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HOW TO WRITE A PRESS RELEASE

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					REC Publishing Services Information Sheet #9
Jan. 2002

WEB CONTENT PREPARATION GUIDELINES Job #: xx/2001 (see staff directory be

HOW TO PREPARE WEB SITE CONTENT Contents:  Before: Think it over  During: Use Web writing style  After: Follow-up! Before: Think it over
There is much more to Example Web Site: publishing on the http://www.rec.org/REC/Programs/SEE_Networking/. REC‟s Web Site than just “putting things online”. Instead of rushing into copying and pasting your existing off-line text into a draft Web Site, first think about your goals, target audience and content. Such seemingly unproductive time is a highly important See the additional reading at the end investment to put you on the right track and will of this document. lay a solid foundation for a high quality and effective Web Site. Know your goals. The first question to ask yourself is, what is the purpose of your Web Site? Are you aiming to inform, to solicit applications, to host dialogue? By defining your goals, you can begin planning your content, style and structure in the right context. Ask yourself, why are people going to visit this site? Identify your target audience. Write for that audience. Environmental NGOs, governments, journalists and teachers require different writing styles and structures. For example, if you target governments in Central and Eastern Europe you can get away with using more professional jargon, careful wording and may decide to put less emphasis on updating your information. Journalists, however, would demand a completely different approach: clear, concise language and information that is always up-to-date. Preparing Content. Focus on quality, not quantity: a one-page Web Site is fine if it is effective in meeting your goals. It is recommended that you plan your on-line content separately from your print content. In other words, do not copy word-for-word the information contained in your printed documents. Just consider copying and pasting across distinct media such as TV, radio, newspaper, book, PowerPoint presentation, video, multimedia CD-ROM, etc. From a technical point of view, it is possible to copy and paste but it makes no sense from a user‟s perspective. An effective way of organizing your content is to sort it into groups, rank it, and write it on index cards. The cards can then be arranged to create a blueprint for your Web Site

REC Publishing Services Information Sheet #9
Jan. 2002

WEB CONTENT PREPARATION GUIDELINES Job #: xx/2001 (see staff directory be

structure and navigation. To give you an idea of how to structure and plan your Web Site, it is a good idea to have a look at existing REC Web pages. A good example is the project Web Site at http://www.rec.org/REC/Programs/SEE_Networking/. Budgeting. Include Web site development in your workplan and project budget. Please alwayds set aside workdays for consulting, writing, Web editing, and proofreading. You may also budget for improved Web design, software programming and database development. If you need any image designs, budget for subcontractors as well. Our Web team can give you estimates for the necessary time and budget to implement your request. Please see the „Budgeting Guidelines for Publishing’ document for more information: H:\Publishing Services\Forms and Guidelines\Budgeting Guidelines for Publishing #4.doc Web page or PDF? As a general rule of thumb, a Web page should not be longer than 34 A4 pages. If it is longer, people will probably print it and read it from paper or not read it altogether. (Remember: the Web is good for scanning texts and quickly finding information, not so much for reading long documents.) If there is a large amount of information that you would like to share, either:  break it up into smaller Web pages or  create a summary cover Web page and make the whole document accessible as an Adobe PDF file. (An Adobe PDF file is a downloadable file prepared for printing. Our Web Team can prepare it for you from your computer files.) Do not use PDF for files that need frequent editing/manipulation (i.e. time-sensitive information). Consult our Web team. We do not expect you to reinvent the wheel. Please feel free to consult our Web team at the Information Programme:  to provide you advice about planning your project (time and financial planning)  to guide you in drafting your on-line content;  to offer advice on technical issues. Contact: Vadim Ostapenko, vadim@rec.org, ext. 228

During: Use Web writing style
What writing style should you follow? It is almost entirely determined by the way people read on the Web (hint: they don’t). Studies show that on-line users scan Web pages instead of reading text from the screen word by word. Reading is 25% slower on-line and the average time users like to spend on a Web page is just a few seconds. Therefore it is important that you make every effort to write text that is clear, concise and easy to scan. Following are some practical tips to enhance the user friendliness of your Web Site. Keep it short. As a rule of thumb, use half the word count for a Web page than you would use in conventional (off-line) writing. Keep your paragraphs short, ideally less than

