Know your audience

Before publishing, you should look at why you are putting the information online and make sure it is relevant to the University's target audiences.

Target audiences

  • current students
  • future students
  • international students
  • staff
  • alumni and friends
  • business and industry
  • news and media

Writing with the audience in mind means presenting information they expect to find in a manner they understand. Be aware of the names and phrases they use, and don't expect them to understand the University's structure and terms. For example, whereas staff might refer to student "assessments", students themselves are more like to refer to "exams" and "assignments", so a student-oriented page should use the same terminology.

Seek and act on feedback from users within each of your target audiences, such as surveys and user testing, to determine if they are able to find what they need on your site.

Writing for the web

Writing for the web is not the same as writing for print publications.

People read differently from a computer screen than when reading a print publication. They read fewer words and they follow an F-reading pattern which shows that:

  • People start off fresh and eager.
  • Users spend more time and are more fixated:
    1. at the beginning (left side) of lines of text
    2. at the beginning of a page.
  • They quickly resort to scanning, reading fewer words.
  • They frequently do not finish the line completely.

Identifying key information

All pages should cover who, what, when, where, why and how. Use these terms to identify key information about your subject.

Keep it simple

For many visitors, English is not their first language. It's important to keep everything simple. This doesn't mean dumbing down, but instead ensuring that what you write can be easily understood by a wide audience.

People visit UWA's website for information. The ease with which they find that information will determine whether they will continue to use the pages. Its important that you know your target audience, and write for that audience.

Simplifying a web page

An example of a poorly written web page

Too much information clutters other valuable information:

Screenshot of UWA website with badly written content

This page does not work because it:

  • is difficult to read; long paragraphs should be broken up
  • has too many embedded links, and many are the lazy 'click here' variety
  • contains statements in bold (which distract readers)
  • contains a lot of superfluous words
  • includes an image that is not relevant to the page (and the aircraft takes the eye away from the page)
  • has an alt tag for the image that simply says 'a plane' which is not descriptive enough

A better edit of the same information

A screenshot of a well designed UWA website

This page is easier on the eye and therefore easier to read.

  • There are far fewer embedded links; those that are there will take readers to central pages for information.
  • Superfluous words have been deleted.
  • Although the image is still irrelevant, you can see that the aircraft in flying into the page, taking a reader's eyes towards the text, not away from it.
  • The alt-tag clearly describes the image as 'A Qantas 737 jetliner in flight'.