New Web Designs Should
Change How You Write Content
Three big shifts
in the way people consume content have led to five fresh website design trends
for association publishers.
Attendees at Leslie O’Flahavan’s 2015 Association Media
& Publishing Annual Meeting session, "How Web Design Trends are Changing
the Way We Write Content,” received a handout at the beginning of the session that contained real-world
examples of good and bad online copy, as well as exercises to improve your own
web content. Her aim was to help us answer the question, "How has design
changed, and how must we change the way we write?”
O’Flahavan, who founded E-WRITE in 1996, pointed out that
certain basic principles for writing for the web have not changed over the
years; we just implement them differently. As a review, some of these
time-honored principles include:
- Don’t use hypertext links that say
- Write message-oriented headings that
give readers an idea of what the article is about.
- Write "a bite, a snack, and a meal”
— a phrase O’Flahavan coined to describe different amounts of content for
different readers. A bite would be a catchy headline. A snack could be a deck
or an article summary. A meal generally requires the reader to click through or
scroll down to read an entire article.
- Cut the word count.
O’Flahavan also talked about three big shifts in the way
people consume content. These included (1) the shift from merely reading
content, to sharing content, and finally the necessity of "baking in” ways to
share content; (2) the shift from designing an attractive website, to the need
for recognizable design that’s fluid across several platforms; and (3) the
shift from writing a great webpage, to the need for content that’s fluid across
O’Flahavan then integrated the writing principles and the
current incarnations of these shifts with five current design trends.
are hyperlinks that online publications (such as the LA Times) place at the beginning of an article. When you click on a
shareline, a window pops up that allows you to post a summary sentence with a
link to the entire article on your Twitter feed. This is an example of baked-in
sharing — you don’t have to navigate away from the article to share it on your
Twitter account. To cement the concept in our minds, O’Flahavan did an exercise
with session attendees in which we read a brief article and wrote sharelines
Large typography. O’Flahavan
noted that writers sometimes shy away from large type because it takes up
precious content space, but reminded us that large typography looks modern and
is much more readable on digital platforms, especially mobile devices. We did
an exercise in which we wrote a large-typography headline for a text-heavy web
Infinite scroll is being used more and more — social media pages use it, and
the trend is spreading. O’Flahavan showed us a sample infinite scroll page that
had very little text, but which contained all the essential elements ("About
us,” "Products,” "Clients,” etc.). She pointed out that because infinite scroll
pages are light on text, they "take some of the supports out from under the
reader,” so you have to make sure the page is very navigable.
The death of the fold.
"People will scroll past the fold,” O’Flahavan
asserted, adding that placing everything "above the fold” on a web page gives
your site a "content wedgie.”
Cards or tiles.
Pinterest, Upworthy, Foodgawker, and many other sites use cards/tiles, which
encourage visual browsing. A card or tile has three elements: An image (which
is the dominant element of any card/tile), text (brief!), and a link. The image
is the "bite,” the text is the "snack,” and the information you get when you
click the link is the "meal.” Leslie said that cards/tiles are perfect for
mobile devices and varying screen sizes.
By the end of this workshop, attendees had arrived at a much
better understanding of how to write content that works with today’s design
trends and reading habits — and they’d had fun getting there, too.
Schoenfeld is managing editor, QST,
for ARRL, the national association for amateur radio. Association Media
& Publishing thanks her for covering this 2015 Annual Meeting session for
our members who were unable to attend.