Planning Kit for a Quality Site for Small and Medium Sized Museums

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Web writing

When presenting contents and information on a Web site, remember to use a clear and concise style that allows for quick reading and scanning of the text.

Users of museum Web sites are “citizens” and language must therefore meet very variable needs. These needs depend on the users’ profile and their aspirations for cultural growth.

Pay particular attention to the needs of school students. Educational contents should be co-ordinated with the study programme for the various age ranges.

Also take care to consider so-called “weak, or disabled” users. Exploit the capacities of the Web to the full. When publishing details of information services for a specialised public, then use scientific terms accordingly. Use glossaries or other educational tools to aid understanding of the text.

Arrange contents in layers, using all the potential of hypertext.

Here are some basic rules for writing on the Web:

  • use clear and concise language, make the page readable like a map, build clear routes or paths, use clear paragraph structures: headings, subheadings, short text, white spaces, indices,
  • use the same layout for the whole site. For example, use headings (h1, h2, h3) to indicate paragraphs and follow the sequence on each page,
  • take care in use of bold, capitals, punctuation and spaces to highlight text,
  • use an “inverted pyramid” order when listing contents. First give a summary and then drop down to more detail,
  • use hypertext to “layer” information on different levels,
  • use short, simple sentences and write text about half the length of the equivalent on paper,
  • where possible avoid the use of scroll buttons. When necessary the titles of contents should all be at the beginning of the page,
  • take care in punctuation. Screen readers could interpret sentences wrongly if, for example, a hyphen is read as a minus sign.

Further reading:

© Minerva Project 2005-02, last revision 2006-03-20, edited by WP5, Committee for the development of a prototype of public cultural websites.
URL: www.minervaeurope/structure/workinggroups/userneeds/prototipo/progproto/accessibilita/stilescrivere_e.html