Writing For The Web Creating Compelling Web Content Using Words Pictures And Sound

By Lynda Felder

  • Genre : Design
  • Publisher :
  • ISBN : 9780321794437
  • Year : 2011
  • Language: English


writing for the web CREATING COMPELLING WEB CONTENT USING WORDS PICTURES AND SOUND LYNDA FELDER Writing for the Web Creating Compelling Web Content Using Words Pictures and Sound Lynda Felder New Riders 1249 Eighth Street Berkeley CA 94710 510 524-2178 510 524-2221 fax Find us on the Web at www newriders com To report errors please send a note to errata peachpit com New Riders is an imprint of Peachpit a division of Pearson Education Copyright 2012 by Lynda Felder Associate Editor Valerie Witte Production Editor Danielle Foster Developmental Editor Anne Marie Walker Copyeditor Anne Marie Walker Proofreader Scout Festa Composition Danielle Foster Indexer Joy Dean Lee Cover Design Charlene Charles-Will Interior Design Charlene Charles-Will and Danielle Foster Photo Credits Photo of Cuneiform script on clay tablet is in the public domain All other photos by Yashwin Chauhan Yashwin Chauhan All rights reserved Notice of Rights All rights reserved No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means electronic mechanical photocopying recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publisher For information on getting permission for reprints and excerpts contact permissions peachpit com Notice of Liability The information in this book is distributed on an As Is basis without warranty While every precaution has been taken in the preparation of the book neither the author nor Peachpit shall have any liability to any person or entity with respect to any loss or damage caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly by the instructions contained in this book or by the computer software and hardware products described in it Trademarks Many of the designations used by manufacturers and sellers to distinguish their products are claimed as trademarks Where those designations appear in this book and Peachpit was aware of a trademark claim the designations appear as requested by the owner of the trademark All other product names and services identified throughout this book are used in editorial fashion only and for the benefit of such companies with no intention of infringement of the trademark No such use or the use of any trade name is intended to convey endorsement or other affiliation with this book ISBN-13 978-0-321-79443-7 ISBN 10 0-321-79443-5 987654321 Printed and bound in the United States of America For my sister Carol Acknowledgments I would like to thank and acknowledge several people for their support in writing this book From Peachpit Valerie Witte who supported the idea of this book and kept it moving forward Anne Marie Walker who skillfully edited with just the right mix of demands and encouragement designers Charlene Will and Danielle Foster who made the pages look so inviting and the rest of the impressive team Platt College students who often make the classroom magical with their artistic focus and playful nature The faculty and staff who generously share their time and knowledge and the dean Marketa Hancova for her leadership and inspiration My siblings Marilyn and David whom I can always count on My husband Yashwin who is not only an amazing photographer but a constant source of amusement strength and support Contents Start Here Chapt er 1 All You Really Need to Know viii 1 Messages Messages Messages 2 Make Your Messages Rise Above the Din 4 Who Is Your Audience 8 Challenges 11 Up Next 12 Chapter 2 Best Practices for Writing for the Web 13 Write Succinctly 14 Use a Conversational Style 14 Use Precise Terms 16 Use Plain Terms 17 List Items 21 Keep Sentences Short 22 Keep Paragraphs Short 24 Chunk Information 25 Title and Subtitle 27 Organize for Your Audience 27 Set the Right Tone 28 Challenges 29 Up Next 30 Chapter 3 Working with Images 31 Choose the Right Type of Image 32 Keep the Message Clear 35 Telling a Story 38 Think of the Global Audience 40 Using Tables Charts and Graphs 43 Contents Challenges 43 Up Next 44 Chapt er 4 Adding Motion 45 Getting Started with Motion 46 Developing the Story 49 Guidelines for Video and Animation 53 Challenges 55 Up Next 56 Chapter 5 Adding Sound 57 Choosing Sounds 58 Adding Sound Effects 60 The Human Voice 61 Planning a Podcast 61 Recording Guidelines 66 Interviewing Techniques 67 Challenges 70 Up Next 71 Chapter 6 Writing Nonlinear Interactive Stories 73 Managing Content 74 Adding Links 75 Nonlinear Interactive Stories 80 Challenges 80 Up Next 82 Chapt er 7 Writing Succinctly 83 Stay Focused 84 Be Positive 85 Trust the Reader 85 Choose Anglo-Saxon Words 85 Eliminate Excess Words 87 Stop Hype 90 Challenges 91 Up Next 91 v vi Contents Chapter 8 Writing with Style and Good Grammar 93 Style or Grammar 94 Choosing Your Style 94 Grammar Rules 100 Challenges 105 Up Next 106 Chapter 9 Telling a Good Story 107 What Makes a Good Story 108 Story Elements 108 Developing Stories 109 Refine Your Senses 110 Jump In 111 Start with a Hook 112 Add Cliff-hangers 114 Challenges 115 Up Next 116 Chapt er 10 A Refresher on the Rhetorical Modes 117 Rhetorical Modes 118 Rhetoric in Ancient Greece 120 Making Web Content Credible 121 Rhetoric for Web Content 122 Patterns