Weebly. Wix. Drag-and-drop WordPress themes. Easy site-building tools are everywhere, and why not? Pick a theme, drag and drop, choose a background color, drop in your logo, BOOM! You just made a web site. Maybe it doesn’t look professional, exactly, but it’s not half-bad! It looks waaaay better than that other guy’s.
Well, you already know that free isn’t always best.
If, however, you’re committed to a DIY site-builder, please, for the LOVE OF GOD, read this before you write your first “About Me” sentence.
Your site visitors will not READ your text. They will SCAN it. If it isn’t very well-written, they won’t even do that. They will bounce, faster than you can say “bounce.” If you’re web savvy, this probably seems obvious to you, but apparently it isn’t so obvious, after all. Thousands and thousands of poorly-written “do-nothing” sites dot the internet graveyard. What if the authors of all those informational pages had actually understood how to write effectively for the web? Maybe those sites would have done something instead of nothing for the business owner.
Check this “oldie but still goodie” Web Style Guide for a more detailed explanation, but here are a few nuggets of wisdom about how to write for the web.
- Structure your text. Use headings and sub-headings (your h1 and h2 tags) to break it into visual chunks. Keep paragraphs fairly short.
- Use lists, images, and bold text, rather than paragraph after paragraph of standard text.
- Think about what your site visitor needs from that page. Keep your writing focused on exactly what they need, rather than how much you know or want to share. They will probably not find it as interesting as you do.
- Be ruthlessly concise. Edit, and edit again. Cut out anything unnecessary, or any long explanations. If you really must go into more detail, create another page and link to it. Have someone else edit it for you, as well.
- Most readers prefer an upbeat, conversational writing style. You are not writing a research paper. Use correct grammar, punctuation and spelling, but remember: they’re scanning for solutions to their problems.
- Use the inverted pyramid model of writing. Make sure the most essential information is near the top of the page.
Here are a few more sources for learning effective writing for the web. Enjoy!