Web Writing: Outlining and Organizing Your Business’ Copy
Writing web copy — especially for business websites — can be a difficult process. There’s good news though; just like every worthwhile project, proper planning goes a long way. Even better, through careful consideration, you can find yourself writing at a level far beyond your expectations.
Presentation of Your Web Writing
Before writing for your business website, building an outline is essential to creating an inviting space for clients to navigate your services and products. Although these principles are typically applied to the general aesthetics of your website, they’re especially important to consider while creating its written content.
Why does the presentation of your online writing matter?
Similar to a store’s physical location, its website’s layout provides a sense of legitimacy and professionalism to potential clients. In turn, business websites should be treated as a space for commerce, following a similar approach and attention to detail.
As clients enter a store, they’ll ask these 3 questions:
- Is this business credible?
- Can this business meet my needs?
- Am I comfortable spending money here?
If these 3 questions aren’t followed by a resounding YES, clients will swiftly exit before the door has a chance to close.
How to start mapping out your content
Without an outline, writing for your business website proves challenging. But, where do you even begin outlining your site’s copy?
The answer is simple: grab a piece of paper, a pen or even a crayon. With this, you can decide how much content you want on each page, illustrating it with boxes. Creating an outline through this method allows writers to visualize their web content instead of only thinking in terms of what it’s writing will cover.
In this example, we have depicted a crudely drawn but charming illustration of an outline for a web page. With this basic template, you can begin developing the layout for your business website’s writing.
This example is broken down into six components:
- Heading – Offers clients an idea of what the page offers
- Image – Grabs client’s attention
- General – Content describes services, products or company
- Big Quote – Information intended to stand out to clients skimming the written content
- Call to action – writing intended to persuade a client to perform an action: buy product or service, sign up for a newsletter or make contact with the company, etc.
This template offers a layout for a standard webpage and could even be applied to a home page. Feel free to use this template if you are just starting out. Though most pages won’t require a big quote, they’re useful for home pages and about us sections. Whatever design you choose, try to keep realistic expectations in mind for its execution. If you aren’t too experienced with writing for website’s, the more simple the design, the better.
Ways to Organize Your Web Writing
Page Builder Plugins:
Page builders are a category of plugins designed for website’s that allows users to change its presentation. They come with a variety of tools and functionalities, and some have free versions — while others require a purchase before using their features. Page builders are widely used, so by reading through reviews, you can discover one that best fits your website.
Page builders are also especially useful for business blogs, as some allow you to create templates that can be applied to each post, increasing presentation consistency.
Here are some of the advantages of page builders:
- Page builders easily break content up into columns.
- Page builders make otherwise difficult tasks, such as wrapping text around an image, a breeze.
- Some page builders allow you to view changes made onsite, before finalizing content.
- Page builders can provide spacing tools to pace readers by spreading out content.
It’s important to carefully review the features of a page builder and whether it’s compatible with your theme and the latest version of your website. If you are using a free page builder, it’s likely that you will have to choose between some features over others. While looking for a page builder to use, plan ahead and take note of functionalities that you might want to incorporate into your site down the road.
Columns are a simple tool to organize and break apart web content. In most cases, you’ll see small blurbs broken into columns — accompanied by corresponding icons on the service / product areas of web pages. This is because, in most cases, page builders have preset templates specifically designed for these areas.
The reason why most themes separate services and products in this manner is twofold: it breaks apart large chunks of info and looks aesthetically pleasing. Though, due to the ease and accessibility of using columns in coordination to a template, it’s easy to fall into the trap of only using them when they are included.
Experiment and search for new areas to implement columns into your business’ website. Web pages, such as About Us sections, can use these to isolate areas of emphasis. In an About Us page, you can spotlight your standout features by giving them their own space and attention.
Considerations while implementing columns:
= Size, = Importance
Try to keep columns in a designated area equal in height and width. This shows that each idea is of equal standing and importance.
Change It Up
Variate your use of columns. After a section of columns, introduce a paragraph to maintain an even pace in your web writing.
Short and Sweet
Don’t make your columns too tall, or it can cause strain on your readers. Columns should be about 4-6 lines in height.
A skimmers best friend, bullet points allow readers to browse your content and understand the most important areas. When writing for the web, carefully plan out each letter and syllable to impart an impression of authority to your reader. To generate the maximum effect on readers, make your content friendly to scan for clients on the go.
How to implement bullet points effectively:
- Overusing bullet points can leave your content looking bare.
- Bullet points should highlight the most important features of products / services.
- Be concise. Try to keep your bullet points at about 1–2 lines.
While writing for your business website, paragraphs will probably make up the majority of your written content. Second to your headings, these blocks of text will be your most frequently read writing. And so, this is definitely an area that you want to get right.
The size of your paragraphs
Since the dawn of web writing, the perfect size of paragraphs has been up to debate. However, there really isn’t an absolute answer but more of a general guideline to follow. Paragraphs should be 4–5 lines in height (not sentences). However, there are exceptions, and sometimes 3-line paragraphs get the job done. Also, depending on the width of your business’ website — or at least the space that the content occupies — 5 lines might be way too much.
If content spans across a full-width website, consider dropping it down to 3 lines in height. To decide the height best-suited for your paragraphs, you will need to use your best judgment. Put yourself in the mindset of your client and ask,“Would I actually want to read this?” If the answer is no or you are unsure, try cutting out a line or two before.
Sentence size in paragraphs
When applying the 4-to-5-line rule to paragraphs, the number of sentences should be about 2–3 sentences per 4 line paragraph and 3–4 sentences per 5-line paragraph. Although it’s possible for a paragraph to have as many sentences as lines, sentences should present enough text to appear substantive and not choppy.
Sentence size plays into presentation, as clients typically run multilayered checks before committing to reading content. If a client scans a paragraph comprised of one bloated sentence, the incentive to move forward is diminished.