Writing for the Web


As a module or activity author, the primary audience for your web pages are faculty - those in your discipline and those in other fields of science,social science, engineering, mathematics and technology. Our users also includes faculty in the humanities, K-12 teachers, and students at all levels.

Looking not Reading

The most important distinction between writing for paper copy and for the web is that users read books while they look at websites. Studies show that users do not read through pages linearly, rather they look first at the the things that catch their eye (titles, headers, pictures and links). Users need to be lured in to reading by something interesting.To this end we encourage you to think about how a user will look at and move through your web pages to learn something. Nesting long descriptions behind pages that provide a quick overview is an important technique.

Bad Surprises

The largest source of frustration to users are links that take them to things they are not expecting. They don't mind clicking nearly as much as being surprised or disappointed by where they land. Thus, it is critical to place links in contexts that help the user understand where they are going.

Effective use of images:

Images can be used in any section. Images provide visual appeal but should also serve a clear purpose. Often a simple image can convey at a glance what the activity will be about or give the instructor a sense of the data collected. Our evaluation studies indicate that a simple graphic to show potential data eases the instructor's effort of adopting the activity into teaching practice. Examples:



Links can also be effectively used in any section to link to web pages within serc.carleton.edu, external web pages, catalog records, or uploaded files.

What should the link say? The verbiage of the actual link text should match the name of the page or file that is being linked. Avoid vague phrases such as "click here" or "this page" for the link name.

  • Uploaded files When including a link to an uploaded file, the file type will automatically be shown to the user along with file size and the date the file was uploaded. For example: (Acrobat (PDF) 9kB Jun17 03) or (Microsoft Word 61kB Feb16 05).
  • Cataloged resources Links to cataloged records, such as Physical Geology (more info) will automatically have a (more info) link displayed following the catalog record title.

How to handle long scrolling pages

Ideally,online information is easier to read in small chunks of text with short sentences and effective use of bulleted lists. In trying to make a lot of content fit on one web page, there are a couple of ways to help the user.

Use the hidden text tag for supporting content. This tag and it's counter part end hidden are used to surround text that we'd like to have hidden except when the user explicitly wants to see it. This is also how image captions are handled. For example: Example of hidden tag

Another way to handle long scrolling pages is to add 'anchor-like' links to the top of the page as a sort of alternate navigation technique. For example: Example of using anchors

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