How to plan and write website language

Whether you’re developing a new website or revamping your existing site, spend some time writing effective text. Powerful language will complement the design and technological features of your website to give the viewer a more lasting impression.

Preparation

To begin, think about your viewers. Who are they and what else are they reading? This will help you write your website copy so that it stands out from online competition. Think about what you want viewers to know or believe about your company. This is your elevator speech put into written text. Then, decide what one action step you’d like viewers to take. You might want them to call you, send an e-mail or recommend your company to others. Choose which action step is most important to your business because you’ll want to remind viewers to do this multiple times across your website. Finally, decide on a tone of voice for your website copy. What makes sense for your industry and your individual personality?

Landing/home page

Visuals are important on your landing page so the copy needs to be short and sweet. Just one or two sentences describing your offering will be the most effective. Your logo and branding colours should be prominent. Less is more on this page. Viewers can click through to other sections to read further information about your company.

About

In this section, include background about your company including its origins and mission. Explain why you started the business and why you are qualified to provide what you’re selling. Establish your credibility by describing your qualifications and experience. This could be a place to describe how your company is different from competitors, if the differences relate to your background. Include your call to action (call, e-mail, etc) and relate it to finding out more about your experience.

Services/offering

This is where you show the reader exactly what you’re selling. Use lists, columns, buttons or other interesting formats to break up long text. If your list of services is very long, break it up into sub-sections with smaller components listed underneath. Make sure your offering is understandable to people outside of your specific industry; it’s ok to use simple language followed by a more specific product definition.  This section is another area where you can describe how your product is different from competitors. Again, include your call to action and relate it to the viewer’s need for what you’re selling.

What others say

Testimonials and quotes from existing clients make great selling points. These could be sprinkled throughout the other sections of the website, or you could gather them into their own area. Include photos of clients if you can. Don’t forget your call to action on this page as well.

Work samples/portfolio

Depending on what you’re selling, show viewers in this section some of the previous work you’ve done or other clients you’ve supported. Case studies work well as brief stories about how your product helped a client solve a problem or challenge. If appropriate, professional photos or images of your offering should be included. This is the place to demonstrate how your product or service has benefitted other clients. Make viewers want to join your impressive roster of clients. And remind them to get in touch through your call to action.

News/blog

While not essential, you might want to consider a section where you can post regular blogs, articles or other news pieces. This is your opportunity to show interest in industry trends, demonstrate your expertise and showcase your point of view. Despite my advice to clients, I took ages to commit to a blog! But I’ve learned that it needn’t be time-consuming or rigidly scheduled. If you’re unsure, ask your website designer to include a tab in the design but you don’t need to activate it until you’re ready. Your call to action belongs in this section as well.

Contact

Include your location, telephone number and e-mail address. My designer recommended a link to my Twitter account on this page so the website is regularly updating.

Remember that your website is your ‘shopfront’ so make it personable and welcoming. Try to be yourself in your copy. After all, the language is representing your company so it needs to be authentic. Finally, work with a website designer to really make the most of the latest technology and graphics. I’ve posted a few recommendations for friendly and professional designers here.

Happy writing and do let me know if you need help with your website copy!

Book group – My Brilliant Friend

Elena Ferrante is an Italian author with three previous novels; this one being the first of a series called the Neapolitan Novels. The book jacket claims she is one of Italy’s greatest storytellers. I looked forward to learning how the lives of the two main characters also told ‘the story of a neighbourhood, a city and a country undergoing momentous change.’

