Good Website Copy

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Concise, Paragraphs, and the ever tricky Terms and Conditions.

There’s no two ways about it… writing copy for a new website can be daunting.

If this is the first time you are having a website designed you should ask your web developer what you need to be thinking about for the content right from the start. During development period while your site is being designed and built you can be gathering your content in preparation for going live.

Typically your site's structure will be mapped out pretty early on and there are some pages which are pretty much givens (Home page, About, Contact…) or required by law (Returns policy, Terms & conditions…) depending on what your site is used for.

Write too much or not enough?

When writing copy I would say it's almost always better to over write and edit it back down later. Sometimes you write a handful of paragraphs for your About Us page content then you decide with your developer to instead include the 'about' content in the page footer across the site. There's not the room for all your copy so you revisit the text and remove the fat till you have the appropriate amount of text.

I find this method of over-write and trim helps you focus on what's important and gets the reader to the important information quicker. The over spill is still useful and could well be used elsewhere or just handy when you want to update your text, remember it’s good for SEO for your text content to change once in a while.

People's attention span is famously short on the web, for example it's often said that if your page doesn't load in 5 seconds you'll lose a proportion of your potential visitors. Give your visitors short, clear paragraphs that don't waste their time with hyperbole and gets to the point efficiently.

Never rely on images to make your content interesting. Certainly have good quality imagery to draw the eye and give customers a sense of place in your site but back it up with good clear content.

Good Practice

When preparing content, either before or after launch, it's wise to have that content in offline files so you have a backup for your own use should you accidentally delete and lose your material. There is nothing worse than typing in a page worth of content into an internet site and pressing save only to find your internet connection has gone down and the content isn't saved.

You can use these offline documents to help you organise and maintain a style and uniformity of presentation. It is also useful should you wish to revert some content months or years after you replaced it.

Most people these days are familiar with Microsoft Word and have it on their PC for word-processing. While it is certainly convenient it should also be noted that content copied from Word has a tendency to carry over a lot of the junk code that's hidden behind the content that is used to indicate the indents, bold, italicising, underlining and even font information that might not be desirable as it overrides what you web developer has defined for you on your website.


Cleaning up your Junk

Select All (CTRL+A), Copy (CTRL+C) and Paste (CTRL+V) are your best friends here and I'll take you through a quick example of how you can clean your content before population.

  • Open your content document
  • Select all by Holding down the CTRL button and press A. This selects everything in the document with just two key presses. You can use your mouse or Shift+cursors too but I find it the quickest and most accurate way.
  • Hold CTRL and press C to copy all the selected content.
  • Open Notepad (or any other word processor that doesn't support background XLM or HTML, my preference is for "Notepad++")
  • Click into the empty white space where you type.
  • Hold CTRL and press V to paste in the content. This strips out the junk code and replaces it with clean plain text which can be pasted into your website without the fear of adding in junk.
  • Again hold CTRL + A to select all the content in the notepad.
  • Hold CTRL and press C to copy all the selected content in notepad.
  • Move to your CMS and click in the content area you wish to populate
  • Finally hold CTRL and press V to paste in the clean content.

It's worth noting that this is not effective for content with tables in it (which you can copy over or recreate in the CMS separately) and bullet points will likely need to be recreated. Despite it's limitations you are rewarded with consistent content, uniformity of fonts &readability and quicker page loading without all the background junk.

The above Select All, Copy & Paste system is a default function of windows and most applications so you can apply this same system to any number of other computer related processes. I for one never submit a form on a website without taking a (CTRL+A & CTRL+C) copy of the content just in case there is a problem and I can simply re-paste the content in and try sending again.


Happy editing.

By Alanna at 13 Aug 2014, 16:09 PM