Simple writing doesn’t have to be boring or dumbed-down. To me, simplicity in writing and design is about balance, flow and ease of understanding.
According to an article on The Roots of Minimalism in Web Design, the goal for websites is to ‘present content and features in a simple, direct way’.
Yet aiming for simplicity, as well as readability, target audience preferences, search engine optimisation (SEO), and also manage to meet a deadline, can be daunting and overwhelming.
These are some of the tactics I use when working with content for a website (and they can equally apply to other pieces such as emails, letters or reports):
- Think about your hierarchy of information. Allow people to delve deeper, but only if they want to. Don’t bombard them with every detail up front. Start with the most important subjects first. Think key messages or top line when you set out your draft.
- Do some research on the search terms people may be using to find information about you, your product/service or your competitors. Use this information to guide your writing, but avoid inserting SEO terms randomly, or your writing will become disjointed and may not make sense.
- Edit out the fluff! It’s amazing to read a wonderfully well-written piece, but time is of the essence, so cut out the excess. Remember, even if the content is brief, it can still be interesting and relevant.
- Get the simple things right. These are the things that often frustrate us the most: typos, incorrect links, out-of-date or missing information, font style or size variations. Don’t miss these easy fixes.
- Write for your audience. For their needs, not yours!
- Make sure there is consistency across the entire website or document. It needs to feel as if one person wrote it all.
- Go back to the basics. Use active voice, subheadings, bullet points, descriptive links, and alt text for your images.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Clare Boothe Luce