  1. Did you you find it noticeable that the language had been translated into English from the Italian original? Perhaps it was more noticeable as we began to read then became familiar? What specific wording or idioms stood out?
  2. What did you think of the main character’s declaration that she felt ‘no nostalgia for our childhood: it was full of violence’? Did you find the scenes of women fighting with each other and men beating their families harrowing or typical of that time and place? How do men and women fall into the character’s stereotypical categories: ‘…men were always getting furious, they calmed down in the end; women, who appeared to be silent, acquiescent, when they were angry flew into a rage that had no end’?
  3. Why does Elena become infatuated with Lila? How does Elena’s perception of Lila affect her life’s path? Are either of the girls autonomous? How do they compete for superiority in various realms of life and who wins?
  4. Why do you think the author provides milestones in the story by stating things like, ‘then something momentous happened,’ or ‘during that period, things changed,’ or ‘as soon as that happened, I knew things would not be the same’? Do these help move the story along or give a sense of timing to the narrative?
  5. Who is the brilliant friend, Lila or Elena?
  6. How does climate play a role in the story? Do the hot temperatures of Naples affect the characters’ behaviour, perhaps reflecting fiery tempers? What impact do the weather descriptions have, such as ‘I went out into the heat that lay on the neighbourhood like a hand swollen with fever in that season …’ ?
  7. How does the relationship between Elena and Lila reflect Italy’s culture and society? What is Elena trying to express when she relates her learning about Greek writings with her life: ‘I associated it with our dirty streets, the dusty gardens, the countryside disfigured by new buildings, the violence in every house, every family’ ?
  8. What larger entities or concepts do Don Achille and the Solaras represent?
  9. The book cover includes a quote describing My Brilliant Friend as a ‘bildungsroman,’ which means a novel of formation, education or coming-of-age story. How does Ferrante’s story fit this definition?

My Brilliant Friend

Recipe #9: Gluten-free lemon olive oil cake

This is the recipe that convinced me ‘Cup4Cup’ flour is simply the best gluten-free flour around. Unfortunately, it’s only available in the US, but I’m hoping it will make it across the pond soon. Otherwise, I will have to continue bringing a bag back in my suitcase every time I visit family and friends back home …

I clipped this recipe from an American magazine so the measurements are not imperial. But cup measuring spoons are now readily available in cooking shops here. All the ingredients are easy to find. Just make sure to use cornmeal, as in polenta, rather than cornflour, the thickener.

These beautiful cakes come together very easily. Only ½ cup of cornmeal is required so the cakes do not have the gritty texture that some cornmeal-based recipes develop. The Cup4Cup flour helps the batter retain a very similar texture and consistency to that made with standard flour and does not require additional xantham gum for sponginess. I think the hardest thing about this recipe was greasing the mini bundt cake pan and making sure the cakes wouldn’t stick in the nooks and crannies. But you could easily use a loaf pan or mini loaf pans instead.

Mine didn’t brown as nicely as those pictured in the recipe, but perhaps I’ll leave them in the oven a little longer next time. And of course, the sprinkling of powdered sugar makes a lovely presentation.

If you’re looking for a gluten-free flour substitute, please try Cup4Cup if you can get hold of it. And if you can’t, please email the company and tell them how much you’d like to see it here in the UK and perhaps we’ll generate a groundswell of demand! Hungry Games verdict: this recipe stays in my kitchen, along with my precious bag of Cup4Cup flour.

lemon olive oil cake lemon olive oil cake results

Recipe #8: Egg and bacon stuffed tomatoes

Look at the gorgeous photo included with this recipe. The colours and textures convinced me to clip it from a Sunday supplement and I was excited to try cooking it. While it does include bacon, this recipe appealed to me because it’s light on the meat content. It’s positioned as a breakfast item, but we love this type of thing for dinner. So I tried it as a mid-week meal.

Starting with ingredients, the list was quite short and easy to acquire. Slightly annoying was the tomato item listed as topped and emptied. My feeling is that the instructions to slice off the lids and scoop out the contents should be part of the recipe; it’s not as if you can find tomatoes already prepared this way at the store. A minor offense, however, and not a problem if you read the recipe prior to starting to cook.

Hollowing out the tomatoes took a bit of patience and finesse, especially for the very ripe tomatoes. I suggest trying a grapefruit knife with a curved end to reach the bottoms of the tomatoes. Then scrambling the eggs was straightforward, though I probably let them cook a bit too long. Next time, I’ll watch the pan more closely, take the eggs off when they’re still runny as the recipe instructs so they pour into the tomato bowls more easily. I used cubed pancetta instead of chopping bacon and pre-cooked it a bit in a separate pan.

The filled tomatoes looked sweet going into the oven and the kitchen started to smell lovely as everything roasted together. My children added a bit of cheese on top of their tomatoes instead of dill and that was an easy way to tailor these treats. The resulting stuffed tomatoes were beautiful on the plate and tasted great too. Hungry Games verdict: this easy recipe can certainly stay in my kitchen!

egg and bacon stuffed tomatoes egg and bacon stuffed tomatoes cooked

Recipe #7: Moroccan lamb

Even though this recipe describes itself as a summer roast, I gave it a try recently and it went down a treat no matter the season. Right up top, alternative cooking instructions were given to cook the lamb in a slow cooker so I jumped at that opportunity. The ultimate in advance preparation, I looked forward to popping the joint into the slow cooker in the middle of the day, then coming home to dinner ready to eat in the evening.

