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Is your website content meeting customers’ needs?

Teignbridge District Council are working hard to ensure their website content is meeting their customer’s needs and expectations. They recently asked SDS to help them by delivering training for management and content editors to help improve their website content.

Writing for your customers

In the first training session we looked at how to write for your customers, and this applies to all written communications – emails, letters, reports, and web content. We explored how well we know our audience and had a go at using user stories to understand our customer needs.

We then looked at if we are telling our customers what they need to know using the ‘What’s in it for me’ and the ‘So what’ technique to try to turn services into benefits.

How to turn a service into a benefit using the so what technique. We monitor air quality So what We know the quality of the air in different places across the borough at different times So what We can share this information with residents so they know about the air quality So what Residents can choose the best days to visit particular areas So what You can choose the best days to visit the area

Then for the second part of the session we reviewed the main principles of plain English:

  • Using short concise sentences
  • Using simple words and phrases
  • Using your readers language – free readability tools can help here
  • Avoid using slang, jargon and acronyms
  • Use the active voice most of the time
  • Don’t be afraid to give instructions
  • Avoid nominalisations, they are so dull
  • Use lists where you can, bullet points are best

How to create and structure good content

In the second training session we focused on content that is specifically for the web. We explored why it is so important to have good content:

  • to communicate a clear message that’s easily understood
  • to encourage a preferred action
  • to prompt self-service and reduce enquiries

We watched some videos of customers trying to complete a task online to demonstrate how people access and read websites and the difficulties they often have.

We explored how to make our content relevant and valuable and how to use clear copy and design. We had a go at using the ‘Inverted Pyramid’ style of writing as well as subtitles and bullet points to restructure some content.

The Inverted Pyramid: ‘The Lead’: The most important information Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? ‘The Body’: The crucial information Story, Issue, Background, Details ‘The Tail’: Any extra information Interesting or related items Model based on Wikimedia Commons

We discussed how to encourage visitors to take the action you want them to, by minimising friction on your website. And all this while making sure it is also accessible for everybody including those with disabilities.

What next?

Managers and web editors will be using this training to review their content and make improvements. Teignbridge District Council will also be delivering user testing sessions over the next few months to help them to understand more about their customers experience of the website and where they may be experiencing difficulties so that more improvements can be made.

If you are interested in these training courses – either as a live workshops, remote training session or as e-learning courses – please get in touch.