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Writing for the Web - Full

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Writing for the Web

Processes to make content creation easier.

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Content is hard because:

It takes more time than you think
It's tedious
It requires brain power
A blank page is daunting.
It's not as glamorous as choosing a design or thinking up ideas.
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It's a process

I was going to just go through best practices and tips for writing page content. And do exercises where we look at stuff and rewrite it.

But then, I got thinking about the whole process of preparing content for the web. And it's a whole log bigger.

You can google top web writing tips and get thousands of blog posts.

But you might not find something that walks you through a 4 month process.

So that's what I'm going to try and do today. To give you a structure to move through that will get you there, if you follow it.
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  • organize
  • draft
  • prep
  • load
  • maintain

1. Organize

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Use a content matrix

Content matrix lets you know

  • what
  • who
  • when

Matrix owner

Who's going to check in and keep things on track?
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Create your site structue Google Drive and outline content types

I've provided more info about drafting your content in Google docs and a link to your Google docs folder on the project site:


Event page example:
Image for page
Image for homepage
Event details
Registration info
Form/link to register

What's next?

  • Finalize your structure (update grid and Google Drive)
  • Figure out workflow and tasks
  • Determine content types
  • Set deadlines
  • Block time on your schedule

2. Draft

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Top 3 writing best practices

  • write for your audience
  • don't be complex
  • show your personality

Write for your audience.

writing best practice #1
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“People don’t buy quarter-inch drill bits. They buy quarter-inch holes so they can hang their children’s pictures.”

-Made to Stick (page 179) by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

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Tips on writing for your audience

  • Think about needs, hopes, wants, dreams
  • Talk to people
  • Read intake notes
  • Remove insider language

Don't be too complex.

Writing best practice #2
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How would I explain it to grandma?

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Tips for reducing compexity

  • Identify the key tasks or goals for your audience
  • Make it easy to accomplish those tasks
  • Break up paragraphs and cut stuff
  • Change your process
  • Read it out loud

Show your personality.

Writing best practice #3
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Next steps

  • Review voice and personality info on the project site
  • Update it to best fit MCC before you start writing

3. Prep

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After your content is drafted:

  • Create main components of each webpage
  • Format your content following web best practices
  • Gather files and imagery

The main components

Anatomy of a webpage
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Page title

(should tell visitors exactly what they'll find)

Tips for page titles

  • Keep it short
  • Use clear language
  • Make the first two words count
  • Avoid internal jargon or acronyms

(label assigned to webpage that appears in url)

Tips for IDs

  • Use words that make sense
  • In almost every case your ID should match your page title
  • No capital letters
  • Use hyphens between words
  • Don't use obscure abbreviations or acronyms


(one sentence summary of your page content)

Tips for descriptions

  • Use key terms
  • Don't over use key terms
  • Think about what would be helpful in a Google search list or a Facebook post

Page content or body

Tips for page content

  • Put most important info first
  • Use short sentences and graphs
  • Put some structure to your info

Call to action

Tips for your call to action

  • Think about the next logical step for your user
  • Make it easy for them to take that step
  • Use clear, active language

Make sure these components are on your docs

Template your pages in google drive with at least these key items.

This is so important from a search engine perspective.

Make sure you have all of these items before you sign off saying your page is done and ready for loading!

Formatting your page content

Web best practices

Create structure with headings and lists

Tips for structure

  • Break info into logical sections
  • Write clear, concrete headings
  • Find list opportunities
  • Repeat structures for similar content (staff bios, event pages, stories)

Add emphasis only when needed

Tips for emphasis

  • Use bold for emphasis - but don't over use!
  • Never underline text (people will think it's a link)
  • Italics should be used minimally, almost never

Find linking opportunities

Tips for links

  • Link nouns and key phrases (verbs are more vague)
  • Create a strong info scent
  • Never use "click here"
  • Don't bombard people - link what seems natural

Gather and ID your files

Make loading easy!
Use the same best practices for page IDs

Include the file extension:


Test some pages

And some users

Next steps:

  • Look in your CMS to see if they have some structures already created
  • Come up with a plan for gathering images and where to store them
  • Draft and prep a few key pages early so you can start testing

4. Load

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We have to remove formatting and paste our content as plain text.

And then we reapply our formatting using the CMS tools.

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It's tedious

but it creates a clean, consistent experience
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Some things won't fit

You'll want to make adjustments
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Tips for loading

  • Make loading and proofing assignments
  • Do the tedious work to reformat content in the CMS
  • Repeat formatting for similar pages
  • Keep heading styles consistent across pages
  • Test on multiple devices
  • Proof everything and test links

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Two kinds of content

  • Needs frequent updates
  • Requires review every 6-12 month

What needs frequent updates?

  • Events
  • Blog
  • Homepage feature
  • Training resources

For things needing frequent updates

  • Create a schedule - calendar events, editorial schedule for blog posts
  • Assign owners - who is involved, what do they do
  • Stick to your schedules. Follow your process.

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What needs scheduled review?

  • Our story
  • Contact info
  • How to give
  • Team bios

For things needing review

  • Assign content owners
  • Block off time twice a year on your calendar to review your content and make updates

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  • Organize
  • Draft
  • Prep
  • Load
  • Maintain

Follow the process

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Don't wait till the last minute.

You won't make everyone happy.

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You can do this.

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