Some typical ingredients went into the slow cooker with the lamb but also dried apricots and a lovely Moroccan-inspired paste to top the joint. I couldn’t find pomegranate molasses at the grocery store, which surprised me as this was a Sainsbury’s recipe. I had some treacle in the cupboard and guessed that this might be the right consistency so I added this to the paste instead.

All went well assembling the ingredients in the slow cooker. The recipe instructed me to use a ‘high’ setting on the slow cooker but mine only had one setting. I gave the dish an extra hour to cook so I hoped that would make up for the lower temperature.

Well, sadly, that was a false hope and I was disappointed to come home in the evening to find no warm aroma of lamb in the house and a barely cooked joint in the slow cooker. It’s hard for me to blame the recipe as my slow cooker probably wasn’t on a high enough temperature. But we were still disappointed when I had to throw together something else for dinner instead. I finished cooking this lamb dish the next night in the regular oven and I’m happy to report that it was delicious. Even the children voted it a keeper. So, despite the very mixed bag of good and bad results, The Hungry Games verdict for Moroccan lamb is that it can stay in my kitchen! Obviously, I’ll probably use the regular oven rather than the slow cooker next time.

Moroccan lamb

Knowing the audience in 2015

One of my most interesting writing projects in 2015 was developing a new brochure for parents of children with epilepsy. The marketing goal was to educate this group of parents about the benefits of Vagus Nerve Stimulation Therapy (VNS) as an option to help reduce the occurrence and severity of seizures. But I appreciated the opportunity to ‘know the audience’ before beginning to write the new promotional piece.

I visited Great Ormond Street Hospital, Southampton Children’s Hospital and the Neville Childhood Epilepsy Centre to meet with nurses, parents and children with epilepsy who were using VNS therapy. Through surveys and interviews, I learned what it’s like to care for children with epilepsy and how treatment decisions are made. Some of the insights gained were new to the client, so valuable in and of themselves. Most importantly, I was able to write the new brochure in a way that reflected the target audience’s specific situations and addressed their concerns.

‘Know your audience’ is a theme for me because I believe it’s critical for effective communication. Sometimes there is no budget or time for hearing first-hand from a target audience, but the marketing results are usually poorer for it. I was pleased this client understood the importance of finding out what the target customers already knew and where knowledge gaps existed. And I’m happy to say the new brochure copy hits the mark.

curare bambini

Recipe #6: Massaman beef patties

Snipped from Sainsbury’s magazine, I had high hopes for this recipe because it looked like it could be made in one dish, featured plenty of fresh veg and included some new flavors. I was curious about ‘massaman curry paste’ and the rice vermicelli noodles made it gluten-free; a necessity for my coeliac husband. Finally, it was hard to resist a recipe that used the word ‘zesty’ in its description.

From the top, I found the promotion of this recipe as ‘burgers without the buns’ misleading as these don’t resemble traditional burgers at all. But I was pleased to make the vegetable mixture and beef patties in advance. While the recipe instructed me to slice the sugar snap peas in half, this only made the tiny half peas on the inside fall out, so I left my sugar snaps whole. The beef patties and veg could be stored in the fridge all day until they needed to be grilled just before dinner.

I hadn’t really cooked with instant rice vermicelli noodles before so I was thrilled at how quick and easy they are to use. I’ll definitely keep a supply of these in the cupboard for the future. As usual, I kept the dressing on the side so my little ones could add or not to taste. After everything was assembled in the roasting dish, the Asian aromas that came from the oven were enticing. Colorful and tasty, we all enjoyed the taste of the beef patties and the crunch of the fresh veg and peanuts in the dish.

With recipes written like this one, I find myself re-ordering the steps in my head, especially if I’m preparing part of the dish in advance. For example, I didn’t want to mix the dressing into the rest of the ingredients in advance, so I didn’t find it helpful when the instructions told me to use a particular bowl for the dressing and add other components. For me, this recipe didn’t quite achieve the right balance between too much instruction and not enough.

So, it’s a difficult Hungry Games call to make on Massaman beef patties: should it stay or go? Because the result was so tasty, I’m going to let this recipe stay in my kitchen. But I’ll probably make notes in the margin for next time.

