October 10, 2004

Writing for the Web

Now that I have had practice with the techniques discussed in Crawford Kilian's Writing for the Web here on my blog, I've done a little reflecting on how his information has enabled my weblog to grow and improve.

The first and perhaps most essential tip that I got from Kilian's book is that text on the web should be as simple and easy-to-understand as possible. He advises against using "unfamiliar or ambiguous words" which "readers must puzzle over," which are typically the kinds of words that I have been commanded to include in all of my academic writing before college (Kilian 13).

Normally, I would have written something like this for the introductory paragraph of this blog entry--

"Crawford Kilian elaborates on several points of paramount importance in his text, Writing for the Web. His advice has convinced me to reevaluate the manner in which I convey information on this weblog, and I have took time to carefully consider each point in order to assess the value of my own writing."

--but instead, I cut out practically all of the "elegant" or "sophisticated" terms to make it much easier to follow.

Another important tip that Kilian provides is that text should be chopped up into logical "chunks" of information for the same purpose. I have tried to follow his advice by giving each of my academic blog entries a structure that makes sense, with plenty of white lines that break up my text and make it much easier on the eyes.

Kilian also stresses the importance of hooks and blurbs, small bits of text (only a sentence or two) that get the reader's attention and give them an extremely brief summary of the contents of the entry they are about to read. An example would be the very first paragraph of this entry, which gives a general explanation of what you are reading now. I think the hooks that I use for my poetry entries are especially useful, because they usually hint at the content of the poems just enough to make someone want to read them.

Finally, I decided to take some time to find a couple of websites and comment on their content and organization briefly, to provide more examples of good and bad hypertext.

The first website is one that my sister visits a lot, because her teachers use it to assign homework.


This website is supposedly meant for students in the K-12 grades... one of its biggest flaws is that its home page is way too confusing to be understood by a majority of those students. There are too many black-and-white text chunks that are full of information that is meant for teachers and parents, not students. However, it does redeem itself somewhat in that it has a link to a Students/Parents page clearly visible.

The interactive pull-down link lists along the navigation bar are great at catching and keeping the interest of the reader. The link-text is short and easy to understand.

Advertisements are kept to an absolute minimum, meaning that students, parents, and teachers are getting more valuable information and less marketing garbage.

The second website is the home page for Dell's website (the computer company extraordinaire).


The content of the home page is satisfactory, with category headings such as "Home & Home Office" or "Small Business" that direct customers to their destinations with ease. There are also short blurbs that describe the links even more, ensuring that customers will know where they are headed.

Another big plus is the "Large Text" option at the bottom of the page, which makes it much easier to read the contents of the page... unfortunately, the link that converts the text into a larger size is sort of small and hard to notice unless you're scrutinizing the page.

The page is short and compact, making it much easier to navigate its length.

There is a search bar located right at the top of the page, for easy access... a definite plus.

The company's various site, product, and privacy policies are accessible via links near the bottom of the page, making them easy to find.

Lastly, the color scheme is warm and inviting, making the entire page pleasant to read and interact with. The pictures also catch the reader's attention.

Comparatively speaking, I would say that the Dell website does a much better job at appealing to its target audiences and organizing its information than the yourhomework.com site.

I look forward to further development of my skills while writing text for the web, and a greater appreciation of the hypertext that others provide.

Kilian, Crawford. Writing for the Web: Writer's Edition. Bellingham, Washington: Self-Counsel Press, 1999.

Posted by ChrisU at October 10, 2004 01:19 AM
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