How do you explain the Wingate University experience? By using the right words in the best way.
Telling the story of the university on the website is not the same as telling it in person or in a classroom. Our audience is different, has their own agenda and may not move through the website in a linear manner. That’s why we’ve put together this guideline for crafting on-page copy for the university website.
No matter the type of page you’re creating, the goal is to convey information that serves the target audience:
- Qualified prospective students (both undergrad and graduate) and their parents
- Enrolled students
- Donors and supporters of the university
In addition to these four audiences, the university is cognizant that administrators, staff and faculty have a vested interest and need to use the site to communicate to additional audiences. These are considered a secondary audience.
People choose to become Wingate University Bulldogs because:
- Wingate University has a strong academic reputation.
- Wingate University has a tightly knit community.
- Wingate University is recognized as a “best value” by U.S. News & World Report.
The website is often a prospective student’s first introduction to a university and a continuing presence in the lives of alumni and donors. As such, the writing must reflect the unique character of the school. Readers should read warm and friendly copy. We need to convey the essence of the Wingate experience through robust vocabulary and authentic details that deliver the requisite level of information each page requires. It is vital to remember that a webpage is not the sole source of information. It is the starting point, not the ending point in a search for answers.
- Focus on the purpose of each page and how to answer the needs and questions of readers. If you can’t spell out the page’s purpose in a single, short statement, the page needs to be deleted.
- Be mindful of the target audience and speak their language without becoming overly casual or familiar. The website copy should not be a lecture, filled with jargon or acronyms or pedantic. Aim for clarity and brevity.
- Page word length should be between 250 and 350 words.
- Remember that digital content has an international audience.
Tone conveys our attitude about the subject and directs readers’ feelings about what they’re reading. Website visitors should be able to read any page and find solid, useful information that conveys the energy and vitality of the university. While there is no substitute for an actual campus visit or a real-time conversation with an individual, the on-page copy should endeavor to convey salient details that pro-actively answer readers’ questions. The page’s purpose and specific target audience impacts the specific tone chosen for each page.
It is understood that our writing speaks to our target audience in a direct, conversational manner that blends knowledge with the fine-tuned, well-intended insight of a friend. Before publishing any digital copy, read the text aloud to hear it.
- Does it sound like something a current student, faculty member or administrator would say to the target audience during a face-to-face meeting?
- Does the text help the reader understand how to solve a problem, see the campus, what it’s like to study a particular major or achieve the goals for target audiences?
- Is the information conveyed in a way that is easy to understand?
- Have you made every word count?
- Is the default voice active rather than passive, employing strong action verbs that convey what students, faculty, do on campus?
In order to achieve these goals, please keep in mind:
- Sensory experiences: Employ the five senses in descriptions.
- Precise vocabulary: Be certain not to promise more than we can deliver.
- Speak directly: Use second person and avoid imperatives.
- Positive language: Focus on what is possible.
- Use present tense: Avoid using past and future tenses.
- Rhetorical questions: Save for calls to action.
- Avoid jargon and slang: What’s hip today will be so last year tomorrow.
- Keep it simple: Keep factual information clear and simple.
- Avoid clichés: Wingate is unique; the content needs to reflect that.
- Avoid repetition: Do not repeat content from another page.
In terms of voice, a website is an extension of an organization’s personality. For us, that means conveying that we are:
- Private not public
- Proud of our leading health studies programs
- Consistently named a “best value” by U.S. News and World Report
Being a Wingate University student is a personalized experience, and the website copy delivers this message by employing witty, interesting copy that speaks directly to the college dreams of potential students, parent’s hopes for their children, alumni’s fond memories and philanthropic intentions of potential donors.
The focus is to provide engaging, helpful information. Trendy, upbeat phrasing can be used for emphasis, but steer clear of slang that may be misunderstood or too specific to a particular age group. It is equally important to avoid business or more formal language. The goal is convey personality, not dry facts.
By the same token, avoid distracting punctuation (particularly ellipses, em-dashes and exclamation marks) and attempting to sound scholarly or pedantic. Successful college websites are not term papers or curriculum vitaes. Remember the audience.
Effective website copy speaks to its target audience in language they understand. For a university, this does not mean attempting to show off a graduate-level vocabulary in convoluted sentences. Careful and precise choices for nouns, adjectives and adverbs add impact and engage readers. Strong, active verbs are a must.