Writing for the Web: Best Practices

Know Your Audience

There are three main questions to consider.

  • Who are you writing for? (Who is the page aimed at? Parents, Doctors, Nurses? What is their familiarity with the topic.)
  • What do they want? (Identify their goals)
  • What do you want? (What outcome are we trying to achieve with the page.

Use Plain Language / Avoid Jargon

Use the words your visitors use. Talk about the topic the way they do. Resist the urge to use the “correct” term. Of then the correct terms and phrases are understood only by educated insiders. Focus on your goal and goals and capabilities of the audience. It does no good to speak precisely, yet fail to communicate.

Skimming vs Reading

Visitors come to the page with a goal in mind. They want to learn something or answer a specific question they have. They typically aren’t sure if this page has the the information they want. Scanning is an efficient way to quickly evaluate a page.

Write with skimming in mind. Hit the key points in headings, bold text and bullets.

A visitor reading only the headings should get an overview of the topic

Make the Page Scannable

  • Use headings & subheadings with key points 
  • Front-load information, put key information first
  • Bullets & bold text highlight key points
  • Plain language & short sentences


Front-Load Content

Use the journalism model of the inverted pyramid.  Start with the content that is most important to your audience, and then provide additional details later in the page.

Opposite of our natural tendencies 

  • Natural to start with evidence and build to a conclusion
  • Be the expert
  • Lead with the conclusion
  • Follow with proof and details, for those who need to be convinced

Helpful Links

Nielsen Norman Group (web usability experts)