Write for the Web
On the majority of your "interior" pages (pages other than your homepage, or special landing pages) we recommend starting text content with "Intro Text", a style that can be found in the "Styles" menu in the editing tool. Generally, we suggest using this style for the first few sentences (three or less) on the page.
You can see how we have employed this technique on all of the example pages we have created for you on this site (like on this page). It sets up the page content with the type that is decidedly larger than your body copy, creating visual contrast, and making it very easy for your eyes to notice quickly. Using this style dramatically increases the ease of scanning content for your user. And when it comes to writing for the web, creating content that is easy to scan is your priority (as you'll learn more about below).
How to compose your text
As you write content for the web, we recommend that your paragraphs remain relatively short, and broken up by headings, as this increases the likelihood that your content will be scanned, and read through. As noted on usability.gov, "Writing for the Web", is quite a bit different than writing for print. And, as described by Jakob Nielson in "Be Succinct! (Writing for the Web)", "people read 25% slower onscreen, and they skim rather than reading. Web text should be short, scannable...". Consider only including a small portion of the text you would include for print, in your online version. And, always, always, break up those walls of text.
Related Topic: Creating accessible content
Break text up into chunks
As suggested by the Nielson Norman Group, breaking content up into groups of information is an idea that comes out of cognitive psychology. Humans — their eyes and their brains — find information easier to understand when broken down into meaningful chunks. Think about the structure of a phone number or your social security number.
Activating this human cognitive function in long forms of texts can dramatically increase the likelihood that your content will be scanned, read through, and retained — especially on the web. Writing your content into chunks aides natural user behavior and can increase user satisfaction with your website.
Take advantage of headings
Headings increase the ability to scan content visually, and for this reason alone, they are a critical part of your website. Further, creating hierarchical headings throughout your text content impacts — arguably — three, even more, important considerations:
- Semantic structure accuracy
Take advantage of Paragraphs
Our Stanford Sites Drupal platform provides a number of Paragraph Types to increase the ability to chunk information and in visually compelling and unique ways. Paragraph Types can be used to increase visual hierarchy, contrast, and create a variety between primary and supplementary content.
Stanford News Service Style Guide
This style guide attempts to offer guidance on matters of style peculiar to our educational institution