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Design for conversation: Best practices to connect and converse with your users

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Writing for the Web workshop

If you’d like to learn more about designing for conversation, join us for a training. We’re also happy to chat about your content needs from content strategy to user experience design.

A-T content strategist Misty Weaver teaches a Writing for the Web workshop.

What you write today won’t just be read. People might glance at it, skim, or scan it. They might hear it, touch it, or use it to complete a task. Technology allows us to reach people through a variety of media and platforms. But there’s a reason best practices don’t evolve as quickly as technology trends. They give us the grounding to focus on what matters: connecting people with information they need.

Writing for the Web is a set of best practices that make it easy for people to see their questions and tasks in your communications with them. It helps you make the best use of their time by prioritizing their tasks. Writing for the Web fundamentals also support design for accessibility, mobile interfaces, and search engine optimization. It’s a classic that scales well.

Even with the explosion of ways to access information, communicating effectively online is a lot like what works best in person. Writing for the Web helps you provide clear, engaging information that people can quickly understand and use.

Start with the basics: What is Writing for the Web?

Writing for the web is bit of a misnomer because it’s about more than just text and the Internet. Author Lynda Felder describes Writing for the Web as “creating compelling web content using words, pictures, and sound.” To write web content that works, Ginny Reddish tells us we will be Letting Go of the Words. Think of writing more as storytelling and the web as wherever we are having conversations online.

Web content is part of interactive storytelling. Whether we connect with others through text, voice, or touchscreens, we are part of a conversation. Writing for the Web helps us bring clarity to our interactions in the digital space.

3 steps to prepare for web conversations If you’re going to be a part of a conversation, start by knowing who you’re talking with.

1.Get to know your audience

What they are trying to do? How do they go about their tasks? What questions do they have for you and your organization?

A little audience or research can help you understand your users’ contexts. When you clearly address audiences’ tasks, you can make sure your message reflects their needs and answers their questions. People are more open to listening and learning if they feel listened to.

Next, you’ll need a set of guidelines to help everyone in your organization keep that conversation going consistently.

2.Determine your style

If you want to build trust with your audiences, your communication needs to be consistent and credible. It helps when everyone who speaks on behalf of your organization uses the same voice, tone, and style.

By adopting Writing for the Web principles and applying them through style and content guidelines, you help all employees have better conversations with audiences.

3.Chunk your content

Be ready for text-skimming readers by structuring your content into scannable sections.

Meaningful headings for brief sections of text or visuals help people scan your content and understand what they’ll learn. They want to see the steps to completing their tasks, the answers to their questions, and words they recognize.

When you put the most important information to your audiences first, you make it easy for them to follow along. When you make your content small and scalable, it’s easier to adapt to the channel, platform, or interface hosting your conversation.

Ready to start talking with your customers instead of to them?

Designing conversations is more difficult than just delivering messages, but you build trust with your audiences by inviting them into those dialogues. It takes some research. You’ll need teams to align and agree to follow the same guidelines. There’s change involved, but there’s also the potential to build much better online interactions and experiences. Make that communication as clear as possible by adopting best practices from Writing for the Web.

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