Writing and The World Wide Web/Canadian Copywriter

The internet is a treasure chest of information for writers. Along with the standard web sites, you will find E-zines which are web sites created for and written by writers. The writers are usually established authors who offer a wealth of tricks and tips in writing. Features include: interviews, articles, links and contests. Some include the author's downloadable books (like the Canadian Copywriter website; see the book order page.) Added bonuses include insider information on who's buying freelance and the publishers and agents to avoid when writing for a living. For more information on the zine scene, contact the Zine Scene, 1507 Dana Avenue, Cincinnati OH 45207 or e-mail www.wd-zinescene@fwpubs.com.

No other medium is quite like the world wide web. It has many unique characteristics -- which makes writing for the web a science for two basic reasons. First off, because the web has so many pages available, users will become impatient if your site downloads too slowly or the information is too hard to find. Secondly, since most people use the web for information, you should avoid trying to entertain. Just keep your writing short, sweet and informative. Web users are scanners. They start at the middle of the page, breeze through a few sentences and work their way to either end...and for as much as they don't like waiting for a page to download, they don't appreciate wading through loads of superfluous information either. If you're one of those "whiz-bang" advertising writers, take heed that users don't appreciate companies that herald themselves with "advertising" jargon like "we are the world leaders in widgets... or our widgets know no equal". Art Directors should also be aware that they're not keen on gratuitous pictures either. What they do like, however, is a well-ordered page that's easy to navigate and language that's clean, crisp, clear, concise, correct and complete.

So make sure your site looks professional.

Take a cold, hard look at your siteóor ask someone who will be brutally honest. Is it professional? Are the graphics crystal clear? Are your fonts and colors consistent? If not, you will be tagged as an amateur.


  • Photos that are squeezed or stretched out of proportion
  • Multiple elements on the page that are blinking, bouncing, scrolling or turning in circles
  • Multiple styles of type used for headlines and body copy
  • Colored background graphics or textures that make it difficult to read the type
  • Background graphics that are inappropriate for the content of the site (eg.: bubbles on a site selling bookkeeping services)
  • Text blocks that are out of alignment
  • First impressions matter on the Web, just as they do anywhere else. And, the first impression your site makes should be one of professionalism and appropriateness for the markets you serve.
Avoid using your company name as the web page title

Use a name that describes the service.

Avoid making your homepage
a Flash presentation.

Sure, Flash presentations are impressive, but they increase load time. Search engines can't pick them up and many people are just looking for your product, not entertainment. Flash is great, though, for demonstrating "how to use a product".
Focus the home page & product pages on your customers' interests, not yours

People hate it when you brag about your company.

Avoid a cluttered look

Put small photos of a few of your best-sellers or most representative products on your home page, then link to other products in your catalog. Break up the links into logical categories.

Minimize graphic sizes
so your pages load quickly

Photos and other graphic images make your pages appealing and help illustrate what you sell. It's important to include them. But donít let huge graphics slow down your Web site. In most cases, images should be thumbnail sizeóno more than 1 to 1 1/2 inches in size. If a larger image is needed to properly display an item, then add a link that says "Click here for a larger image." That way, only the people who want a bigger picture will suffer through the long load time.

Be sure to include important supporting information

In order to convert users into customers, you will want to provide enough information about what you sell to make them feel comfortable about buying from you. For example, if you sell software, you will need information about what platform the software uses, compatibility with other products, system requirements and links to press reviews, if any. If you sell graphic design services, the "supporting information" that you need should include a portfolio of work that you've done. If you provide consulting services, it would be a good idea to include case studies describing client problems, what you did to resolve them and how the client benefited as a result. (Be sure to get the client's permission before using their name in this way on your site.) A page with testimonials from satisfied customers is beneficial as well. Of course, you must remember this: Too Much Information Is A Dangerous Thing. First of all, your customer isn't really interested in everything you do. More importantly, you don't want to send sensitive information to your competitors. Don't post your pricing. Do post pictures of your staff and biographies. Do link to cross promoters. To build trust, include testimonials, a client list and warranties...and give the customer an opportunity to send feedback to you. And do offer your clients a newsletter.

Make sure placing an order is easy

Put your "checkout" counter in an easily-visible and easily accessible spot.

Be sure your contact information is easy to find

Customers may prefer talking to a "real person" instead of ordering online. Avoid losing sales by including your phone number, store location (if you have one) and phone number on every page.

Use simple terms when listing your service

A well-built and properly written website will score well in search engines. This is usually done by using the same words that web users will actually use in search engines. For example, if you call yourself a "domain revitalizer" rather than an "interior decorator", chances are that you won't get a lot of visits to your website -- because most people wouldn't even think to search for a "domain re-vitalizer". On the other hand, you will certainly impress the Menses community.

And don't forget to share links with others in the business community.

1. Step-Up Forms.

People who visit your web site are usually looking for information about your company and its products or services. To get more information, some will decide to fill out a form. However, if the form asks dozens of questions, they might start to back off, thinking that perhaps the company is looking for too much information. If you really must ask a truckload of questions, the secret is to offer step-up forms. A step-up form system will ask just a few questions up front. Once the visitor has finished answering these questions, they will click "submit" and another form will be introduced -- with just a few more questions. After filling out this form, another form will be introduced. With the step-up form system, you can reduce the intimidation factor by making the process a "bit by bit" questionnaire. The beauty of this system is twofold: 1. The more forms the visitor fills out, the better qualified the "lead" will be. 2. If the visitor suddenly develops "cold feet", at least you will have the information that they have already entered. All that's required now is a "cool sales pro" who can give the customers a call and allay their fears about being roped in to something they may not want to do. This isn't just marketing 101. It's about making things easier for your customers, and giving them an "out" that every consumer deserves. And isn't that what your company is all about? -- offering an excellent product for a good price and just "plain old" good old fashioned service and being fair? We're pretty sure it is!

What did writers ever do before the World Wide Web was invented? The WWW is a godsend for the beginning writer or the established one. Here are just a few of the web sites dedicated to the fine art of writing.
www.writersdigest.com. This site is updated daily and contains excellent information for writers -- all gleaned from the pages of Writer's Digest magazine
  • www.previewport.com. Find information on authors, their web sites, readings, recommendations and videos.
  • www.writersmarket.com. On this site, you can record your manuscript, where you've sent it and the responses you've received. There's also a comprehensive list of publishers and agents.
  • www.writingparent.com. This is a forum for writers who must also cater to the whims of smallfry. Very encouraging during those frustrating times.
  • www.hatrack.com. Forums, workshops and a research area, plus counsel and advice from award winning author Orson Scott Card.
  • www.creativityforlife.com. The well known newsletter "The Creativity Notebook" provides news, information, quotes and tips as well as reviews on useful writing tools.
  • www.bartleby.com. Receive unlimited access to a variety of reference, verse, fiction and non-fiction books
  • www.erotica-readers.com. A meeting place for readers and writers of erotic literature and poetry. The site provides articles relating to sexuality and information on erotic books.
  • www.speculations.com. Science fiction and fantasy writers can find current market news and magazine rejection rates and policies
  • www.sormag.com. Caters to those interested in multicultural romance; offers interviews with top writers, articles on the craft of writing and book reviews