Preparing Your Material-Templates and CMS - Carnegie Mellon University

Preparing Your Material

Whether you are organizing the material of your website into page categories (see Planning Your Website) or determining the best way to present your content on a specific page, it's important to keep a few key things in mind.

Put Yourself in the Shoes of Your Users

The most common mistake people make is that they organize their content according to their internal administration rather than according to how their users will be looking for it.

A typical problem with many websites is that the information contained in them is not organized to best accommodate their users' needs. You can dramatically improve your website's effectiveness by making it easier for users to find what they are looking for. By using analytics reports, conducting surveys, or simply allowing users to provide feedback about your website, you can identify your users' needs and improve your website to be more user-friendly.

Tip: People go to websites to perform actions and are typically looking for guidance on how to accomplish a task (e.g., how to apply, who to contact, how to get directions, where to submit a payment, etc.) Action-oriented websites will efficiently guide your users to obtain the information they need easily and quickly.

Learn How to Write For the Web

Writing for the web is different from writing for print; instead of reading content word-for-word, people scan websites. Knowing how to write for the web will improve the usability of your website and help users get the information they are looking for in an efficient manner.

Be Brief

  • Concentrate on one topic per page, and one main idea per paragraph.
  • Keep paragraphs short – less than five sentences is a good guideline.
  • Content should not scroll longer than two full-page lengths.
  • Overall, less is more!

Use Descriptive Headings and Subheadings to "Chunk" Your Information

  • Users scan pages for headings and subheadings when looking for specific content.
  • Use headings to accurately describe the content that follows.
  • Use search-friendly keywords in headings and subheadings.

Make Your Pages Free Standing

  • Don't assume that a user moves through the website sequentially by beginning with the home page and following the order of your navigation; users can enter a website from any page and jump around.
  • Create content for each page that is independent from content on the rest of the website.

Consolidate Text By Using Bulleted Lists and Tables

  • Bulleted lists and tables consolidate text and organize information in a user-friendly way, making it easier and quicker to "digest" than having to read through long paragraphs.
  • For more tips on writing for the web, please read about Search Engine Optimization and Best Practices for Using the CMS.