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Web-writing and usability FAQ

Q. Why do I need a specialised web-writer? Can’t I just get my usual copy-writer to write my web copy?

A. If your copy-writer has studied web-writing, then that’s fine. But many copy-writers have no training in web-writing and simply apply their standard techniques to the web. Which doesn’t work.

Q. Why is writing for the web different from any other sort of writing?

A. Because people read print – books, newspapers, reports, newsletters – and web content in very different ways. They also tend to use print and the web for different reasons. In addition, our brains and eyes react differently to writing on the screen. If we want people to read what we write online, we need to take these differences into account. Remember, too, that a lot of printed material ends up being published on the web so it’s a good idea to “web-proof” your documents from the outset.

Q. Usability, accessibility, search engine optimisation. What do these all mean?

A usable site is one that’s easy for users to use and navigate through and that helps them complete their tasks (finding information, purchasing, making reservations and so on).

Accessibility means ensuring that your site is suitable for users with disabilities: blind or visually impaired users, users with impaired manual dexterity. The aim of usability and accessibility is to cooperate with, not obstruct, visitors to your site.

Search engine optimisation focuses on improving your site’s ranking in Google, Bing and the other search engines. Ideally (but not necessarily), an optimised site will also be usable and accessible.

Q. What’s “alt text”?

A. “Alt text” stands for “alternative text”. It is mainly used to describe images to visually impaired users, who can use screen readers that read the site’s content to them. It's also useful for users with a slow internet connection who choose not to download images. The alt text gives them an idea of the images they're missing. It's also an opportunity for you to use relevant keywords and so boost your site's SEO performance.

Q. I’d like to improve my site’s search engine ranking. Can DNA Language help?

A. We can work with your SEO adviser to help you improve your site’s ranking. Once they’ve identified the best keywords and phrases for your site, we can incorporate them into your web copy. We take all your web copy and metadata into consideration: page content, titles, headings, sub-headings, image captions, the page descriptions that appear on the search engine results page etc. They all play a part.

Q. I'm thinking about exporting as I’d like to reach a bigger market. Should I have my web site translated?

A. Yes, definitely. A lot of people around the world speak or at least understand English, but lots don’t. Anyway, it’s a courtesy to address your potential customers in their own language. You might not need to translate the entire site – you could start with the home page plus product information and purchase pages. But make it clear to users that only some pages have been translated, and make sure the site navigation is clear.

Q. If I have my site translated, do I need to change my web hosting company?

A. We’ve heard different theories on this. Your SEO consultant is the best person to advise you on hosting issues.

Q. Should I change my domain name for my foreign market?

A. As long as the name isn’t offensive or ridiculous in the other language, no. It might be useful to get a “local” domain name as well as “.com" or “.co.uk”. For example, “.it”, “.de”, “.fr”, and so on – depending, of course, on the country you plan to do business in. Again, your SEO adviser is the best person to ask.