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Web Design and Writing


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Journalists have long written in a style that tells the reader the most important kernel of information followed by supporting information, and concluding with more general background. On the Web, this style is even more important since we cannot always rely on users to scroll to the bottom of the page. It is possible that they will only read what appears "above the fold".

It is important, therefore, that text be kept to short, scannable segments. According the Jakob Nielsen, reading from a computer screen is 25% slower than reading on paper. And another study by John Morkes and Jakob Nielsen found that 79% of test users always scanned any new page they came across while only 16% read word-by-word. Web Site Design Services

Some ways to break up content into shorter segments are to:
State conclusions first and create links to get more detailed information
Have only one idea per paragraph (with the topic sentence first)
Use frequent headings and sub-headings that are meaningful rather than merely clever

Some ways to make text scannable are to:
Create bulleted lists
Highlight keywords (using hypertext links, typeface variations, color)
Use large, easy to read fonts
Make sure that there is enough contrast between text and background colors
Avoid using strong shadows or italics (except for large font sizes)

Task Oriented Writing
Information on a website needs to support the user's tasks. The audience and goals should be determined by a requirements analysis conducted prior to building the site. The text can then be written with the goals of the user in mind.

It is also important to help users navigate the website. Whenever possible, guide the user's actions by aiding the decision-making process. One way to do this is to organize information in the order that the user is likely to need it. It is important to be clear about the choices offered by labeling buttons appropriately.

Most website projects will include content from multiple writers. However, it is important that the writing on a website appears uniform and consistent in order to achieve clarity and establish a brand identity. The only way to ensure that writing does not appear idiosyncratic is to use an agreed upon style guide that establishes the writing standards for the project. The style guide should encompass issues such as:

Corporate slogans and terminology
Spelling self-consistency (e.g. web site/website)
File Formats

Clearing up Ambiguities
Websites can confuse users with ambiguous language and instructions. Not only can these ambiguities be annoying, but they can also mean serious losses for businesses. For example, an "Order Now" button that takes users to a page where they check a shopping cart first should say instead, "Verify My Order." This language change can make the difference between hesitancy to complete a transaction and assurance that the process is safe.

Lawyer Web Design Resources Overview

Los Angeles - Orange County Web Design: Web Design
This page discusses principles of usability for design and includes lists of Dos and Don'ts for usability in design.

Los Angeles - Orange County Web Design: Web Design Writing
This page offers writing tips for making web content more readable and comprehensible.

Los Angeles - Orange County Web Design: Web Design Information Architecture
This page discusses practical information architecture for website design, including steps to take for coming up with an information architecture for your site and tips for creating usable navigation systems.

Los Angeles - Orange County Web Design: Web Design Quality Assurance
This page discusses the importance of incorporating quality assurance into your production processes and offers some areas to cover in your own quality assurance checklist.

Law Firm Web Design: Website Design Resources
This page provides some recommended links to other website design sites with a usability focus.

Los Angeles - Orange County Web Design: Web Usability Bibliography
This is a list of published books, papers, and websites discussing usability issues in website design.

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