How to write effective copy on the internet for web designers

Are you a web designer? Then most probably you have once encountered a client who on reviewing the website proposal say something like “Wow, that looks fantastic. Could you please rewrite this text for the website?” Or something like “Ok, that looks great, but this text file includes the About Us page, put it online please.” These situations sometimes happen even if you’re only passionate about web design. You might not be too fond of writing or arranging some lines of text. But I tell you what, you might be overlooking a huge opportunity of work beyond web design and layouts. You, the web designer are the best person to for this job. You know the internet, you know the tools (HTML tags, CSS…etc.). Basically you have all the necessary skills to write credible eye-catching web copy. Read on and find out why and how you should embrace writing for the internet as a web designer.

People’s reading behavior on any web pages is different than that of traditional printed copy such as newspapers and books. First of all, obviously web pages are delivered on screens (computer screens, mobile phones, even TVs) while traditional copy is usually delivered on a printed paper. But when it comes to web pages, people usually skim or scan through the text. They don’t really read word for word. They simply jump around to different areas of a web page. Take a look at the following example:

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Sample Eye Tracking Video on: Squidoo.com

This video was published through YouTube on May 30, 2006. You can read more about this it on an article named: What I learned from eye tracking

As you can see in this example, the user jumps from one place to another. They don’t stick to one spot for an extended period. Try to analyze your own behavior on this website. You’ll notice that your eyes always jump between various spots on Joptima.com. Did you notice that? :)

Now, let’s consider why should not turn down a request to write or rewrite the copy on websites follow this simple process:

How to write effective copy for a website

1- Write short, straight to the point text.

Because people won’t read each and every word on a web page, focus your text, cut your paragraphs in half, and then after reviewing try halving the remaining text again. Always try to leave only what you think people really need to know. One other interesting point to note is that people usually read the first paragraph and then scan through the rest. So ensure that all the important points are covered on the very first paragraph.

2- Use HTML and CSS standards

As a web designer, this part is more relevant to you as you deal with Headings, Links and all sorts of HTML and CSS tags on daily basis. So this is really so familiar to you. As a web designer you know that search engines play an important role in todays web sphere, so always keep in mind that not only you are writing for humans, but also for robots! Yes, GoogleBot is one of them. GoogleBot is a search “bot” software used by Google, that collects documents from the web to build a searchable index for the Google search engine. So while keeping robots in mind and not writing for them solely, you are giving your website a higher ranking position in a Google search result page. Isn’t that what everybody wants?

The following list shows you some of the HTML standards you should use and how.

  • Page Titles: Should be brief and descriptive of the page they sit on top of.
  • Page Headings: Include them whenever possible to breakdown your copy while always start them with the relevant keywords. I wouldn’t recommend using more than 3 levels of headings in any given page anyway.
  • Lists: Such as this one, lists always draw people’s attention to a specific part of a page.
  • Pull-Quotes: If there’s one sentence or a paragraph within your copy that you’d like to draw people’s attention to, there’s no better way of doing that other than the use of pull-quotes.
  • Hyperlinks: The juice of the internet, every link on the internet is like a vote to tell search engines “Hey, this is a good page, it’s worth reading” So always include as many relevant links within your copy as long as it doesn’t overpower the entire copy which tends to switch people’s interest off.

3- Use images, diagrams and charts

Text, on its own, is boring. The use of images or diagrams to present information will always help in keeping people interested. Only make sure that when including images for example you are not violating any copy rights and that you are allowed from the photographer or the owner of the artwork to use it in your copy.

4- Review your copy twice, at least

Finally, after applying all these points, make sure that you re-read the entire copy more than once. This is an exercise many copywriters use. In fact everyone should do that just to fix any “leaking holes” in your copy. Sometimes you write something but when you set back and look at the text as a whole, you find something which you wish you’d changed before hitting the “Publish” or “Save” buttons.

So, after performing those previous tasks, writing copy for a website should be easier by now. I strongly recommend a book entitled: How to Write Great Copy for the Web by Donna Spencer which has inspired me greatly while writing this article. (Note: This is not an affiliated link nor a paid article by any mean)

Share your experience with us if you ever had an enquiry to do a similar thing. What did you do? Were there any obstacles you had to solve?

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11 Comments to “How to write effective copy on the internet for web designers”

  1. Rob Cubbon 27 October 2010 at 7:12 pm #

    I absolutely agree with all the main points here. Especially to keep sentences short and to avoid long paragraphs to keep your text scannable. I also agree that web and design people can be great at writing effective copy!

  2. Ayman Aboulnasr 28 October 2010 at 8:42 am #

    @Rob, Thanks a lot for your comment.

    True, Web designers can be great at copy writing, especially as mentioned at the article that they have the tools and with the help of these simple tips they can get even better! :)

  3. Gabriele Ervin 6 November 2010 at 3:45 pm #

    There are some great pointers in your article. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Ayman Aboulnasr 6 November 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    @Gabriele. You are most welcome. I’m glad you found the article useful :)

  5. Nadine Arendse 9 January 2011 at 10:30 pm #

    Yes, this post has indeed been useful and I have noted Pull-Quotes which I believe are effective in all kinds of writing and will keep practicing the other points to incorporate in my own writing. Thank you for spot on pointers.

  6. Mark Narusson 18 January 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    Nice post Ayman. Very useful info which I will no doubt use on my next web project. Many thanks.

  7. Ayman Aboulnasr 18 January 2011 at 12:28 pm #

    @Nadin, You’re most welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

  8. Ayman Aboulnasr 18 January 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    @ Mark, You’re most welcome. I’m happy that the article will be of any help to your next projects.
    Best of luck. Well done on your website, Impressive portfolio.

  9. Article Marketing4 Newbies 5 April 2011 at 7:05 am #

    Great post, very enjoyable read and I agree with most of what you say!

  10. ajurna ID 12 May 2011 at 10:54 am #

    This is a very nice post. but I am still a newbie so understand a little. I’ve just learned CMS installation wordpress.org in self hosted

  11. Ayman Aboulnasr 23 May 2011 at 11:32 am #

    @ajurna ID

    I’m glad you found the article helpful. You may send us any WordPress related questions. We’ll do our best to find the answer for you! :)


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