Create Great Content

When developing content for your Web site, you can include important information from paper documents (newsletters, Report articles, news releases, articles in the Alumni Magazine, etc.) published within the past year, but you must “repurpose” this content first to make it easy to read on the Web. 

Reading on the Web

Web visitors simply do not read Web pages like they do paper documents; this fact has been confirmed by many usability studies.  In a recent study, John Morkes and Jakob Nielsen found that 79 percent of Web visitors always scanned any new page they came to; only 16 percent read word-for-word.

In addition, reading from computer screens is 25 percent slower than from the paper page. Web writers must acknowledge these facts and write for a new kind of audience: those who don’t read, but scan text instead. 

This does not mean text is not important.  Another recent study by Nielsen found: “People ignore graphics in the first three ‘eye fixations’ they make on a Web page.  Eight times out of ten they look for text – headlines, summaries, and captions.”  Major headings, titles, brief summaries, etc. should all give the visitor a very broad overview of the page’s topic. 

Repurpose Content for the Web

Content Layout

  • Use short “chunks” that have one main point, rather than presenting textual content in one long paragraph. 
    • Chunks are small manageable units of information (1-7 pieces of relevant and related information) that fill the screen with 100 words or less (in 2-3 paragraphs).
  • Use meaningful headers to label chunks of information and convey the main point of the information presented in the chunk. 
    • Headers that are emphasized in some way (bold, larger type, etc.) make it easier for the visitor to find information.
  • Use the "inverted pyramid" writing style
    • Start a Web page with the conclusion or most important information first, as well as a short summary of the remaining contents, instead of leading up to the main point (as is typical in a paragraph).
  • Keep information “above the fold” (i.e., one screen in length) if possible.  Many visitors will not scroll down to read all of the information.

Writing Style

  • Use simple sentence structures (convoluted writing and complex words are hard to understand).
  • Avoid promotional writing style with subjective claims ("hottest ever"). This imposes a cognitive burden on visitors who don’t want to spend time filtering out promotional language to get the facts.
  • Do not call attention to the Web by using phrases like: “click here," "follow this link," and "this Web site.”  This is helpful for individuals who use screen readers to “view” a Web page.  “Click here” conveys no meaning to them.
  • Avoid using dates whenever possible.  If you must, remember to update the content once the date has passed.

Content Presentation

Font Types & Emphasis

  • Sans Serif font is the best when presenting information on the Web; the default fonts used in the SVSU CMS are Sans Serif.
  • Bold type, used sparingly, is the best format for textual emphasis on the Web.
    • Emphasize only key information-carrying words and avoid highlighting entire sentences or long phrases.  Visitors can only pick up two (or at most three) words at a time when they scan a page.
    • Each emphasized word should be clear on its own and when a visitor reads the emphasized words in a sequence he or she should understand logically the page’s main ideas.
    • Hypertext links also serve as a form of emphasis, but only highlight the one-to-three most important words.

Font Styles & Typography

  • Avoid italic type because it does not display well on computer monitors. 
  • Avoid capitalizing entire words, this increases reading time and puts excessive strain on the eyes.
  • Do not underline text for emphasis, underlining should be reserved for links.

Lists (Bullet, Numerical)

  • Consider presenting minor points in a list format (bullets or numerical).  Lists draw the scanning eye.
  • Use numbered lists when the order of entries is important.
  • Use unnumbered lists when the sequence of the entries is not important.
  • Place no more than seven to nine items in a list (this includes a list of links, such as a navigation menu).
  • Limit lists to two levels: primary and secondary.

Helpful Links