Week 9 – Writing Web Content

Redish, Janice (Ginny). “Content! Content! Content!” In Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content That Works, 1-9: Morgan Kaufmann/ Elsevier, 2007. 

———. “Writing Information, Not Documents.” In Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content That Works, 69-92: Morgan Kaufmann/ Elsevier, 2007.

 

Redish’s chapter “Content! Content! Content!” introduces in book by focusing on how to write content for the web; she focuses on how the majority of web-users have a specific goal in mind when they approach the web and that we as writers need to construct web-content in a way to help them meet that goal.  Redish begins by emphasizing how most people “skim and scan” on the web in order to satisfy their goal which brought them to the web in the first place (2).  Good writing on the web is conversational, answers people’s questions, and let’s people “grab and go” (5).  She also promotes the idea that good writing for the web is about writing and design rather than technology, offers good examples, and is inherently user-centered in terms of design.

Chapter 5 of Redish’s book titled “Writing Information, Not Documents” focuses on the three issues of 1) breaking up large documents, 2) deciding how much to put on a web page, and 3) PDF – yes or no? (69).  Redish differentiates between information organized by topic and information organized within a book.  She gives the example of how books make sense in the “world of paper” but how on the web, “a separate page for each topic makes more sense than a book of many topics” (71).  Writers can accomplish this by breaking web content into topics and subtopics either by time or sequence, by task, by people (specific members of the audience), by types of information, or by questions people ask.

Redish highly discourages places large amounts of information on a web page which requires users to scroll indefinitely to the end of the information.  Overloading site visitors is a sure way of guaranteeing that the visitors to not return to that web site again.  Some other aspects of consideration for a web designer include debating the issue of download time and the question of whether or not users will want to print (or how much will they want to print) (84).  Finally, Redish details the positives and negative of including PDFs in web documents.  She emphasizes that PDF would be appropriate when the main purpose of the documents is mass distribution.  However, the general population would benefit far more from a well-designed web-page than from a PDF for numerous reasons.  Some of the reasons not to include a PDF emerge when the readers don’t want the whole document, when people want to read from the screen, and when the audience is not conformable with PDF files or with downloading software (87-88).

I found this chapter especially relevant in regards to some of the first pieces we read in this class by Giovanna and O’Keefe.  Both authors mentioned how technical writers of “the future” need to be able to do far more than simply “be good writers.”  Redish structures her entire chapter around this idea of taking far more into consideration when writing for the web versus writing for paper distribution.  I believe that these skills of knowing how and why to design web content in specific ways for specific audiences is essential for technical writers to continuously learn and modify as technology continues to change.  Being adept at taking a document and making it acceptable and usable on the web entails a skill-set that all technical communicators need.

It is becoming more common to people to browse the web on their iPhones and iPads rather than browsing on larger screen (laptop or computer monitor).  How could shift change the way we approach web design?

 

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