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Writing for the Web

Remember – internet users consume information in a different way from print and broadcast readers and viewers.

Most importantly, web viewers have shorter attention spans, there are competing options for information and very little patience.

You have only a few seconds to woo your viewer to stay and look at your stuff rather than click and go elsewhere.

So grab their attention from the start.

Avoid long dropped ledes, cut out fluff at the start of the story (you should so this anyway) and write headlines that capture attention — not just slugs.

Bad:  Lantau Buffalo    (this is a slug – the sort of thing you’d employ to label files on your computer or keep track of items on a news budget or sked)

Better: Lantau Buffalo Under Threat (better  – it tells the reader a little about what the story is about)

Best:   Feral Buffalo Under Threat – Property Developer Covets Lantau Wetlands

From Jakob Neilson’s Alertbox

People rarely read Web pages word by word; instead, they scan the page often in a F-pattern, picking out individual words and sentences. In research on how people read websites Neilson and Norman found that 79 percent of our test users always scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read word-by-word.

What this means for layout:

  • Put key elements (eg search boxes) in a logical or oft-used place (a search box is nearly always placed on the top right)
  • Keep text short and to the point
  • write in the inverted pyramid style, starting with the conclusion (ie normal news style)
  • one idea per paragraph (similar to newspaper/newswire writing)
  • only one or perhaps two sentences per paragraph (similar to newspaper/newswire writing)
  • Use “white space”
  • Break it up into sections using headers and highlight keywords (via hyperlinks, bold-face, colour etc)
  • use bullet points

Check out this Summary by Mindy Mcadams http://www.macloo.com/webwriting/index.htm for more details.

White Space:

Not just ‘blank’ space — white space is an integral element of design. The balance between positive (or non-white) and the use of negative spaces is key to aesthetic composition — and user comfort. The easiest way to explain this is by example:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Praesent feugiat lacus in nibh posuere fermentum. Quisque pellentesque tincidunt interdum. Donec in sem nisi. Vestibulum eget mi lectus. Sed tempus, arcu non lobortis rhoncus, felis nibh euismod nunc, ac vulputate felis nunc sed dui. Cras pretium urna eu nisl pellentesque a faucibus dolor tempus. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Proin sed mauris ac leo convallis varius. Aliquam eget orci quis risus scelerisque euismod. Praesent sed urna ac massa fringilla pharetra. Proin viverra metus eu velit lobortis porttitor. Vestibulum imperdiet varius tincidunt. Nam cursus metus a lacus dignissim sagittis. Nam libero quam, pellentesque nec dictum et, semper nec urna. Fusce at nisi vitae tortor porta blandit. Etiam nec neque elit, at porttitor urna. Morbi non nulla quis nibh porta cursus et nec nunc. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Nullam interdum quam purus. Praesent et massa ante. Quisque vel neque vel erat suscipit accumsan. Phasellus mattis lacus eu nibh condimentum vulputate. Sed tincidunt mi vitae urna suscipit tincidunt. Maecenas ac leo urna. Sed in orci odio. Integer cursus rhoncus sapien, a sagittis urna eleifend ut. Pellentesque at ipsum nunc. Vivamus non justo lectus. Vivamus vestibulum nisl eu lectus tempor tristique. Morbi varius, purus et faucibus porta, elit orci tincidunt felis, sit amet lacinia massa odio lacinia purus. Duis dapibus porttitor quam vel varius. Suspendisse interdum molestie neque ut gravida. Vivamus in massa tellus. Morbi velit ipsum, auctor placerat lacinia vitae, varius id metus. Donec nunc tellus, tristique in consectetur id, iaculis ut mi. Donec varius pellentesque ipsum quis iaculis. Ut ac nibh tellus, eget pretium dui. Aliquam viverra nunc turpis, at tincidunt arcu. Quisque eleifend interdum dui non suscipit.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.

  • Praesent feugiat lacus in nibh posuere fermentum.
  • Sed tempus, arcu non lobortis rhoncus, felis nibh euismod nunc, ac vulputate felis nunc sed dui.
  • Cras pretium urna eu nisl pellentesque a faucibus dolor tempus.
  • Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.

“Proin sed mauris ac leo convallis varius. Aliquam eget orci quis risus scelerisque euismod. Praesent sed urna ac massa fringilla pharetra. Proin viverra metus eu velit lobortis porttitor.”

Vestibulum imperdiet varius tincidunt. Nam cursus metus a lacus dignissim sagittis.

Nam libero quam, pellentesque nec dictum et, semper nec urna. Fusce at nisi vitae tortor porta blandit. Etiam nec neque elit, at porttitor urna.

Morbi non nulla quis nibh porta cursus et nec nunc. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Nullam interdum quam purus.

WHICH IS EASIER TO READ?

To Scroll or not to scroll:

This shibboleth seems not to be an issue any more. Scrolling used to be regarded as highly undesirable. In recent years it has become a non-issue. However, do your readers a favour and consider the use of in-page anchors.

Ref: Neilson and Norman on to scroll or not to scroll

Golden Ratio:

Also known as the rule of thirds. Most of your work is constrained by web templates but it is worth bearing in mind this fundamental aspect of design aesthetic:

See this explanation from Smashing Magazine

Layout References:

Tags: ,

Welcome to Advanced Online Journalism

This is a hands-on course — much of the time you will be operating as journalists covering real news events (some of them live) throughout the semester.

Regard the DML as a newsroom, your instructors as your editors and yourselves as professional journalists.

Accuracy -- Detail -- Speed



Tutorials, Tips & Skills