and Strategies 122 Images and Rhetoric 125 Challenges 126 Up Next 126 Chapter 11 Writing Instructions 127 Know Your Audience 128 Begin with an Introduction 131 Write Straightforward Steps 133 Provide Illustrations 136 Show Motion with Video or Animation 138 End on a Positive Note 139 Test Test Test 139 Contents Challenges 139 Up Next 140 Chapter 12 Writing Blogs 141 What Exactly Is a Blog 142 Choosing Topics and Themes 143 Composing a Succession of Stories 145 Sustaining Readership 148 Challenges 151 Up Next 152 Chapt er 13 Re-vision 153 Writing Is Rewriting 154 Workshops and Critiques 158 When Is Your Story Finished 163 Challenges 163 Up Next 164 Chapter 14 Writing Practice 165 Freewriting 166 Collaborative Freewriting 170 Suggested Exercises 173 Bibliography 175 Index 177 vii Start Here Think about the last gadget you bought If you re like most people you felt a rush of excitement when you opened the package and couldn t wait to get your hands on the new toy It s highly unlikely that you thought about reading the manual before you started pressing buttons and playing with your new purchase FIGURE I 1 We reach for instructions when all else fails Don t Make Me Read When a new object comes into your life you simply want to point it in the right direction and make it work The point-and-shoot mentality extends to everything not just new gadgets If the product s design is not intuitive you re likely to think the designer was stupid or overzealous The same is true for Web content When readers land on a Web page they re not looking for Instructions for Use Most don t have much time and most don t have patience Readers just want to land on the right page instantly find what they re looking for and then zoom off When they stumble onto long paragraphs when the text is unclear or boring or when they find themselves studying searching or backtracking they jump ship and head back to Google to search for better content Start Here ix HOW PEOPLE READ A WEB PAGE In 1997 Jakob Nielsen pointed out that people don t typically read text on a Web page word for word Rather they scan picking out words and phrases that are helpful See Jakob Nielsen s October 1997 Alertbox column How Users Read on the Web which is available at www useit com Why You Should Read This Book Most likely you picked up this book because you want to better your skills at writing Web content With many books available about this topic why should you read this book It s a thin book Fat books typically don t follow their own guidelines such as be succinct It s designed to allow you to zoom in to find what you need and then quickly skip to another topic It encourages you to engage to observe to think and to try various effective writing tasks The chapters are packed with examples challenges and suggestions It focuses on words pictures and sounds as story elements for your Web content rather than the mechanics of using specific software and tools There s already a flood of good books available on how to use the latest tools and technology to capture and publish media You ll find suggestions for good books to read at www write4web com How to Read This Book As you read this book you ll find there are no rules except to follow your own instincts You ll get the most out of the book if you take breaks from reading to try the suggestions and challenges Challenges At the end of each chapter you ll find challenges that include writing prompts for freewriting and suggested exercises that will take more time Make sure you spend time on your own writing practice As with any other discipline the only way to get better at Web writing is to put in the time composing Web content The art of creating compelling Web content is similar to any other art You can t learn to dance by watching ballerinas You can t learn to play the piano by listening to lectures or reading sheet music Although it s t r y th is Every chapter is peppered with Try this suggestions Don t ignore these suggestions You ll get the most out of this book if you pause put down the book and try the ideas offered You ll learn the most if you decide right now to try everything with a playful spirit and an open mind x Start Here helpful to listen with a keen ear to the music you enjoy that won t place the magic in your fingertips A pianist practices scales A pianist plays finger exercises A talented pianist spends hours and hours at the keyboard A talented Web writer practices writing Consider all the suggestions writing prompts and assignments in this book as part of your finger exercises and part of your practice moving you toward passionate exciting Web stories More Information You can find additional resources for Writing for the Web at www write4web com including Additional challenges More freewriting and suggested exercises for your writing practice Evaluation criteria Suggestions for critiquing different types of Web writing Resources Web sites that are good examples or provide helpful information reading lists book reviews and additional technical instructions Student work Examples of student blogs and podcasts Teacher notes A downloadable booklet with suggestions for teachers Chapt er 1 All You Really Need to Know You ve taken on a challenge that is exciting and fun yet daunting writing for the Web The