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Writing for the Web: Selecting Content

Learn how to create content for the Library website.

Audience

Identifying and investing in understanding and learning about your audience, their needs, behaviors, challenges, and unique characteristics is the first and most important step in selecting, writing, and organizing web content.

Ways to Focus on Your Audience

Personas

Personas are "fictional depictions of the audiences you want to serve." (Aaron Schmidt). You can use personas to help focus on the tasks specific users must use your website to complete.

Recommended Reading

Choosing the Right Content

Website visitors are goal oriented. They visit websites to complete tasks, find information, and ask questions. Follow these steps to identify the essential messages for your webpages:

New Content

  1. Identify and research your audience.
  2. Define the purpose of the proposed content. Why does your audience need your content? How will the content help them?
  3. Think of your topic from your user's point of view. Make a list of the questions your site visitors ask about the topic and organize the questions in the order your audience would ask them.
  4. Answer the questions. If you have questions that you don't have answers for, find the right person and get the answer.
  5. Write and organize the content using strategies for effective web writing and organization for your specific audience.

Revising Content

  1. Put away your draft/existing content.
  2. Think of your topic from your user’s point of view. Make a list of the questions your site visitors ask about the topic or revisit previously drafted questions. Organize the questions in the order your audience would ask them.
  3. Use site statistics to see what is used. Consider why content may or may not be used.
  4. Get your draft/existing content back out and use it to answer the questions you identified in step 2 above.
  5. Look over the content that is left after you've answered the questions on your list. If the information isn't critical, ditch it. If it is critical, write a question your visitors might ask and give them the answer.
  6. If you have questions that you don't have answers for, find the right person and get the answer.
  7. Read your new draft. Does it flow logically for your audience?
  8. Discard any content that doesn't answer a question your audience might have. Only give site visitors what they need, rather than what you think they need.
  9. Revise and organize the content using strategies for effective web writing and organization for your specific audience.

Adapted from Letting Go of the Words by Janice Redish

HTML Is Better For Webpages

Think carefully about adding PDF and Word documents to your website. Follow these guidelines, when it's necessary to include a PDF or Word document:

  • Provide a link to download the document rather than embedding. Embedded documents are essentially images that a screen reader cannot read.
  • Use an icon to identify the document type.
  • Keep file names as general as possible (i.e current-library-events.pdf not library-events-2012.pdf)