Massaman beef patties

massaman beef patties COOKED

Too much choice? Shopping for health coverage in America

A recent New York Times article detailed some of the challenges facing US health consumers as the annual open enrollment season for health insurance coverage opens again. While the Affordable Care Act has allowed millions of Americans who previously couldn’t afford to do so purchase insurance plans, the process is far from simple.

I’m not one to blog about ‘market volatility,’ but it occurred to me that health communication is not only affected by this dynamic purchasing environment but could also play a role in patient outcomes as consumers evaluate insurance plans.

Each year, US health consumers comparison shop for insurance coverage plans based on factors such as services provided, treatments included, diagnostic tests covered, which health care professionals are accessible and, of course, cost. So far, these factors have seemed to change each year with some insurers dramatically raising or lowering costs or removing particular services from their plans. Consumers are responding by evaluating their options each year and often switching plans.

One potential result of changing insurance plans is a change in health care provider. Patients who change doctors need to know how to discuss their health concerns quickly and thoroughly with new health professionals. And doctors need to know how to elicit the information they need from new patients. Health dialogue will need to adapt to suit this changing environment.

Savvy health consumers will gain confidence in choosing insurance plans and providers because they will carry with them the most knowledge about how to manage their health. Patients who want the best health outcomes will need information and empowerment to look after themselves. This is not to imply that patients know more than health care professionals about avoiding disease and managing conditions. But it seems that increased health communication and patient education will make annual purchasing decisions easier and more effective.

Overall, I believe that increased choice for US health consumers is having a positive effect with more people accessing coverage and care than before. In the future, perhaps insurance companies will adapt too and stabilize coverage options and prices to limit the annual switching during open enrollment season. Until then, I’m sending best wishes for effective shopping and health communication to my friends in America!

affordable care act

Recipe #5: Salmon, curly kale and sweet potato mash

This recipe was part of a newspaper supplement featuring healthy dishes. It appealed because I’m always trying to get my kids to enjoy fish rather than eat it under duress. One of them refuses salmon so I had to substitute with one piece of cod.

Ingredients were easy to find and I was pleased to use sweet potato for mash for some lovely autumn color. Similar to Recipe #4 with baked eggs, the tomato ratatouille could be made in advance and used over other dishes as well. The fish cooked quickly so the veg could be steamed while that was in the oven. Our kale didn’t look nearly as soft as the recipe photo so I’ll continue searching for a better way to prepare that super food.

Overall, this full-meal recipe was clearly written and simple to put together. The tomato ratatouille components combined well and helped my children enjoy eating fish. I added carrot and swede for even more color on the plate, but I’ll probably substitute the kale next time with a different green veg. Hungry Games verdict: this recipe can stay in my kitchen!

Salmon curly kale and sweet potato mash

salmon curly kale and sweet potato mash COOKED

Healthy communication

Informing and empowering customers to make the best purchase decisions is a worthy goal for marketing communicators. I agree with a recent essay from Captive Health that this is essential for health care communication as well. Educating patients about how to avoid disease and manage ongoing conditions is not only the right thing to do, it also saves money.  In fact, the author argues that providing information should be considered part of medical therapy and therefore standard practice.

In most aspects of life, informed decisions result in better outcomes. We know that if a customer chooses to buy a particular product or service based on inaccurate or incomplete information, she will regret it later. So while marketing communicators want to share positive messages about their clients or companies, it’s important to recognize that audiences are savvy and want the full picture. We’re all consumers of health care services so we want to know what our medical options are and the pros and cons of each.

According to Captive Health, more education for both health care providers and patients is needed to help them engage in fruitful discussions about medical management options together. The more we talk to our health care professionals about the risks and benefits of various interventions, the more informed we’ll be to make healthy decisions. It’s not easy to prioritize honest dialogue throughout the health decision making process when appointment times are tight and budgets even tighter. But the improvements in health outcomes and financial savings that arise from empowered patients demonstrate why better health communication is a worthy goal.

I’ve written in a previous blog post that effective communication helps customers clearly understand what they’re buying into so they are happy to take action and even recommend the same to others. What might happen if you give your customers all the information they need to make the right decisions for themselves? Educating and empowering your audience to do what’s best for them may be the right thing to do and may earn you more loyal business in the long run.

Captive Health report