tools and technology are incredible and allow you to tell stories by mixing in any combination of multiple media words pictures including photos illustrations graphics animation and video and sound You can also add opportunities for your reader to interact with your stories by providing polls surveys places to comment and links to more information The possibilities are unlimited There are so many choices to make What will you write about What do you want your reader to take away from your story to take action on to learn or to understand What media is the best fit for your story How will you draw in your reader How will you make sure that your story gets noticed How will you keep your reader involved in the story Before all the exciting possibilities and challenges make you dizzy take a deep breath Then read this chapter to learn How to make sure your story has three key features that will keep your readers attention and ensure that they don t become confused bored or disinterested How to determine who your audience is How to stay on target delivering the right content for your audience 2 writing for the web Messages Messages Messages There s a message waiting for you at any place or any time Even while you re hiking in Molokai FIGURE 1 1 FIGURE 1 1 Everywhere you turn there are messages As you go about your daily business you are barraged with countless messages and instructions Walk don t run Don t point Be a good neighbor Be a good citizen Wash your hands No spitting FIGURE 1 2 Yield the right of way Stop Go Quiet What makes you accept some messages as truths and others as hogwash What makes you accept some instructions as the right thing to do and reject others FIGURE 1 2 And more messages Chapter 1 All You Really Need to Know Discovering what motivates you to pay attention is helpful in figuring out what will hold your readers attention Messages on the Web On the Web you ll also find a constant deluge of messages and instructions Read me Click me Buy me Sign up for me But you are not forced to follow any of the advice or instructions that appear on your screen As much as various ads and treatises on the Web try to get in your face you are the one in control You choose what you will hold on to and explore and what you will let go And you can shut it all down in an instant when you run out of time get bored or feel overwhelmed This is a comforting thought unless you are writing for the Web and don t want your messages to be turned off and shut down Let s consider how viewers approach the fluid chaos of the Web and sort through the myriad pieces of information to find exactly what suits their current needs Web Soup The Web is a huge soupy mess filled with stories and messages that are Fascinating Complicated Boring Hideous Eye-opening Brilliant Scary Stupid Incredulous Distasteful Beautiful Unintelligible Ugly Confusing Superficial All of the above and more At every moment in time more and more ugly shocking gruesome dull exotic and wonderful stories are added to the broth Web readers dip into this liquid mess with the help of various utensils or search engines If they find what they want they try it out If they find something that doesn t match their tastes and needs they throw it back into the soup and dip in again Think for a moment about the last time you were on the Internet What were you looking for What actions did you take What made you pay attention What made you ignore one story or a Web page in its entirety and move on to 3 4 writing for the web Be obscure clearly Be wild of tongue in a way we can understand something else What enticed you What made you look for more What was so good that you bookmarked it or told a friend about it As a Web reader it can be difficult to determine why you choose one story over another Your needs your drives your wants your dreams your ambitions and your sense of who you are can change at any given point in time What you wanted as a child is different from what you want now What you wanted yesterday can change dramatically tomorrow Yet there is always some reason you feel compelled to choose one story over another E B White As a Web author you want to make sure that your Web content and messages reach the needs and desires of your intended readers and make them pay attention Make Your Messages Rise Above the Din To make sure that your Web content gets noticed you need to write about topics that will get sorted out of the soup and taste good to your readers So how can you make your Web stories so appetizing that your readers will keep coming back for more Your content must have the following three characteristics CLARITY SPARK MEANING Make Your Content Clear Your content must be clear and obvious to readers If it s obtuse confusing complicated or unintelligible you ll lose readers attention What s the purpose of your content If you don t know your content probably won t be clear What are the key messages that you want your readers to take away If you don t know your content probably won t be clear Who is the content written for If you don t know In the following sections you ll find a few common problems that can make your content hard to understand along with suggestions for fixes Chapter 1 All You Really Need to Know SHAGGY DOG STORIES Shaggy dog refers to a story