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Top 10 Tips for Writing for the Web

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Lynda Felder, author of Writing for the Web: Creating Compelling Web Content Using Words, Pictures, and Sound, shares tips to make your web content captivating and relevant.

All photos in this article are by Yashwin Chauhan.

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The Web has become a giant swirling stew of stories and messages, with more and more content added to the mess at any given moment. Writing for the Web can be challenging, exciting, and fun—yet daunting. How can you make sure that your web content gets noticed and is well received? Here are 10 tips to help you get the best results.

Tip 1: Write for a Specific Audience

Understanding your audience is the most important consideration for any web writing project. Only when you have a clear picture of your target audience can you make your content clear, meaningful, and interesting to your readers. Don't fall into the trap of trying to write for everybody. The more you understand about your readers, the better you'll be able to grab their attention and make them feel comfortable. You'll use terms that are familiar to them and they're likely to use for searching. For example, a seven-year-old who takes a spill on her bicycle will talk about her injuries as cuts, scrapes, and bruises; a physician might discuss such wounds as lacerations, abrasions, and contusions or hematomas.

Get to Know Your Audience

Once you've determined, in general, who your audience is, you'll need to get to know that audience even better. When you write about topics that are near and dear to your heart, most likely you're writing for friends, family, and colleagues, so you already know much about who your readers are and what topics they'll like. Here are a few suggestions for ways to gain an even better understanding of your audience:

  • Ask questions via phone, email, text, and so on
  • Attend tradeshows, competitions, forums, and other events
  • Watch TV and YouTube interviews of famous people in your field
  • Read blogs and news stories

Develop a Persona

A persona is a hypothetical user or reader—a person who is made up, but based on real details gathered from real people in your target audience. Usability guru Alan Cooper first introduced the persona design tool in his book The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity. Personas are now a popular tool for usability, web design, and other formats where it's important to understand the audience.

After you've gathered all the information you need about your audience, you can easily create the persona to help you stay on track and write to a specific type of person. You just need to create a short bio for that hypothetical person. You can use Figure 1 as a template to design your persona. Then use your persona to help judge whether your web content appeals to your target audience.

Figure 1 Develop a persona.

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