We all write every day, but how often do we stop to think about how we can write good web content that helps BCIT sound like one organization? Here are some guiding principles to help:
- Write for your users
- Keep it simple & brief
- Use the BCIT web voice
- Be inclusive
Write for your users
Think of your webpage as one side of a conversation. Match your content up with who your reader is and what they are trying to do. Here are some guiding questions to help you check that it will work well for your users:
- Primary audience – Who is this page for? What are they coming here to do? Who else might find the page useful?
- Page purpose – Have we included a short introduction (1-2 sentences) that lets users know if they are in the right place? Can visitors tell what they will be able find or do here from reading the title and the first sentence or two?
- Goals – What are users trying to do on this page? How can we make this interaction easy for them? Where will they want to go next? Are there related pages or next steps we should list at the bottom of this page? Are there alerts boxes, ads, or calls to action getting in the way of what we want them to do? Are there any points of friction or confusion we can remove?
- Terminology – Am I using words that our visitors understand and would use themselves? Am I keeping this interaction welcoming?
Keep it simple and brief
Our users need to be able to find information and complete key tasks quickly and easily. This is how we can help:
- Make our content as clear, direct, and simple as possible. Aim for a reading level of grade 8 or lower (ideally, use a readability app to check);
- Ensure images, videos and other non-text content on a page supports the page purpose;
- Be consistent across the BCIT website. Where possible, link to a single, authoritative source of content. Where you absolutely require different versions of similar content in multiple locations, work across all units involved to ensure you are saying the same thing;
- Create calls to action (short statements encouraging an action, like “apply now” or “sign up for an info session”) that:
- are clear about where the link is going (e.g., “apply now,” not “click here”);
- are located where a user would be likely to need them, both as contextual links and, on longer pages, grouped with related content at the bottom of the page;
- help users take meaningful action towards their goals; and
- support the shortest path to complete those goals.
- Review your content on a regular basis (at least yearly). Is it meeting its purpose and useful to its primary audience? Can it be removed or simplified?
Use the BCIT web voice
As you build your content, think about the web voice and tone:
- Welcoming – is the page approachable and clear?
- Empowering – does it inspire our visitors and make them confident in what they’re doing?
- Purposeful – does it come across as practical and make them feel ready?
All users need to be able to access and interact with all of our content on their devices. The new website is striving to achieve a AA rating under the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 standard. Here is what that means for your content:
- Always use Alt-text – All non-text content (images, videos, audio files, etc.) must have a text alternative that clearly and meaningfully describes what it contains. For images or video, this usually means a visual description of what the image or video contains. In the case of videos and audio files, a transcript or captions should be available.
- Avoid images of text – All text visible on a page should be entered as text, not an image of text.
- Avoid PDFs – Webpage content is responsive (changes to best fit the screen it’s displayed on). PDFs can’t be, making them difficult to read on smaller screens. Additionally, if you don’t set them up correctly, PDFs can be a barrier for users accessing content via screen reader. If you must use PDFs, ensure they are as accessible as possible.
- Make it easy to get around – Content should be easily navigated. This can be achieved, in part, by ensuring that:
- all headings are clear and describe the content that follows them;
- all link text clearly communicates what the user will find at the link’s destination;
- all calls to action are both meaningfully descriptive and used consistently across the site; and
- all content is marked up simply and semantically in HTML, leaving the formatting to the built-in style elements. The best way to do this is to use panel and WYSIWYG options instead of marking anything up yourself.
Accessible content can also be best achieved by following the second principle of keeping content both simple and as brief as possible.