Writing for the web, why less is more

We’ve heard so much recently about the importance of content in marketing.  Unless you’ve spent the last 24 months in hiding then you will be well aware that your content should be engaging, useful, relevant and original.  No pressure then!   Yes, keeping you website regularly updated with fresh content that is all of the above will undoubtedly help with organic search and improve your online profile but there is another crucial factor when writing for the web, one that is often forgotten or overlooked.  Content needs to be concise.

Now I’ve always been a supporter of clear and concise writing but never has it been more important.  We all want to create new content and to ensure we’re using keyword to improve our SEO but sometimes less is more.  We now spend so much time online on mobile devices that it should be obvious.  We simply don’t have the space on our small screens for waffle!WritingForTheWeb

Whether it’s an ecommerce site or not your visitors, particularly those on a mobile or tablet, want to get from A to B as quickly and easily as possible.  Extensive testing and research has proved that few users actually read web copy word for word, they scan.  So their user experience will be improved if copy is simple, clear and guides them seamlessly through to the information or purchase they are looking for.

If you’ve created a new mobile site or made your site responsive or are about to then it might be a good time to consider reviewing the copy.  Using the same copy as on a previous version of a desktop site may not work as well as you would hope.    Make time to look at the copy and ensure you are conveying information and instructions in the most straightforward way possible.  Consider cutting copy down, obviously this will depend on your starting point but do remove unnecessary words and use clear, simple terminology. Think about what the user wants or needs to do on your site and work to make that process as clear as possible for them. For example do you need to say “add to your shopping trolley” or would one short word “buy” work better?

The caveat! Now this might sound like a contradiction but one of the advantages of writing for the web is there are no word limits.  It’s not like print where you may be constrained by a design or the number of pages available to you.   I’ve heard advice like take your copy and edit by cutting it down 50%.  This simply won’t work; it’s not about the length of a paragraph or the number of words it is about being clear and using the right language to convey information and calls to action effectively.