Site content must be specialized to reach a specific audience. In the case of the university, content should focus on serving incoming students, current students and their parents, faculty, staff and alumni. Information on university sites should pertain to questions and issues that those public groups might have, as many people generally look to Web sites for current, quick answers to their questions. Unit sites and department sites must specialize content for their specific audiences.
Determine Audience — As with any printed publication, when designing a Web site, first determine the target audience and the messages that must be communicated to that audience.
Write for the Web — Writing for the Web requires more than just posting existing text from a brochure or newsletter. Instead, information to be conveyed must be explained in graphic displays and short, easy-to-read blocks of text. These techniques are necessary because people rarely read Web pages word by word; they scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences that catch their interest. The following are main guidelines to be used when writing for the Web:
Brevity – Write no more than half of the text you would use in a printed publication. Reading from computer screens is about 25 percent slower than reading from paper. Even users who don’t know this usually say they dislike reading online text. Users also dislike scrolling through sites. Keep the text short and provide hypertext links to detailed information.
Scanability – Don’t require users to read long continuous blocks of text. Because it can be so difficult to read text on computer screens and because the online experience seems to foster some amount of impatience, users tend not to read large blocks of text. Instead users scan text and pick out key words, sentences, and paragraphs of interest. Writing for scan ability means structuring articles with two, or even three, levels of headlines (a general page heading plus subheads – and sub-subheads when appropriate).
- Use meaningful rather than “cute” headings.
- Use highlighting and emphasis to make important words catch the user’s eye.
- Text can be given a font color as a way to provide emphasis, and hypertext anchors stand out by virtue of being blue and underlined.
Hypertext – Use hypertext to split up long information into multiple pages. Make text short without sacrificing depth of content by splitting the information up into multiple sections connected by hypertext links. Each page can be brief and the Web site can contain much more information than would be feasible in a printed article – including links to other sources. Detailed background information can be relegated to secondary pages. Similarly, information of interest to only a few readers can be made available through a link without penalizing readers who don’t want it.
Clarity and Focus – Consistency and accuracy ensure that the university conveys the same messages to all its audiences throughout its many diverse recruiting and promotional materials produced by University Communications and Marketing. University Communications and Marketing provides the Guide to University Style as an aid for all those responsible for preparing written university communications (both electronic and printed) that accurately and consistently achieve their intent while reflecting the excellence of Kent State University. To obtain a guide, call (330) 672-2727 or post a request by e-mail to email@example.com. Consulting the Guide to University Style and the other resources listed below will enable production of effective, accurate and consistent copy for university communications.
Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation — All individuals who are responsible for preparing copy for electronic communications will want to purchase copies of the AP Stylebook and Webster’s New World College Dictionary for handy reference. Both reference works are available from the University Bookstore in the Kent Student Center. Students in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications sell the AP Stylebook as a fund-raising effort. Call the school at (330) 672-2572 for details. The AP Stylebook is organized alphabetically by general category. For example, for a question about whether “B.A..” requires periods or “bachelor's degree” needs an apostrophe, look under the entry academic degrees. Style questions regarding numbers are answered under the entry “numbers.” The stylebook has specialized sections for “Sports Guidelines and Style,” “Business Guidelines and Style” and a “Guide to Punctuation.” If a style question is not addressed in the university style guide, then consult the AP Stylebook. If an answer is not found, call University Communications and Marketing at 330-672-2727 and ask to speak with an editor, or post a question by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright/trademark — No home page can contain any copyrighted or trademarked material without permission except as permitted by law. Photographs, drawings, video clips or sound clips may not be used on a page without permission of the person who created them or who owns the rights except as permitted by law.
Technologies — With appropriate know-how, a developer may use advanced technologies such as flash, streaming audio/video, Java, applets, etc. However, these tools often require fast Internet connections, plug-ins and sometimes may not be cross-browser compliant (such as with some of DHTML). These technologies should only be used if they are absolutely necessary to the page/content and only after the developer carefully researches the tool and understands the limitations.