Great web content is elusive for most. But, at its core it involves just a few small, yet consistent areas of focus.

For the past several weeks, we have been involved in helping a client with their HR content. In preparation for migration to a new intranet platform, they’ve asked us to rewrite, edit and/or introduce navigation for hundreds of pages. Much of this content was created for print use. A lot of it is currently posted as PDF files.

After reviewing more than 150 pages already, I’m seeing a consistent pattern and thought I would share some of the findings. Here are some of my suggestions we’ve given to the content owners.

  • Quit using two spaces after a period – the research has already shown this to slow readers down, it’s a throwback from typewriter days.
  • Stop capitalizing everything. Extra and unnecessary capitalization slows readers down. Establish clear style on titles, department names, references to documents, plans, products, etc. Opt for less capitalization.
  • Stop using passive voice. This one almost more than anything kills readability. The rampant passive voice is going to be killing us slowly. (Did you get that one?) OK, the one exception is headings. Checkout a great entry by Jakob Nielsen on the topic.
  • Quit kidding yourself that users will scroll forever to find what they seek. They won’t. A recent post by Jakob Nielsen explains that web users spend 80% of their time looking at information above the page fold. So, introduce navigation that makes sense and gets them there without a ton of scrolling. Also consider just reducing the shear volume of text.
  • Take out the extra words and phrases that don’t contribute to comprehension. Things such as “please,” “that,” “keep in mind,” “remember” and my personal favorite “Note:…”

This is just a starter list. If we all started with these five things, think how much better our intranet content would be.