Writing for Web - NIU - Cascade Server

Writing for Web

Writing for the Web

The following advice about how to write for websites is standard practice regardless of the type of site. NIU has additional guidelines for writing and publishing on behalf of Northern Illinois University. For example, the NIU website is required to comply with the Illinois Information Technology Accessibility Act (IITAA).

We highly recommend you review these policies and documents before writing new content for your website on the NIU domain. 

Understanding Your Audience

Before you begin to write, think about your audience and how your visitor will interact with your website. You may have several different audiences, each with different intentions for visiting your site. What actions would you like them to take when they are on your site? Make a list of potential visitors to decide what tone, content, and calls to action you should incorporate.

Help Users Find Information Quickly

People will navigate to your site because they have a question and they are looking for an answer. Website visitors scan a page looking for relevant information. Your job is to provide them with the answers they are looking for – quickly and easily.

To help them, divide your page content into sections with useful headings and subheadings to direct your visitors to the right section on the page (this is called chunking). Provide info in short paragraphs or bulleted lists, so they can quickly determine if they are in the right place.

If you want people to take action, like request information or register for an event, provide a link that stands out from the rest of content, and don’t hide it at the bottom of a long page of text. Use action words (Apply Now, Register Today, Sign Up!) to entice your visitor to click on the call to action.

Write Clearly

A successful web writer:

  • Uses short, meaningful sentences
  • Presents the essential message first
  • Arranges content into short paragraphs or bulleted lists
  • Uses vocabulary that resonates with their audience(s)
  • Adds a clear call to action, when necessary
  • Reads what they have written before the page is published to catch errors