Writing for the web requires attention to many details. Here, we address guidelines for several topics to help you succeed at writing for the web.
Do's and Don'ts
Following these simple “do’s” and “don’ts” can help you create great web content.
“Do’s” for Your Web Content
- Do have the information about your school or service that users need to know.
- Do name the top five conditions your service is designed to treat.
- Do provide a brief, easy-to-understand definition of any applicable medical conditions or complex medical terms.
- Do use plain language (see Readability).
- Do break your content into sections so it will be easier to scan and digest.
- Do refer to our writing standards when referencing organizational entities and abbreviations.
- Do provide the most accurate contact information (phone number and email address), updating phone numbers and email addresses when needed.
“Don’ts” for Your Web Content
- Don’t use the intro portion of your page as a “welcome” message. Instead, let it be a two-to-four sentence summary of your service, school or program.
- Don’t include information that’s irrelevant to users.
- Don’t use “insider” jargon only known by the medical or academic community.
- Don’t use slang.
- Don’t inundate your page with anatomical or graphic medical images. Consider your audience and whether an image you find useful will benefit them.
- Don’t weigh down your page with excessive links. When linking to an external page, consider whether that page is at risk of being removed by its owner at some point. If so, you would be leading your users to a dead link. This also makes a negative impact on search engine optimization.
Learn More About These Do’s and Don’ts
Web content, including text, images, videos and links, should be accessible for a variety of reasons. Here, we address these reasons and discuss places where accessibility matters most.
What is accessibility?
Accessibility is the result of making your website more usable by removing certain barriers. In addition to being important for people with certain disabilities, accessibility is important for all users. People who are elderly, using mobile devices, having internet trouble or unable to listen to audio are all good examples.
Why is accessibility important?
To start, accessible web content provides a better user experience (UX) for your visitors. Creating a good experience requires attention to navigation, ease of use and content clarity. This is important to users of all ability levels. Second, accessible websites promote organizational health. There is legal precedent for lawsuits against organizations with inaccessible websites. Also, government statistics show 71% of users with a disability will leave a website that is not accessible.
Although the people who develop and design the site take care of many accessibility items, a few are the responsibility of the people who create content. Those items include:
- Alt image tags - By including alt image tags on all images, you are describing your images to users who are visually or cognitively impaired — or, users who simply choose not to display images in their browsers.
- Captions and transcripts - Captioning or transcripting audio and video content makes it accessible to the hearing impaired and non-English speakers.
- Formatted links - Formatting your links makes your content more accessible than a long URL pasted into the body of your content. Most screen reader devices (used by the visually impaired) cannot read a long URL. To format links: Select the text you want to link, click on the hyperlink ("chain" link) icon and paste your link into the URL box.
- Descriptive link text - Avoid using “click here” or the word “link.” Instead, only link relevant text or keywords that describe what people will be viewing if they click the link.
Learn More About Accessibility
By creating accessible web content, you are making a positive impact on our organizational websites. For questions on accessibility, feel free to reach out to the Web Center. Open a ticket by filling out our contact form, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are happy to help.
Readability is how easy something is to read. In general, simpler, shorter and better-structured content is best. Remember these tips:
- Write like you talk.
- Use simpler words and shorter sentences.
- Structure your page so it’s easy to scan.
Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of making things easier to find on the web. The more people we reach, the more people we can help. Remember these tips:
- Focus on what your users want and need — everything else is secondary.
- Create content people are looking for.
- Create content that convinces users to take a specific action (like contact us).
Alt Image Tags
An alt image tag is a small but important element of web content. Here, we explain what alt image tags are, why they are important and how to write them effectively.
What is an alt image tag?
An alt image tag is a written attribute that serves as "alternative text" for an image. It is text that describes the image for someone who may not be able to see the screen.
Why are alt image tags important?
Alt image tags are read by assistive devices such as screen readers; these devices will use your alt image tag to describe an image to blind or visually impaired users. For this reason, alt image tags play an important role in website accessibility. They can also be helpful for search engine optimization (SEO) by making your image more search-friendly.
Alt Image Tag Guidelines
A good alt image tag is one that simply, briefly explains what the image is.
- Be descriptive. “Two male students in a lab” is a good descriptor of an image.
- But not too descriptive. “One tall male student with brown hair and one short male student with blonde hair in a lab holding glass tubes with liquid” is too descriptive.
- Follow character limits. There is a character limit of 25 characters, as most screen readers cut off after that number.
- Avoid keyword stuffing. This may hurt SEO rather than help it. Use natural, relevant keywords in your alt image tags.
- Avoid redundancy. Avoid using the words “picture of,” “photo of” or “image of” in your alt image tag; the screen reader will announce an image before reading your alt text to the user.
How to Create an Alt Image Tag
When uploading an image to a page, type your alt image tag into the box titled “Alternative Text.”