Design your own website

Creative writing on the net makes a virtue out of innovation

Today the options open for writing on the web are huge and can be well paying. However, learning to write for the web is an art in itself.

Not all writers have the ability or desire to be constrained within prescribed writing formulae, but writing for the web welcomes fresh and ‘surprising’ writing. In fact creative writing on the net makes a virtue out of innovation, and much of it is designed to shock; and to subvert our usual expectations.
Thus it means that on the web, writers play with language and also design units to be visually appealing. This article brings forward some useful writing principles which can be extrapolated effectively for the web.

There are several techniques to increase readability on the web. One must remember that reading from the screen is far less efficient than reading from paper. This could even happen if you or your publisher have planned a clear page with Acrobat or Microsoft Reader. Although a reader can zoom the text size up and down, to suit their eyesight requirements, there is awkwardness with monitors that can slow the reader down.

* If the reader zooms up text, fewer words appear on the screen, so they will begin to skim read.
* Turning over a physical page is easier than scrolling, zooming and clicking.
* The distance between reading material and the reader affects reading efficiency as does the angle of the screen.
* However slight, any flicker on the screen affects the eyes and the ability to read for a long time off the monitor.
With all these negative aspects for a web writer, work with your graphic design artist so you as a writer can write in a way that makes it easier for the reader to read. Compromise is the key, with the number of words worked out for each line to avoid these pitfalls.

Colour
Work your colour concepts with your designer who understands the concept of ‘web safe’ colours. RGB or Red, Green and Blue are Nature’s three primary colours. Monitors transmit RGB, after all colour is light so the only colours available are the ones that standard monitors can transmit. There are 216 web safe colours and other may look different. In fact there is no guarantee that your monitor will show the same hue of red as mine does. So when writing for the web:
* The contrast between the characters and the background should be as sharp as possible. Most research shows black lettering on white or cream is the easiest to read. White on black also has a high contrast.
* Keep the colour of your hyperlinks blue. Most readers connect with blue and a hyperlink.
* Avoid watermarks. They were fashionable at one time, not any more as the brain considers anything extra as an impediment.

Typesetting
Typesetting as one is familiar with on print is not the same on the web. Forget about kerning (removal of hairline spaces between alphabets in words in print), orphans and widows (words and short lines hanging on the top of the page) and the subtleties of leading. However, there are simple things to improve reading on the web:  
* Hyphenation at the end of lines slows down reading and best should be avoided.
* Reading with just lower case letters is a problem on the screen, so regular capital initial letter only, sentences are better.
* Fonts with strong ascender and descending strokes show up better than skimpy fonts.
* Preferably use 10 to 12 words a sentence.
Finally, planning a website needs an actual master plan to be most effective. Draw a whole overview of what you would like in your website on paper, especially the Home page and your menu headings. That way you can plan what it will actually look like on screen and you can decide your menu with ease.
(The writer is adjunct faculty at St. Joseph’s College, Christ University and COMMITS)

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