Why?

Every use of our website is a conversation started by the site visitor, with a goal in mind:

  • Get an answer
  • Accomplish a task
  • Engage in a social conversation

The conversation will be satisfying to the site user only if they can:

  • Find what they need (easily)
  • Understand what they find (with as little reading as possible)
  • Act on that understanding (in the time and effort that they think it is worth)

How?

For every piece of content you create, answer these three questions.

  • What am I trying to achieve? (purpose)
  • Who am I talking to? (persona)
  • What questions is this person asking? (conversation)

Capture readers with a clear page title.

  • Start with a title that works for your site visitors. What words would they use?
  • Always put the key point in the title.
  • Put verbs in your titles and headings, since people go online to do things.
  • Remember to write web-savvy page titles.
  • Examples:
    • Living with Asthma
    • Hot Cars and Kids — a Deadly Combination

Don’t hog the conversation.

  • A monologue isn’t a conversation. When we write big blocks of text, we’re giving a monologue, not engaging in a conversation.
  • Headings and sub-headings are the site visitor’s turn in the conversation.
  • Headings in the form of questions give voice to the site visitor’s questions.
  • Examples:
    • “What do I need to bring to my child’s appointment?”
    • “What tests will the doctor do?”

Help people “grab and go.”

  • People scan, rather than read, online.
  • You don’t always need full paragraphs, or even full sentences. Think information, not paragraph.
  • Organize the information for the eye:
    • Use bulleted lists for items or choices.
    • Use numbered lists for instructions.
    • Use tables to compare numbers.

Keep the conversation going.

  • Answer your site visitor’s questions and think about what their next question might be.
  • Offer links to more information, contact information, ways to share or comment.
  • Link to appropriate resources throughout the site, and remember to link back from those resources to your page.

This information is quoted from presentations Janice (Ginny) Redish gave at Seattle Children’s in July 2012, and from her book Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works (Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 2007), available in the hospital library.