name, address and phone number? You'd say a few choice words and leave - without spending your cash!
Then why in whatever one holds holy would an e-commerce site require a potential customer to type in their name, e-mail address and a password even before they get to the check out? That's simply insane. Yes - everyone knows that they'll have to enter information when they're ready to buy. BUT NOT BEFORE!
The same thing goes for pre-registration screens. You know - the "before you can enter our site we require a few short items of information" website.
Few things will kill off more potential visitors to your website than having that idiotic greeting.
If you have them - lose them.