Loud and Clear: 9 Tips to Keep Content Usable and Citizen Centric
When writing text for a page on a website, it is tempting to flood the reader with information. A writer strives to help readers understand and retain the information provided and, if at all possible, have a good time while they’re at it.
The same holds true - and perhaps even more so - for a local government website. If we're being honest, the content on a government website isn't always the most interesting stuff in the world to read. There's a lot of policy, a lot of jargon and a lot of boring information, to put it bluntly.
But that doesn't mean that the information isn't important. It is usually very important, and getting your users to actually read it and understand it is critical.
So to help your users get the most bang for their buck while they're on your local government website, keep your content clean, concise, and consistent. Here are some tips and tricks to keep them coming back for more.
Don’t make pages too long or complex.
Structure each content page to facilitate scanning. Make pages short enough that users can take in all the information without having to scroll the page.
Use short phrases and sentences and small, readable paragraphs.
To optimize reading comprehension, minimize the number of words in sentences, and the number of sentences in paragraphs.
Use subheads and headings to create a hierarchy of importance on pages.
The page layout should help users find and use the most important information. Important information should appear higher on the page so users can locate it quickly.
Be descriptive and specific.
Ensure that page titles, resource labels, subheads / headings clearly reflect the information and items contained within them. For links, avoid using the term “click here.”
State information in a manner that is clear to those unfamiliar with the subject matter.
Avoid vague wordings, jargon and internal names that aren’t clear to new users.
Don’t create dead ends.
Each page should have a purpose. Provide the user with the full answer as well as the resources and documents needed or the contact information to obtain them.
Ensure the site is as up to date as possible.
Make sure to update outdated information and documents. This is best accomplished using a government content management system that makes content creation and upkeep easy for everyone, no matter their technical expertise.
Use the same format for important items such as contact information, page layout and text styles used to show hierarchy (subheads and headers).
Do not use clipart or stock images.
Keep your content usable by preventing clutter. Use video, animation and audio only when they help to convey, or are supportive of, the website’s message or other content.