The Web is intended to help people find information quickly and easily. So why do so many sites make it difficult for users to get what they need?
As president of a copywriting firm that writes and edits dozens of online projects a year, I've come across several common blunders that prevent effective communication via Web. Here are my top five:
BLUNDER #1: Hiding who you are and what you do.
It's sad that many sites make it a challenge to figure out what they're about. Yes, it may be cool to have a giant dancing logo on your home page, but don't forget WHY your visitors are there: to learn what you can DO for them! Be sure your home page includes a *short overview* that clearly and concisely describes what you have to offer. It's also a good idea to repeat your tagline or a short mission statement on *every page* of your site. Why? People can pop in and land on an inside page via a search engine/directory link that you may not be aware of. Make sure they know who your are right away.
BLUNDER #2: Writing for print.
Reading copy on a computer screen is different than reading printed text. We read online text more slowly, and we tend to scan rather than read because, visually, words are harder to digest. Help your users find key words and concepts quickly by making your copy "scannable." Instead of intro paragraphs, use subheads. Use shorter sentences, paragraphs, and pages. Use bulleted lists. And use hyperlinks to give readers more info if they want it.
BLUNDER #3: Writing too formally.
Online readers expect a personal, upbeat tone. If you write like a bureaucrat, you risk turning off many users. Think ACTIVE voice rather than passive. (For example, instead of saying "the computer must be turned on" say "turn on computer.") Write to your customers like you'd talk to them, and nix any industry jargon they may not understand.