Be your own content expert

Amy Little

Whether you're a writer, editor or content strategist, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about how to effectively reach your audience. Maybe you pore over personas and case studies for inspiration. But there's probably one resource you're not considering—you! As a web user, you can be your own content expert.

Think about it. You know what an effective user experience feels like when you come across it: An instantly identifiable objective. Clean, concise copy. Benefits front-and-center. Easy navigation and clear task instructions.

Sure, style guides and success metrics are important tools for creating better content. But as a web writer and editor, I've learned that considering my own user experience every step of the way is one of the best strategies for success.

Here are some tips for developing your inner content expert.

Change your perception of web writing

We all hear a lot about the differences between print writing and web writing. Overall, web writing has to be more concise—scannable, task-driven, presented in bulleted lists, etc.—than print copy.

On the surface those differences seem pretty straightforward. I mean, when it comes down to it, good writing is good writing, right?

Not exactly. Web writing is a whole other animal. It needs to work in harmony with the design and information architecture to create a seamless user experience. It needs to help people DO something. And once you recognize that, you might need to change your approach to creating content.

How? By answering this one simple—but very important—question:

Is this something I'd want to read?

In other words, if I landed on this web page and read the copy, would it hold my attention? Would I get the information I need to complete my task? It may sound like common sense, but this approach can make a huge difference in the quality of your web content. Trust me.

White space is your friend

You've most likely visited a website filled with paragraph after paragraph of copy. And you've most likely zoned out, stopped reading, and maybe even left the site. I know I have.

Keep this in mind when you're creating your content. If you can, see how it looks in a design mock-up. How dense do those paragraphs appear? Does the copy length seem intimidating and time-consuming? Would you read it if you were trying to complete a task in the midst of juggling a million other things, as your users likely are?

If not, start slashin'. Create some white space. Web users want to find what they need as quickly as possible so they can move on to the next task. They don't want to spend a lot of time sifting through unnecessary copy to find the information they really need.

Remember, attention spans are short. Make sure your content keeps readers engaged.

Say something that matters

Concise copy alone isn't enough. Bulleted lists don't guarantee good web content. You still need to make sure the limited words on the page actually help users do what they came to do or learn what they came to learn. We're talking product or service benefits, clear instructional copy, user-friendly navigation nomenclature, etc.

When you're trying to complete a task or order a product, you want the most direct path possible to making it happen. And that path can't be cluttered with mission statements or "why we're great" language—unless it supports what you're trying to do. Does this content help you make a purchase decision? Complete your task?

Great web content is about so much more than just brevity. It's about choosing the right words (and sometimes showing rather than telling with good design) to support an effective user experience that will keep people coming back for more.

Keep this in mind when creating your own content. It's not about the story you want to tell—it's about what the user wants to know. Talk to them, not at them.

Now get out there and create some killer web content. You're the expert, after all.