How to use space efficiently

Space is a very important design element. It’s not just emptiness. You can use the space inside the content area to separate and group information.

Do’s

  • Put space before and after the page title.
  • Put space above the heading.
  • Put space between paragraphs.
  • Put space into lists.
  • Put space around images.
  • Put space around buttons.

Don’ts

  • Don’t put space between the heading and the text.
  • Don’t put space between the instruction and the list.

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How to make your content scannable

Users don’t read much when they are looking for information. They scan the pages and try to find the information they are looking for as quickly as possible. They will not pay attention to anything other than links, images and short descriptions that could be relevant to what they are looking for.

Even when they have found the topic they are interested in they may only read as much as they need to satisfy their goals.

Do’s

  • Start with the key message.
  • Put high-priority information in the upper left of the content area.
  • Use a heading for each topic.
  • Emphasise headings with type size or bold style.
  • Write in very short paragraphs.
  • Use bulleted lists.
  • Use numbered lists for instructions.
  • Use tables to compare numbers.
  • Use shading on alternate rows for tables.
  • Point out important information in bold characters.
  • Point out links and make it obvious what’s clickable.
  • Put a date on every page to show when the content was last updated.

Don’ts

  • Don’t centre text.
  • Avoid horizontal scrolling at 1024×768
  • Make sure the important content is visible above the fold.

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How to write for the web

Web writing is like conversation. Think about your customers and the questions they have in mind when they are visiting your website. Try to answer their questions. Then focus on the essential message and cut the rest.

Do’s

  • Write facts and information.
  • Use a question, a statement or an action phrase with the key word for the heading.
  • Use “you” to talk to your site visitors.
  • Use “I” or “we” to talk about you or your organisation.
  • Cut adjectives and other unnecessary words.
  • Use common, well-known words and explain technical terms.
  • Keep the subject and the verb together.
  • Write in the active voice. 
Put the actor before the verb: 
“We will be happy to help you.”
  • Use the imperative for tips and instructions: “Sign in” “Fill out” “Send” “Click”.
  • Put important information on the top, less important stuff at the end of the page.
  • Use one sentence for one thought.
  • Use one paragraph for one topic.
  • Use lists to make information easy to grab.
  • Show numbers as numbers (9 instead of nine) but spell them out if they don’t represent specific facts.
  • Spell out the month (Oct. 10, 2010).
  • Tease out each step when giving instructions.

Don’ts

  • Avoid happy talk and marketing fluff.
  • Don’t use a single noun as heading.
  • Don’t use “he or she” or “the customer”, “the student” to talk to your site visitors.
  • Don’t talk in the third person about you or your organisation.
  • Don’t use technical language unless everyone you are communicating with shares this knowledge.
  • Don’t write in the passive voice.
  • Don’t tangle sentences.
  • Don’t write sentences with more than 15 words.
  • Don’t use paragraphs with more than 3 sentences.
  • Don’t put more than 10 items into one list.

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