Writing content for your church website is different than any other type of writing. That is because websites are not printed material. Despite what you think, most people will not read your website; they will scan it. Fortunately plenty of research has been conducted on how people read websites, and we can use this data along with industry best practices, to craft good content for your church's website. Plus you can do all of this while creating content that search engines will rank high. This may be confusing at first, but a few easy steps will ensure all of your audiences can effectively find and comprehend your content.
Based on research, scanning web content tends to happen in a predictable pattern. Eye tracking technology has enabled us to see exactly what people are looking at on websites. The resulting maps are similar to heat and precipitation maps, with a rainbow overlay. Most of the red hot spots are over the main logo, navigation structures, and the left side of the content; very closely resembling an "F". So what can you do to help facilitate this pattern?
Keep It Short
Brevity is very important when creating content for scanning. A good rule of thumb is to write your content normally for someone reading it in a printed format. Then cut it in half and in half again. Come to your points quickly, and eliminate unnecessary adjectives and adverbs; allowing them only to emphasize the most important points. Note that these points should be directly aligned with your church's overall business strategy.
Use headings and sub-headings
A good heading structure helps human users and search engine robots alike figure out the structure of the content. It allows users to visually scan the entire document and find sections that interest them most. Additionally, heading structures provide vision impaired people using screen readers the ability to skim through the document.
Lists enable users to skim through important content in as little time as possible. Think of this very article. I will bet that if you had 30 seconds to read this article, your eyes would home in on the bulleted list with bold text, and you would skim right down the left side. If you had more time, of course you would go back and read the details; but most people do not have a lot of time to read your content.
Also, you will want to make sure important keywords are in your text. Although this article is more about readability on the web, you do want to consider search engine optimization. If you can insert your keywords without detracting from the point of your content, by all means do so. The least intrusive of these would be re-using keywords in your sub-headings.
Have your points of contact in the church brush up on their writing skills. There are plenty of resources for writing for the web; so use them. You can review the content on your church's website and see where editing can make your content shorter and more concise. If you are creating a new section, write everything, and then practice the cut in half rule. Lastly, have a small group of users or congregation members test the writing to ensure people fully understand what you are trying to say.
Photo courtesy of René de Cock