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The Net-Works Guide to Creating a Website
The Net-Works Guide to Creating a Website was written to help beginners research and plan their own web site, without making the usual mistakes or incurrring unnecessary costs.
This book will teach you:
You don't have to know HTML to build a web site - but there are a thousand other things that you do need to know that most 'how to' books ignore. This book fills in the gaps for those who intend to build a web site for personal or business use and wish to do it right.
Why This Chapter?
The Net-Works Guide to Creating a Website does far more than teach you how to make web pages; it teaches you how to create an effective site. The difference? Planning, research and knowledge. As one of the most commonly neglected aspects is the text itself, this chapter has been selected as the free sample (as it stands to do the most good no matter how many people fork out for the book). It also illustrates the depth the book goes into on important issues that most 'how to create' books ignore.
Writing for the Web
Before you draft your written content, you should be aware of a few things regarding the medium and the habits of web users themselves. For a start, nearly all of the visitors to your site will be reading from a computer screen. This alone slows reading time by about 25%, and after a while can really start to strain the eyes (especially if the web site is poorly designed and the text is difficult to read).
You should also be aware that web users have a notoriously short attention span, and are unlikely to want to wade through mountains of text to find what they want - especially when another site is only a click or two away. Add to this the value many web users place on their surfing time (especially those on a connection where they pay by the minute) and you actually run the risk of insulting them if you don't get to the point quickly and succinctly.
Research has also shown that web users scan rather than read even the briefest of web documents, picking out words, sentences or paragraphs that interest them. When doing this they will invariably keep an eye out for any large, bold or linked text to get them where they want to be just that little bit faster.
Linked text (text that includes a 'hyperlink' allowing the user to jump to another page or site with a click) stands out in particular, not only because it is a different colour and underlined, but also because it is instantly recognisable by web users as the source of more information.
However, it is important to use restraint when inserting links, as having too many makes them harder to scan and therefore pointless. Also, you should not cheat by breaking up your information into lots of separate sections in an effort to make it seem shorter - this just makes it harder to read all in one go, and almost impossible to print.
So make it short. Really short. In fact, take what you would normally write for a printed version of your document and cut it by half - if not more. Also, be aware that most visitors are only going to give your text a brief overview. You should not try to force them to read the whole thing, as many will simply give up and go away. Instead, you should play to your audience by making your pages easier to scan and linked to appropriate information where relevant or necessary.
As you can see, we've waffled on for several paragraphs before getting to the point - and this would never do on a web site. Instead, the above information would be delivered in the following format, with the main point(s) being delivered immediately (if not within the header or title itself).
Writing Effective Web Copy
Keep it Short
Make it Easy to Scan
Make it Easy to Print
The above text is not only less than a quarter the length, but covers the main points quickly, simply and in order of their importance. Were more information required, the header could link to another page that covered the topic in more depth. In this way, you provide those who are interested in the information with easy access to it, but avoid confronting them with a mass of text immediately upon arrival.
Nothing annoys web users more than having to 'scroll' on a main or index page. They should be able to see everything on offer at a glance so they can get where they want to be quickly and easily.
Some Other Tips
Make It Easy to Read
Make It Simple
Make It Universal
Make it Personable
Back Your Claims
Being Smart Isn't Clever
Humour Isn't Always Funny
Words and Pictures in Harmony
© Tim Ireland 2001
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© 2001 Tim Ireland