The copy used on a web site sets the 'tone' of that web site. That tone is a reflection of the organisation or product
it represents. Off-line, compare copy in the Times with the Sun. Each has its own character. Both are correct for
their segment of the newspaper reading public.
The analogy with newspaper writing is not coincidental. Like web copywriters, journalists must have a style of
writing that quickly gets to the point whilst telling the reader want they want to know in a manner that they
will find easy to read.
Here the similarity ends. The web site copywriter must also strive to get the visitor to actually do something -
be that to click on a link to go further into the web site, print out some information, contact the organisation
(phone/fax/e-mail) or make an online purchase. Here the comparison is more akin to the marketing/advertising
copywriter. Furthermore, people read a web page differently to how they read a newspaper - or any form of the
Web surfers rarely actually read a web page - they 'scan' it. They also scroll, click back and forward - and they
wait. They wait for pages to download. As they wait they get impatient. The attention of an impatient person has
to be grabbed in the first paragraph, or even line. If not, they are off to another site. This is particularly
true of the home, or front, page - think newspaper/magazine/book covers. Subsequent pages might well contain
information the reader is keen to absorb, these pages might revert to a more accepted printed format - they will
probably print the page and read it later.
The actual copy on the front page will be dictated by the objectives of the web site. The copywriter should,
however, strive to communicate whatever it is about the company/product that makes it different from the crowd.
Benefits derived from the company/product should be prominent. The visitor should easily understand what the site
offers (back to the objectives again!). And oh yes, don't forget - first impressions count.
There are a number of basic rules for web copywriters. Grammar and spelling must be correct. Keep sentences
short, simple and to the point. Don't show off with long words when short ones will do. Don't use 4/5/6/7/8/9
words where one or two can get the meaning across. Keep the text suitable for the audience.
The objectives of the web site will determine the audience. Write for that audience. Jargon should be avoided
if the audience is uninitiated with the product, the reverse being true if visitors are experienced in the
field or industry. This also applies to the new or experienced web surfer. The web has, generally, a less formal
approach to the language used. The slang or terminology of the audience should be adopted. Remember, it is
their attention you are trying to grab!
Footnote: The above should have given you the impression that writing copy for the web is a skill, art even,
that few possess. Organisations should consider carefully their web site copy. If the skills are not available
in-house, investment in professional help is well worth while.