REC Publishing Services Information Sheet #9
Jan. 2002

WEB CONTENT PREPARATION GUIDELINES Job #: xx/2001 (see staff directory be

10 lines. Similarly, sentences should not be more than 2-3 lines or 25 words and do write complete sentences. Remember that most users don‟t scroll down your page when they are searching for information so it is recommended that you fit the essence of your message into one screen. Certainly it is still OK to put longer information on-line – please see the previous section, Web Page or PDF, for more information. On the REC Web site, we use 10-point font. Use this as a guideline to gauge the length of your document. Use the inverted pyramid style of Web writing. Start with the conclusion and finish with the introduction on each page. Make it easy for your users to find the information they are looking for. This is similar to the writing style that journalists use for articles. Get right to the point and your users will appreciate it! Highlight keywords in your text. If you bold the important keywords (as on this page), you will make it much easier for your users to scan the page. Do not use italic for this purpose. Use bulleted lists. Whenever possible, break up your paragraphs into bullet points. This makes the structure more visual and enhances scannability. Use simple language While it is tempting to word Web pages in an “accurate” and “professional” manner, it is strongly discouraged on the Web. If users encounter four-line sentences, REC jargons, meaningless or “too cute” titles, unknown acronyms etc., they click the „back‟ button in a matter of seconds. And they almost never drop you an e-mail feedback – they just leave your page and complain that your Web Site is “frustrating” and “confusing”. Headings and subheadings should be meaningful and inform as much as possible to allow users to quickly narrow down their search. Spell out acronyms. We use a lot of acronyms at the REC – and we definitely need to cut back on this, especially when preparing Web pages. Spell out every acronym at the first occurrence on each page. Remember, most users do not start from your opening page – they may be directed to any of your sub-pages by search engines (Altavista, Yahoo, Google, REC search page etc.). Hypertext vs. linear reading. As mentioned above, users may be directed to any of the subpages of your Web Site and may not necessarily start browsing your site from the Home Page. Therefore each page of your Web Site should make sense out of context of the Home Page! Feel free to repeat your important message. Insert links to other relevant pages. As Jakob Nielsen wrote, “a proper hypertext structure is not a single flow „continued on page 2‟; instead split the information into coherent chunks that each focus on a certain topic.” Proofreading English-language REC Web pages, like any printed publication, have to be proofread and copy-edited by a native English speaker of the Information Programme. Don‟t forget to

REC Publishing Services Information Sheet #9
Jan. 2002

WEB CONTENT PREPARATION GUIDELINES Job #: xx/2001 (see staff directory be

plan this in your budget. (Country Offices: as a general rule of thumb, always a person other than the text’s author has to proofread Web pages).

After: Follow-up is equally important
What will happen once your project is over? Your publications run out of stock, your conference guests go home, you start your next project – but your Web Site will remain on-line! Make sure that while your project is current you work out ways to maintain your Web Site after it is finished. For example,  reserve funds for maintenance,  recruit an intern or civil cervant to update the content,  design a user interface that allows users to upload information, or  replace time sensitive content. (For example remove your “what‟s new” section.) As a last resort, your Web Site can also be deleted at the end of your project. However, this should be avoided as it will break all Web page links that point to your page. Where and how will you advertise your site? Even if you come up with a great Web Site, it is useless if it does not reach your target audience. As a means of advertising, you could consider the following options:  sending e-mails to mailing lists or individuals;  mailing brochures to your target audience or disseminating them at your workshop;  requesting Internet links on related Web Sites;  placing ad banners on related Web Sites;  announcing it at conferences and workshops;  writing a press release and disseminating it to journalists; and  writing a short article about it to the Bulletin or other related periodicals. Entering your Web Site address in RECtivity Once your project Web Site is on-line, please copy and paste its network address in RECtivity. Go to the projects module  choose your project  click general information  click background information  enter your project‟s Web Site address. Once you do this, your project‟s Web Site will be referenced within the “List of current REC projects” database at http://www.rec.org/REC/Projects.html Collect feedback and evaluate your site The REC Web Team is glad to assist you in choosing a feedback mechanism to assess the effectiveness of your site. You can consider the following options for getting on-line feedback on your project or Web page:  a guestbook;  an on-line chat (IRC, http://irc.rec.org/);  an interactive discussion forum (http://forum2.rec.org/cgi-bin/teemz/teemz.cgi);

REC Publishing Services Information Sheet #9
Jan. 2002

WEB CONTENT PREPARATION GUIDELINES Job #: xx/2001 (see staff directory be

      

an e-mail mailing list; direct e-mails to the Webmaster; Web page counters that log the number of „hits‟ on your Web Site; statistical reports of Web page visits (number and time of page hits, which pages are most read, network addresses from which your visitors come etc.); on-line questionnaires; usability tests with a group of test users; and group discussions (meetings and brainstorming sessions).

Additional reading about preparing Web content:
The Alertbox: Current Issues in Web Usability. Excellent & short articles. Usability rules the Web Very informative & short articles. Wilbur – HTML 3.2 reference HTML tags, syntax rules, document structure etc. Editing On-line Documents: Strategies and Tips A must for on-line editors! http://www.contentious.com/articles/V2/2-4/feature2-4b.html http://www.htmlhelp.com/reference/wilbur/ http://www.ids.ac.uk/gdn/tools/usability.htm http://www.useit.com/alertbox/

Additional reading about Web publishing procedures at the REC Head Office:
Budgeting Guidelines for Publishing H:\Publishing Services\Forms and Guidelines\Budgeting Guidelines for Publishing #4.doc Publishing procedures chart H:\Publishing Services\Forms and Guidelines\Good publishing Practice #1.doc


				
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