Writing Web Content

Most of the concepts and ideas detailed below come from Every Page is Page One by Mark Baker and Letting Go of the Words by Janice Redish (cfr. infra). In summary, writing for the web should follow

Two basic rules:

  1. optimize the readabilty of your text, make sure your content is dead easy to skim
  2. the basic unit of a web text is the topic

Rule 1. Make your content skimmable

If you want people to actually read your work, make it as simple as possible to skim. Most visitors scroll through only about half of a web text.

Rule 2. The topic


Basically EPPO is about the clash between the 'classic' view we have on categorizing and presenting information and the way that information is being searched for and consumed online. And about the answer to that clash: the topic.

EPPO is a concept from the field of technical writing, but when you think on it a lot of the stuff everybody's putting online these days is just that, 'technical'.

Information foraging

We search for adequate information, acquired with a minimum of effort.

"Just as wild animals follow patterns that allow them to find adequate nutrition with the minimum expenditure of calories, information seekers follow patterns that allow them to find adequate information with the minimum expenditure of mental energy." (Baker :15)

Key concept: "the scent of information", relying on various cues in the information environment.

"In other words, people do not search for information with the intellect of a research librarian, but with the nose of a predator. We look for the patches of content that our nose tells us are most likely to yield the information we are after." (Baker :15)

We tend to skip over content that doesn't help us with the task at hand.

"Readers have become habituated to information snacking." (Baker :17)

Leaving a site is easy, but finding good sites is not. Search engines are always getting better at providing relevant links, which has an influence on information foraging strategies.

"The easier it is to find places with good information, the less time users will spend visiting any individual website." 1

The book model

"The book model does not work for the Web or for content consumed in the context of the Web." (Baker :18)

"They may still turn to books for fiction or philosophy or professional development, but not to solve problems. For that they turn to the Web." (Baker :20)

"Not only is it hard for writers to give up the textbook model, even users believe that they like and use it when actually they don't. Carroll even found that some of his subjects felt unsettled by the lack of hierarchical structure in some materials, even when they did better on the non-hierarchical materials." (Baker :163)

The topic

"The topic —a short, functionally complete piece of information that is richly linked to other topics— is the natural information format of the Web." (Baker :20)

"Every Page is Page One topics (EPPO topics) are presentational topics that are meant to function alone, without dependence on a hierarchical structure." (Baker :87)

"Good information scent improves findability. Making sure your topics are self-contained will help give them the right scent." (Baker :97)

Semantic clustering

Semantic clustering in this context means organizing content as a web, rather than hierarchical.

"In other words, the navigation that these pages provide is local - it is not about the whole site, it is about the current subject and its related subjects. Like the results of a Web search, it is a form of semantic clustering." (Baker :65)"

"... each topic is a navigation hub in its own right, and topics organize themselves by expressing their subjects and linking to other topics along the lines of subject affinity."

Writing Web content that works

Central ideas

Layer 1: the Home page

Layer 2: Pathway pages

Is the layer (or layers) between a home page and a topic page.

(= "pathfinder topic":Baker)

Layer 3: Well organized topic

Topic elements


Headings and subheadings help your readers understand what your post is about.

Sentences guidelines


Lists & tables

Numbered or bulleted lists serve a number of purposes:

Tables share some of the functionality of lists, plus


Ideas and concepts borrowed from