that winds and weaves on and on with one tangent after another Your readers can t discern the direction or focus and wonder when the story will end and what the point was You can fix this problem by writing down the main messages and key points of your story You should be able to state what the content is about in three sentences or less Consider the following shaggy dog story and possible solutions AIMLESS STORY SOLUTIONS Clarissa and her husband Jeremy were Decide what the story is about remove married six months when Clarissa came all the tangential information and home with a dog she had rescued from relate the sequence of events that tell the animal shelter The dog named the main story you have in mind For Max had a few bad habits He liked the example perhaps the story is about taste of leather and chewed up several Clarissa s mother interfering Or maybe pairs of Clarissa s and Jeremy s shoes it s about newlyweds who want to He also slept on the couch which was have children and decide to try out not allowed when no one was looking their parenting skills on a dog first Or Clarissa s mother pointed out that the maybe it s about Jeremy losing his job carpet needed vacuuming and that and feeling like Max s nanny Sears had a sale on vacuums Jeremy lost his job Then Jeremy had to stay home and make sure Max didn t eat shoes and sleep on the couch TIME TRAVELING WITHOUT THE MACHINE A time traveling story madly swerves in time It shifts tenses within a single sentence It jumps from present to past to future without any transitions or warnings Your readers will feel like they ve been in a car race without a seatbelt You can fix this problem by sticking to past tense and not flashing back or forward in time Consider the following time traveling sentence and the possible solution TENSE SHIFTS SOLUTION After I visit my friend Carly I decided I After I visited my friend Carly I decided wanted to travel and see the world I wanted to travel and see the world 5 t r y th is Write an elevator pitch for your story An elevator pitch is a summary of the story that you can say in about 30 seconds the time it takes for an average elevator ride Your pitch should make someone want to read the story 6 writing for the web FOGGY VISION A foggy vision story has vague and general language or images The content isn t explicit or specific The detail is high level and readers can t get a clear picture of what is going on You can fix this problem by knowing the specific terms and details your readers are familiar with and by using concrete nouns and active verbs to paint a vivid story Consider the following example and possible solution VAGUE AND GENERAL TERMS SOLUTION Kristie was happy that her dad bought Kristie danced around the red VW bug her a vehicle for graduation her dad had just given her for graduation STREAM-OF-CONSCIOUSNESS THINKING A stream-of-consciousness story follows a logic only known to you the author because you simply spat out everything that was in your head and heart and did not take the time to think of how your audience would follow the thoughts and ideas Freewriting is an effective way to brainstorm and get a story started But after the initial draft you ll need to reorganize the content in a way that makes sense to your reader Very few authors can get away with publishing their first drafts Jack Kerouac s incredible exciting stories rolled off his typewriter without revision But this talent came with years of intense study You can often spot stream-of-consciousness Web content in the first sentence When authors begin with a tentative statement or seem to have several starts before making any sense or point you can tell that they posted their very first outpouring without any attempt to revise the piece Although the following example is exaggerated to make a point you can probably find a blog post on the Internet that begins just as tentatively STREAM-OF-CONSCIOUSNESS POSSIBLE SOLUTION I m not big on writing blogs and I Our cat Fishbreath has already lived wasn t sure what to write about I am nine lives writing this blog for my assignment I spent a lot of time looking around our apartment for something to come to me Then I saw Fishbreath our cat Fishbreath almost died more than once I decided to write about her near-death experiences Chapter 1 All You Really Need to Know CONFUSING LANGUAGE At the sentence level a story might contain misplaced modifiers unclear pronouns vague terminology or ambiguous statements Sometimes your readers will get a big laugh because the confusion makes the sentence comical Consider the following sentences and possible corrections UNCLEAR PRONOUN CLEAR SENTENCE Jane told Ginny that her boyfriend was Jane said Ginny your boyfriend is amusing amusing MISPLACED MODIFIER CLEAR SENTENCE Dressed with balsamic vinegar Doug Doug brought a salad with a balsamic brought a salad to the potluck vinegar dressing to the potluck Give Your Content Spark Everyone knows what it s like to produce a dull sleep-inducing story Most likely it happens when you are barely awake as you are writing it If as you are developing your content you feel it lacks spark take a break Try to recall a movie that you were totally lost in Think of a game or a song that was so seductive that you forgot where you were