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"By creating we think, by living we learn" Patrick Geddes

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Writing for the Web

Who are you writing for?

Writing for the web is very different from writing for print.

People read differently online

First questions to ask:

  1. Who are you writing for?
    Speak the language of these visitors. Remember this might not be the same as that used by you and your colleagues.
  2. What do they want to know?
    Your content must answer these questions.
  3. Why will they be visiting your website?
    Focus and target your information accordingly.
  4. Does any similar content already exist on the University website?
    Content should only exist once within a site but can be linked to from multiple places.

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important information to be added to top

Identify your key message(s)

"Note: you must apply by..."

does not jump out to the skim-reader unlike
"Deadline for applications:"

Example of strong lead sentence:
Personal and Professional Development is here to help you develop yourself and your career.

Example of weak lead sentence:
Whether you are a current or prospective student, or you simply want to find out more about our teaching and research activities, we hope these web pages will provide you with the information that you need

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Interested persons, on or before 15 June 2007, may submit to the Principal, Tower Building, University of Dundee, DD1 4HN, written comments regarding this proposal. Faxed comments will be accepted at (01382) 229948. To submit comments electronically, go to this site:

is better presented as

We invite you to comment on this proposal.
Deadline: 15 June 2007

Submit written comments

by mail to
The Principal
Tower Building
University of Dundee

by fax to
(01382) 229948

electronically at

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Organise your content

A wall of text acts as a barrier. Break your information up into chunks.


Bulleted lists:

Bulleted lists can make information easy to grab.


  • The kitchen is for cooking.
  • The bedroom is for sleeping.
  • The bathroom is for washing.



If you arrive in Edinburgh on a flight from an airport outside the UK, then...

This means people don't waste time reading information that is not necessary or relevant to them.

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Engage the user and drive action


'You must register and arrange to pay for your classes before you arrive'

is preferable to

'the student must register and the fee payment process must be started prior to arrival'


Worst: The passive voice should be avoided

Bad: The passive voice should be avoided by writers

Better: Writers should avoid using passive voice

Best: Writers should use active voice

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Trust and consistency


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Guiding users through the site


Avoid long mission statements and long introductions or welcomes.


Users should never have to guess where they are going or what they need to click on. Help them to find the easiest route possible through your site.

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How will people find your site?

Before you publish

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References and resources


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