Web history publishing

Page 2 – Writing for the Web

Writing for the Web

Keep it short and simple

Think of screens as short pages, 350–500 words broken up with images, sub-headings and icons. Use hypertext links to open big background documents for the more specialist user.

Test your writing with the Gunning Fog Index. This estimates how many years’ schooling are needed to readily understand the text. The lower the number, the easier the writing is to comprehend. Some sites calculate it automatically.

Make it scannable

Web users make up their minds about a page in seconds. They scan for key words and skim promising information. If your text is inviting and relevant they may read it; if not, they’re gone! Scrolling down long pages (except for technical information, which they’ll probably print out) is a big turn-off. 

Put key information in sub-heads. The first two or three words in a line are important since most users scan down the left-hand side of the screen. Keep your writing short without sounding staccato. Use bullet points for lists or processes.

People enter websites via search engines. Do not assume they will enter page one first or read from page one to page two. As you do not know which page of your site users will enter, make each page as self-contained as possible, and make navigation structures clear.


How to cite this page

'Writing for the Web', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/hands/web-history-publishing/writing-for-the-web, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 17-May-2017