Know your audience
One of your first considerations should who is the intended audience for your site, i.e.:
- Will the site be intranet only or open to www
- Will your site be primarily aimed at parents and patients e.g. RCH Parent Info
- Is it for use of clinicians e.g. Clinical Practice Guidelines
- Or for RCH staff only e.g. Human Resources.
It is possible that your site will have different sections that will serve different audience groups.
Knowing your target audience will define how you write your content, i.e. for health professionals or for the consumer.
Suitability of your content
- Is your information correct and factual?
- If using information from other sources have you
- cited the original source
- checked copyright restrictions. Please ensure you do not use diagrams or illustrations taken from other websites or publications. ERC has graphic designers and illustrators on staff that can produce original illustrations for use on your site
Style and language
Once you have decided on the purpose of your site it will be time to start gathering your information. Always remember your target audience when writing your content.
Some points to remember:
- Avoid using jargon-ridden text; your content should be accessible to anyone
- Use everyday words, short sentences and the active voice
- Don't be verbose. Most users coming to your site will want to access information quickly and easily. Using brief and concise text will assist them in this goal
- Always have your most important information at the top of the page
- Avoid duplication across your web site. Try to organise your content so that you can link to information that is used more than once rather than duplicating text on several pages
- After writing your first draft of a new page, have a peer read the document to test if you are communicating your point effectively.
Microsoft Word can be used to measure the readability of your content. Checking the readability score of your document won't verify if you are writing high quality content, but will help diagnose any problems with your text.
To enable readability checking in Word 97/2000:
- Click on 'Tools' > 'spelling and grammar'
- Click on the 'Options' button
- Tick 'show readability statistics'
- Click OK
- Tick 'Check grammar'
- Perform a spell-check. Once spelling and grammar are completed a readability box is shown including the Flesch-Kincaid Readability score.
You should aim for a Flesch-Kincaid Readability score to suit your intended audience as detailed below:
- Young people - between 5 and 7
- General public - between 5 and 9
- Health professionals - between 7 and 12
For more information about using Word to measure readability, see:
Maintenance of content
To maintain the quality of RCH web sites it is important to ensure your content doesn't become out of date. Set up a regular maintenance/review schedule for all online content.
All Content Management System (CMS) users should periodically check the status of their web pages. Any web page that has not been updated for 15 months will appear as a red link when the user logs in to the system. Any page that has not been reviewed for 18 months will be hidden from public view, so don't ignore these warnings. See Reviewing & updating pages for more info.
You should check the currency of any documents you have available for download. Don't leave out of date or unnecessary documents in your CMS library. If you have files that are no longer required contact the web team to have them removed.
Web addresses can change leaving broken links on your web site so include link checking as part of your review process.
Write structured documents
Studies have found that users tend to scan web pages for relevant information rather than read them closely. Use appropriate headings or bulleted lists to direct their focus to important content.
Focus on content, not design
You have been given the task of creating/maintaining content for the RCH website because you are an expert in your area. For this reason you are a very valuable part of the overall web strategy for RCH.
As the majority of design considerations have already been addressed by the web team and approved by the Web Advisory Committee, your goal should be to focus on high quality content, and not on making your document different or colourful.
If your document requires some special design treatment, please consult the web team for assistance and direction.
- The Non-Writer’s Guide to Writing for the Web [SitePoint]