Want to Write Better Content? Ask a Designer

Writers write. That’s what we do, right?

While we’re at it, maybe we should build a wall between us and those pesky Web Designers. Right? Wrong. Very wrong.

Back when I broke into this Internet business (circa 1995), there wasn’t a big difference between writers, web designers, and programmers. If you wanted to create for the web, you pretty much had to learn the technical tricks to get it up there. Basic HTML, Photoshop, etc.

To learn about design, I spent time with print designers. They taught me critical lessons about how to control the eye on the page.

The most important thing they taught me was to…write less.

Designers often use white space to draw attention to a specific element in the layout. Most designers are excited about using their talents to help you communicate your message. But if you weigh it down with too much copy, it ties their hands.

Review every sentence, headline, subhead and picture caption. Ruthlessly trim the total number of words.

If you’re developing website copy, run a draft past a designer before submitting it to your clients. Designers will help you understand how much will fit on a page…and how much will suck the life out of the design.

The web is a visual medium. And writing less copy is one of the best ways to deliver messages with visual impact.

  • Writing for the web can get even more complicated than looking at the marriage of words and images. On the web, you are also writing to be found. Part of the challenge of new media is that every aspect requires a different tact. You need to look at your audience, take into account what they are looking for, how they found you and what they hope to take away from your site.

    The real challenge in doing any content creation for the web is to be flexible and look opportunities to change your method and craft as indicated by your audience and what you hope to provide to them.

  • Chris,
    Great points. Thanks for the input.

    You are definitely correct. There are so many things to consider before you start crafting your copy.

    And no surprises that this good, logical input comes from someone with a design background.

    Buddy

  • Interesting when applied to
    writing short stories.

  • Terry,

    Good point. And, hey, when you really think about it, writing for the web is really like writing short stories. You have to have the same kind of “write tight” mentality.

    I agree with people who say that it’s harder to write something short than it is to write something long. It means boiling everything down to the basic point, but not boiling out the interesting, entertaining details.

    As writers, we need to get input from other writers. But we also need input from visual communicators as well.

    If you write for performers, you should ask them what they think as well.

  • I’m a writer who had/has a tendency to be pretty wordy–great for novel word count, bad for blogs and web site copy. 🙂 I had the hardest time writing something short.

    Now, I’m finding it much easier–and I know it’s because of using Twitter.com. Twitter is known as a “micro-blogging” site–each post is limited to 140 characters. In trying to express myself in that narrow format, I’m learning how to trim the unnecessary from my copy. It’s been especially helpful to my blog, web design, and emails.

    Trouble is, I need to “unlearn” that a bit when I sit down to write my novel-length fiction. 😉

  • Mousewords,

    Ha! That’s pretty much what happened to me too.

    The process of learning how to really write for the web hit my prose hard. I used to pride myself on writing interesting, well paced sentences. A good transition was a thing of beauty.

    Was. Now everything I write is too lean for entertainment purposes.

    Hopefully your novel actually benefits from this new blended style. That is, if you can unlearn your Twitter ways. 🙂

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