Consider a TV show that you didn t want to end a series that you recorded because you couldn t wait to watch the next episode Then think about these questions What drew you in Was there a puzzle How did it start Was there danger Was there a cliff-hanger How did it end The more you know about what excites you the more you will be able to add spark to your own content Consider the following sentence with no spark and the possible solution NO SPARK Some ideas came to me the other day and I have finally come up with a plan and a vision SPARK I have a dream 7 8 writing for the web t r y th is If you find you are too close to your subject and the writing has become dull and banal try techniques that a photographer might use Change your vantage point Step back 500 feet Remove the close-up lens and try a wide-angle lens Pretend that you re on a balcony 33 stories up looking down at your subject Make Sure Your Content Matters If you write about a subject that only you and your mother might find mildly interesting you ll bore your readers and they ll move on If you write about topics that are the equivalent of humdrum daily routines like brushing your teeth or eating breakfast you need to step away from the keyboard and reenvision what topics inspire you What are your passions What motivates you What is it that you care deeply about The key to ensuring that your Web content has clarity spark and meaning is to understand yourself and to understand your audience Who Is Your Audience When someone asks you who you are writing for there s a temptation to say Everyone Everyone will be interested in this particular topic But this is not a good idea If you try to meet everyone s needs your content will be too broad and too general It won t have a clear drive solid organization or inviting details The most exciting topic for an octogenarian will most likely not work for a tween Neither of these age groups is likely to have an interest in how to clean an oven or find a nanny If you ve been to Toastmasters or taken a speech class you ve learned that it s best to gear your talk toward one person or a group of people in the audience rather than the multitudes It s the same way with developing Web content When you have in mind a particular person or group the language the details the organization the examples the anecdotes and the other parts of your content fit the expectations and tastes of someone rather than no one If your readers are not obvious how can you determine who your audience is You can start by making lists of all your favorite activities What excites you For each item think of others who would also care about the activity For example let s say you are crazy about snowboarding and have decided to design a blog site for snowboarding enthusiasts Make a list of any friends and associates who also love to snowboard Add to the list names of snowboarders you ve seen on TV or read about This is just a starting point You ll then need to gather information about your audience Chapter 1 All You Really Need to Know 9 Get to Know Your Audience Once you have a general idea of who your audience is and have made a list of specific members of that group you ll have many ways to get to know your audience better If you are writing about a subject that is near and dear to your heart you ll have a huge head start on who your readers are and what topics they will like Here are a few suggestions to gather information Ask questions phone email text etc Attend events tradeshows competitions forums etc Watch TV and YouTube interviews of more famous people Read blogs or news stories Sometimes however you might be tasked to write for a group that you don t know well Let s say for example that you ve just begun working in a biomedical company and you are tasked to write instructional guides for pharmacists You know that you need to focus only on pharmacists working in hospitals not those working in other environments such as drugstores Here are a few ways in which you can try to get to know your audience When genuine passion moves you say what you ve got to say and say it hot Meet with pharmacists at their workplace Take note of the space the furniture any equipment the colors the smells Ask questions What is a typical day like What are the biggest concerns What are the roadblocks What or who is most helpful What are typical scenarios for tasks Read literature targeted for this group Talk to others who interact with this group Does the company have a customer service department What sort of calls does customer service get Volunteer to work for customer service or provide another service for the group The main idea is to interact ask appropriate questions and obtain information to better identify your readers and know their interests issues and needs D H Lawrence

Author Lynda Felder Isbn 9780321794437 File size 6 7 MB Year 2011 Pages 192 Language English File format PDF Category Design With Writing for the Web you ll learn everything you need to know to create effective Web content using words pictures and sound Follow along as instructor and writer Lynda Felder combines easy to follow guidelines with photographs lists and tables to illustrate the key concepts behind writing nonlinear interactive stories creating succinct and clear copy and wo