Web Content Best Practices

The Manchester Community College website is the electronic gateway to the college – its people, its programs and its services. Primarily serving current and prospective students, its goal is to complement the information and experience offered by the college on-ground with the same quality, accuracy and timeliness. The website is committed to supporting the college’s promise of access, excellence and relevance

Best Practices

On the web, people are in a hurry. They skim and scan, looking for fast answers to their questions, so it’s important to get to the point – quickly! These guidelines for writing and managing web content will help.

  • Audience
    • Know your audience; what does he/she want to know.
    • Educate your audience.
  • Length
    • Less is more – minimize words in sentences, sentences in paragraphs.
    • Eliminate unnecessary words.
  • Tone
    • Use conversational pronouns (you, us, our, we).
    • Write as if you were talking to a colleague or a friend.
  • Voice
    • Use an active voice with strong verbs.
  • Word Choice
    • Avoid abbreviations, acronyms, jargon and internal language.
    • Use the same words your readers use.
    • Write for your audience, not the experts.
  • Simplify
    • Use simple, descriptive section headings.
    • Keep paragraphs short.
    • Use ordinary, familiar words – nothing fancy.
  • Links
    • Use small and descriptive phrases instead of “click here”.
    • Include key words to help search engines.
  • Organization
    • Put most important information first, followed by the details.
    • Naturally sequence content.
    • Group related elements.
  • Improve Task Completion
    • Organize content around your audience’s tasks and thought processes, not your department’s work flow.
    • Make tasks easy to complete.
    • Highlight action items/steps (step 1, step 2, etc.).
  • Scan Ability
    • Separate content into small chunks.
    • In general, write no more than five to seven lines per paragraph.
    • Use lists and bullets when possible.
  • Separate Topics
    • Present each unique topic separately; one topic per page.
    • Limit the information on each page to three (or fewer) l
  • Context
    • Don’t assume your audience already knows the subject or has read related pages; use content as an opportunity to educate.
    • Each page should stand on its own.
    • Put everything in context.
  • Test and Evaluate
    • Test web pages with actual audience members to be sure they understand what you’ve written.
  • Support the Mission – Make Content:
    • Accurate
    • Useful
    • Relevant
    • Used
    • Up to date
    • Credible
    • Easy to find
  • Effectively Manage
    • Regularly audit.
    • Prioritize and schedule updates.

Sources:

Letting Go of the Words, Writing Web Content that Works, Janice Redish, 2007.

Content Strategy for the Web, Kristina Halvorson, 2010.

7 Best Practices for Improving Your Website’s Usability, Jacob Gube, September 12, 2011.

Building and Managing Websites, United States Department of Health and Human Services.