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The joy of content – rethinking how we write for the web

Those who have written professionally, or semi-professionally, for websites over the past 20 years might have noticed something of a shift in attitude towards web content , particularly in  the past few years or so. Traditionally, web writers have been urged, on training courses and in corporate guidelines and the like, to keep things brief, punchy and as straightforward as possible. This is still very laudable advice, but, taken too far, could make web writers avoid the grey areas, and somewhat oversimplify – even to the point of being a little patronising.

One web writing resource advises its authors:

“What you write and how you present it affects your success in grabbing the attention of online readers. You have roughly three seconds to capture a reader’s attention. Three seconds.”

However, it could be argued that, these days, web writers have perhaps a little bit more room for manoeuvre, and the old “three-second” rule may need to be revisited somewhat.

One reason for this is the rise of e-readers, tablets and touchscreen smartphones, along with attractive apps that enable users to read long, informative web articles in offline mode whilst commuting or doing longer distance travelling. Now that the internet is literally “easier to read”, especially whilst on the move, then perhaps readers will have more time for more complex, probing pieces of content. In practical terms, it’s worth remembering that screen resolutions on the above devices have improved exponentially, making reading at length easier and more appealing.

Finally, companies are becoming increasingly convinced by Google’s fresh emphasis on strong, authoritative content, and plenty of it, as a positive influence in search results rankings. Consequently, a virtuous circle is being created – audiences are hungry for in-depth, high-quality content, and ambitious businesses are only too happy to provide it – especially if they can get the edge on their competition.

Steven Morris

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