Reaching Readers on the Web

Like any publication, before you work on a Web page, you should consider your audience, purpose, and the Seven C's of Writing.

Designing Your Page

Here are some tips for designing your page:

  • Use a Title That Describes the Page's Purpose
    If you search for "African violets" on a search engine, you'll find many pages with the simple title, "African Violets." Some might be better titled, "Growing African Violets," "Collecting African Violets," or "Buy the Best African Violets Here!" Use specific words that let your readers know what they'll find on your page.
  • Keep the Title Prominent
    Look away from the page then glance back at it. What draws your eye? If the title isn't the first thing, it should be second only to a graphic that emobodies the purpose of the page.
  • Keep Subheadings Parallel in Grammar and Content
    For instance, on a page called "Raising Perennial Flowers," a list of subheads could include the common names of perennials described on the page (asters, chrysanthemums, day lilies, etc.). You would not add "fertilizers" to that list, because the content isn't parallel.
  • Make the Page Easy to Use and Access
    Don't make readers hunt what they are looking for.
  • Use Active Verbs
    In other words, you say something like, "You should wash your hands," not "Your hand should be washed." For more on active and passive voice, see Grammar Trap: Active vs. Passive Voice or the Purdue Online Writing Lab.
  • Avoid Jargon
    Nobody likes reading things that are too complex to understand. Don't use jargon unless you're sure your audience will know or expect it. For example, if you're writing to a group of row crop producers, you don't have to explain what no-till is.
  • Avoid Too Much Text
    Cut to the chase, break often between paragraphs, and use bullets or lists.
  • Make Text Web Friendly
    Stick with sans serif font (such as Arial or Helvetica) that is at least 11 or 12 points. Avoid creating too many font treatments that make reading it difficult. Remember: studies show that reading text on a computer screen is about 28 percent slower than on paper.

Choosing Images

Choose graphics or photos that fit the page's purpose and think about their psychological effect. If you're selling food, you probably want lots of color and good images of that food. If you're teaching leadership, you probably want bold, clear lines. 

Don't get too elaborate. Make sure your graphics load quickly so that those with slower connections (or who are impatient) don't lose patience waiting for the page to appear. If your page loads slowly, try reducing the sizes of the images or creating thumbnails that visitors can click on and enlarge in another window. 

For more on images and digital photos, see the Images and Photos page

Making Pages Printer Friendly

If readers will print your pages, it is important to visualize how those pages will look on paper. That means your page should use text with very simple formatting. You should also use simple backgrounds or no background at all. 

If you have any forms or pages where retaining the format is important, create downloadable PDF versions. Finally, make sure you test the pages by printing them several times. 

Remembering the Details

Don't forget to:

  • Include the EEO statement - for most purposes, the best bet is to put an "EEO Statement" link at the bottom that sends visitors to (that way, the EEO statement on all your pages will always be up to date).
  • Include the proper Purdue Extension and Purdue University identity.
  • Include contact information each page that includes the Web page name, and the name, e-mail, and mailing addresses of a contact person.

Checking Your Page

Before you launch your page:

  • View your Web page in different browsers to make sure the look is consistent.
  • Check spelling and grammar.
  • Check all links and be sure they work.

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