/ Public Affairs and Marketing

Writing for the Web

The first thing to know about writing for the web is that reading on the web is different.

 A website isn’t a book, brochure or filing cabinet — something you peruse, leaf through or rummage about in. It has more in common with a help desk or customer service line. People use the web to get answers to questions and get things done. Web users are mission-minded, and they’re in a hurry.

We don’t read pages. We scan them.

Why? Because we’re hunting for something specific. We don’t like to waste time, and scanning is easy.

We don’t weigh all of our options. We jump to act.

Why? Because it’s faster, and we trust our gut. We tend to choose the first option that seems reasonable to us

Every principle of writing for the web is based on these simple facts and can be boiled down to a single sentence:

Don’t make people think.

Web content (what is there and what can be done with it) should be self-evident. People should “get it” at a glance without expending any effort thinking about it. 

This isn’t about dumbing things down. It’s about respecting our audience enough to make everything easy to understand.

In other words, writing for the web is about making things easy for our audience to find what they need and understand what they’ve found.

Good web writing is: