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).
  • 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.

Tips for Getting Started Writing for Web Accessibility, Web Accessibility Initiative