Different ways of reading
We read in different ways depending on what we are reading.
If you are reading a novel, you might be caught up in the action and reading quickly, or drawn to beautiful language and reading slowly. When you read technical material about a subject you’re not very familiar with your reading speed will probably slow markedly. When you’re reading a report to find specific recommendations you may just quickly skim through the document looking at headings and reading summaries, unless it’s important for you to know all the detail.
Most times when people are reading on the web they are trying to get the information that they need as quickly as possible (although there will be exceptions to this).
What does this mean for you as a writer who is writing for the web?
When you are writing for the web, you really need to know:
- Who you are writing for, and
- Why you are writing.
If you want someone to take action as a result of something you have written you must be clear about what you want them to do. You want them to be able to work out what they have to do quickly.
For example, if you need someone to click a button to order a product, you probably won’t include something like this:
“If, after reading this text, you feel that you are ready to order product XYZ, and if you are absolutely certain, you should click on the green button on the right side of the screen—the one under the pretty picture. This will take you to our order form where you will complete all of your personal details and tell us how you would like to make the purchase. You will then have an opportunity to review your order and blah blah blah…”
When did you stop reading?
How about “Click here to order now” printed in a legible font on the button they need to click? Much easier, isn’t it?
So when you’re writing for the web you need to think about:
- What you’re writing,
- What it’s for,
- Who it’s for,
- What you need your readers to do, and
- What information they need to do what you want them to do.
Make it easy for your reader to know what action you want them to take and you’ll be well on your way to effective web writing.