Website Writing Guide

Preparing the content

Organising the content

Organising the content under appropriate headings is one of the writer’s most important tasks. Structuring content under the right headings enables users to scan the page quickly for relevant content. It helps them make sense of the content and it makes the task of writing easier.

Organising the content under clear and obvious headings enables you to identify early in the writing process areas where you have too much content or not enough.

Fundamental principles for organising content:

  • Start Web pages by explaining the what and how, and provide the why last.
  • Start with the users' needs, not yours.
A step-by-step guide to organising content

Follow these steps to organise the content on a Web page or series of pages.

Step 1: Identify the aim of the page or section.

 

Step 2: Identify the intended audiences and how and when they are likely to use the information – eg small business owners who will view the information after working hours and would be likely to print it.

 

Step 3: Consider whether to present the content on the one page or split it across many pages.

Option 1: Keep content on one Web page

Consider keeping the content on one page when any of these conditions prevail:

  • the content is only one or two screens in length
  • all of the content should be read together or in sequence
  • all of the content will be relevant to everyone in the target audience
  • users may need to print the content – if split across many pages printing would be inconvenient
  • users would be unlikely to follow a link to important content if it were presented on another page – this applies especially where users don’t know what they don’t know so fail to explore!
  • when it is likely that users may not see a link to important content that has been published on another page.

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Option 2: Divide content across multiple Web pages

Consider splitting content across multiple pages when any of these conditions prevail:

  • the quantity of content would mean users have to scroll down four or more screens
  • not all of the content is relevant to everyone in the target audience so it needs to be divided into pages each of which targets a specific audience
  • some of the content needs its own page and URL so other pages in the site and other websites can link directly to it – not merely to the top of the page
  • some of the content needs to rank highly in Google in its own right so requires its own page title, heading and URL.

If the pages of content are to be read in sequence (eg a tutorial or step-by-step process), provide a link at the bottom of each page to the next topic and one to the previous topic.

 

Step 4: Consider what users want to know first and organise the headings accordingly – eg the first step in setting up a business, how to apply for a grant, where to get help.

Place corporate-related information at the bottom of a page, or simply place a link at the bottom of the page to a corporate Web page.

Hint: Users will rarely, if ever, want to read the history or rationale behind a program or grant before they are told how to apply. When they are after customer service centre phone number, the number should come first, not why the centre was established or what department runs it.

Step 5: Test the headings with the target audiences – see Step 2. 

 

Other topics in this section

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