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Building a
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Web design
Write for the Web
Balance content & presentation
Copyright issues
Further reading

Write for the Web

Side Bar

Endeavor - with most diligent labor, O aspiring artist!- to master
content. The form will rise to meet you.


Side Bar

In the process of creating a Web project, students often focus on the form, and then deal with the content later. It's easy to understand. Working with graphics and colors, picking images, and creating sound files is a lot of fun. And, the more complex the technology, the more you feel like you're really accomplishing something.

But, there is a danger in focusing on the form. Mulatuli, the Dutch author, stated that "ideas are all and they are in short supply". 

I would agree to a point. Without content, you have no project.

The Internet is an amazing hybrid of different types of media and requires a different type of strategy. Content, writing, and multimedia hold a great influence on each other and can't be designed without taking each into consideration.

Writing for the Computer Screen

In traditional writing, form consists of proper margins and spacing. The clever student might use a different font or colors, but the end result is the same.

The writing is meant for hard copy, meaning that it will be printed on a piece of paper. This is actually important. There is a major difference in writing for paper and writing for the computer screen, because the experience for the reader is very different.

Jakob Nielsen, the author of Multimedia and Hypertext: The Internet and Beyond, describes two major criteria when writing for the computer, specifically the Web; succinctness and scanability.

Be succinct: Reading text on the computer screen is difficult and on the average 25% slower than reading traditional hard copy. Therefore you should actually write about 50% less text. At first that may seem good news for the student who counts words and lines. But in practice, it is much more difficult. What it does is force students to think concretely and focus on what they want to say.

Some helpful suggestions for organizing and designing information for an online project:

  • use bullets to separate and prioritize information

  • chunk information in small blocks of text. It is easier to read and studies have shown that people are able to retain more of the content

Write for scanability:

Because it is difficult to read on a screen, it is important to assist the reader in viewing information:

  • structure information so that there are clear and distinct headings

  • each heading should tell the reader what the following information is about

  • use highlighting and emphasis to draw the reader's attention to important information. But, be careful. If too many words are emphasized, you've emphasized nothing, and you've probably given the reader a headache.

This process of writing for the computer has some tangible benefits for your writing. First, it requires you to organize information in such a way that it can be understood.

Secondly, information must be clearly and succinctly written. There is no room for fluff or straying from the main idea.

Next section: Balancing presentation and content

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