I’m currently putting together an online CV and portfolio, in the hope that I can make a proper go of this freelancing lark around my part time day job.
I tell people I’m a copywriter, editor and proofreader – and of course, I am – but really, it’s the specialism that counts. I write for the web. It’s a skill that I’ve been honing over the last… ooh, twelve or so years, and it’s about time I started telling other people about it – putting my knowledge to good use.
Anyway, I guess you could call this a teaser. It’s a list of the differences between the way that you read content on the web and printed content. I started it some time ago and I find it helpful to refer to when writing content for the web.
I know I don’t usually put worky stuff on my personal blog, but I figured this was interesting enough and could even prove useful to others who are writing for the web.
|When reading printed material…||When reading on the web…|
|The reader tends to lean back – is passive||The reader tends to sit forward – is active|
|The reader is browsing / reading to relax||The reader is often looking for something in particular – wants immediate gratification|
|The reader has researched the publisher or author (eg has read reviews before buying book)||The reader may not know content producer – has arrived via search engine, or having followed a link|
|The reader is loyal – trusts||The reader is cynical – wants sources|
|There is a controlled “journey” – page 1 followed by page 2, then 3 etc||The reader could land anywhere – and will then jump around pages within the site|
|Images usually enhance text||Images are usually ads; users read the text first and tend to ignore images on first glance|
|The reader has a faster reading speed – is slower to feel eyestrain / fatigue||The reader has a slower reading speed – is quicker to feel eyestrain / fatigue|
|The reader starts at the top, reads left to right||The reader tends to start in the centre; concentrates on top and left side of screen; reads vaguely left to right, in an F shape|
|The page has only one reader at a time – and they’re using their eyes||The page has many users at a time and all will see the page differently – some have large monitors, some are using screen readers, some are using mobile devices… and some are search engines|
(Despite the point about web users being cynical, I haven’t cited any sources here. That’s because these are my own personal notes – and I know I trusted the sources that led me to include each point in the first place. I know there is bound to be controversy over some of them, but the idea is really just to get you thinking about the way you’re presenting content. If anything looks really wrong to you, or you’re intrigued and want to know more, ask away and I’ll try and find my original research.)
Of course, this is a work in progress. There are a million differences between print and web that should make a difference to the way you write. If you can think of any more, stick ’em in the comments – I’d love to add to the list.