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Writing Web Content

Focus the Scope

Begin to scope your project by doing the following:

  • Talk to various members of your audience. What do they need most? What are their secondary needs? The goals of your site should be built around the needs of your audience.
  • Consider how your users use the web. How do they think? What vocabulary do they commonly use?
  • Identify those things about your department or program that are unique or put you at a competitive advantage. Highlight those features up front.
  • Avoid "fluff." Long, folksy introductions to content distracts the user from the main message. The web is not print, and people do not use it for leisurely reading. In addition, material that is not relevant to the page title (as indicated in the main heading on the page), may detract from search engine rankings. Ideally you should keep your content focused on the subject of the page.
  • Identify existing content. Before writing an essay on the benefits of living in Rochester or developing an online handbook with all the details of parking at the Medical Center, consider that web pages for these items already exist. A little preliminary research can save you hours of work. Web Services can help identify existing content so you can focus on the "meat" of your site.

Organize the Content

Your users' primary and secondary needs should determine your site's navigation. Many URMC departments will have content for patients, researchers, and students. Each of these audiences will have key, but very different, needs. A patient will want to know location information, hours of operation, and types of services provided, for example. A researcher will want to know about lab facilities and available faculty positions. Students will want information about residencies and fellowships or other graduate opportunities. The following websites are examples of how content can be organized around these three main audiences:

Consistency in organization across the URMC web will help all our customers find what they need.

Present the Content

  • Be brief. Use short words instead of long ones ("ask" vs. "inquire", "need" vs. "necessitate"). Use active verbs, rather than passive ones ("We determined that…" instead of "It has been determined that…"; "We need…" instead of "There is a need for …").
  • Focus the user on key points. Use bulleted lists, headings, tables, paragraph, and pull-quote styles.
  • Avoid long, wordy pages. Use subnavigation and break pages into shorter pages if necessary.

Final Thoughts

Always keep the goals of your site close at hand while composing your content. Your goals should be built around the needs of your audience.

Remember how your users think, what they will be looking for. Keep it simple and to the point. You will end up with a much more valuable site that your users will actually use.