Introduction to Writing for TMCC's Website
A How-To Guide for TMCC Web Publishers
The following pages offer standards, guidelines and best practices for producing high quality content for TMCC’s website.
All TMCC CMS Site Manager Contributors are required to learn and use the college's style guide and recommendations found in these pages for writing content.
If you have any questions or need clarifications about any of this material, please contact us.
How Writing for the Web is Different
People read differently on the Web. For years, usability researchers have found that web users rarely read entire pages, word for word.
- Scan pages
- Pick out key words and phrases
- Read in quick, short bursts
- Are action oriented
- Click and forage in search of bits of information that lead them towards a goal
There is evidence, in fact, that shows that reading on a screen is physiologically more difficult than reading on paper. Reading long paragraphs on a screen hurts the eyes, is laborious and time consuming in a medium known for speed.
Users will read longer pages if the content provides detail related to the user’s specific goal. However, even though users will read more when the information provides extended information on their topic of interest, good web writing practices should still be employed.
Some Examples of What Not To Do
- Do not welcome people to your website and explain what a website is.
How many times have you seen this? "I would like to personally welcome you to our department’s web page. We have put together a great collection of information and links to help you learn more about us. I invite you to look around and click the links to the left." A website is a collection of information, no need to tell your readers that.
- Do not organize your website and write content to reflect your organization.
Don’t require your users to figure out your internal organization to find content on your website. Present related tasks and content together on the site, regardless of who does them within your organization. If you were shopping for a car, you wouldn’t expect to be sent to the website for the engine department to find out what type of engine a car has, would you? Likewise, use language and terms that your audiences use, regardless of what you call them internally.
- Do not put every piece of printed content you have on your website.
Just because you have it doesn’t mean your website visitors need to see it. Large volumes of content do not necessarily make good websites. If your visitors don’t
need it and you can’t maintain it, do not put it on your site.
- Do not use "marketese" or promotional writing on the Web.
The Web is a very direct, informal medium. When your readers scan your content, every word is valuable. Do not fill your pages with marketing "fluff" or needless formalities. Boastful, exaggerated language reduces the likelihood that your content will be read or believed.
- Do not post a PDF version of a document unless necessary.
Unless the format and integrity of the original printed document must be maintained, such as a printable form or brochure, do not use PDFs for the Web. PDF (portable document format by Adobe), Word documents or any other printed document type are slower to load, wont load natively in browsers, and can pose issues with search-ability, access and readability.
- Do not make your mission statement the focus on your home page.
Unless this is the most important content your users search for when visiting your site, it should not be the main focus on your home page, consider a separate page depending on its length. Don’t just tell people what you do—show them by making your most important services and content available immediately on your site. Your users come to your site to do something—make it easy for them.