Monday, November 22, 2010

Writing for the Internet—Part Three

The last part of Writing for the Internet that I want to cover is the importance of graphic elements in what we write. This includes much more than pictures—we discussed sentence structure, formatting and font choice in the first post. Today we’ll go deeper into what makes a webpage readable.

In years past, the emphasis with writing was simply that—writing. Now, as our society has become more and more visual we, as writers, must also evolve. This is especially true on the Internet. We must broaden our horizons and become designers. Trends and statistics are clear; in less than 5 years 85% of what is viewed on the Internet will be video.

Important Factors to Consider
  • Wide margins – approx 12 words per line max.
  • If your text is longer than 1-2 printed pages, try to break it up into separate web pages. It’ll be easier to read and the pages will download faster, especially if the user has a dial-up connection.
  • Avoid a busy background or frame.
  • Consider contrast between text and background. Although white is a good background color, consider a shade that is barely off-white as this is usually easier on the eyes.
  • Choose your font wisely. Times New Roman isn’t a good choice for reading on the computer. Arial, Helvetica, Verdana and Georgia are better choices. (This site is designed using only Verdana) Also take into account font size.
As writers we often view our words within a box, or at least our minds. We don't pay attention to the whole picture. We can no longer afford that mindset. When writing for the web, we have to educate ourselves. Often writers will be consulted or at least asked to voice an opinion.
Things to Consider
  • Study the web pages you go back to again and again. Make a list of what catches your eye. 
  • Look at web pages that frustrate you and make a list of your frustrations. 
  • Notice why the pictures and graphics help hold your attention when you're reading a magazine article.
All of these tools will help you become a more savvy content writer. Beyond that, make a commitment to stay current on the trends in your business—the Internet and all things digital. To that end, here are some websites I recommend to help you stay up to date on the changing market.

Now it's your turn. Where do you go to stay plugged into the digital revolution?

Don't forget to join the conversation!


  1. A slight proviso: serif fonts like Times New Roman can be good ones to use in a header, to contrast with the sans-serif font you use in the body. Even then, make sure it's a font that is widely installed across most computers (here's a survey of the most common ones).

    I sometimes browse the Webbys (the Web Awards, think Grammys for music) for ideas, although the designs nominated there can be a bit more avant-garde than is commonly required. I think the best thing to do when starting a site is to decide who the primary audience is, then look for similar sites targeted at those users. As you mentioned, you'll get good ideas even from the ones you hate (if only to know not to commit the same mistakes.

  2. Edie, you continue to take me kicking and screaming into the world of technology and all things digital.

    Thanks for the push... :-)