Writing for the (New) Web

“‘Sometimes people ask me, ‘When you’re making a movie or a TV show, is it different?’ Spacey explained. ‘Actually, that camera that is photographing us doesn’t know it’s a movie camera or a TV camera or a webisode camera or a Vine camera; it’s just a camera. Whatever platform it ends up on, it doesn’t affect the way we go about doing our work.'” –  Kevin Spacey

In a recent Adweek.com article, Actor Kevin Spacey shared his stance on technology’s role in developing a new era for TV. His assessment is that digital platforms aren’t the end of the medium, they just provide a different process by which an audience is receiving content. And that’s just the definition of how we adapt to change, right? Spacey and his fellow actors are still acting. They’re just exploring different methods of communication. As a content developer, I’m still writing, but I’m constantly exploring new (and I’d say better) ways to communicate compelling, useful information for clients that fit within new website standards.

The Old Web

When I first started writing web copy, everything (especially interior pages) was just a placeholder for narratives. The “About” page might contain one, long 700-word company history. The “Services” page might contain 10 different anchored section headers, each with a 200-300 word explanation. Perhaps these pages included a banner image at the top, hyperlinks within the text, and email addresses or contact numbers for more information, but the narrative was the focus. And to top it off, the simplest style change required that you knew at least basic coding.

The New Web

Today, everything about the online world has changed. We think about mobile (a lot), we’re more conscious of attention spans, platforms like WordPress allow for styling ease, and the importance of aesthetic has reached new heights. From a writer’s perspective, the most obvious (and exciting) adjustment is melding content with design. I’m always thrilled to see mockups from our designers – their creations astound me – and it makes me think about content in an entirely different way. Maybe I could show company history as a timeline with integrated visuals. Maybe the leading About copy should focus more on the mission, and factual items could be paired with icons in a separate section. You get the gist.

The Same Story

The one thing that hasn’t changed in my 10+ years of developing content (and it never will), is that I’m still tasked with presenting a story, and presenting it well. The biggest difference over that span of time is that digestion of content has altered, affecting structure, language, and layout – and changes to these areas are often a difficult sell.

Depending on the client, the “narrative” can be a touchy subject. So, be prepared to hold their hands patiently while leading them firmly into a new idea. Take the time to examine, and then confirm, a few key points:

  • What is it that your audience absolutely needs to know? 
  • What is the number one question you receive from your audience and how can you answer it effectively?
  • How can you play to new trends in content absorption?
  • How can you strike a balance between design and content that is in keeping with current expectations without sacrificing either?

Kevin Spacey is still acting. You should still be telling a story. It’s just time to adjust the sails.

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