Full day training course

Writing for the Web

Usability principles for digital copywriting

Increase the usability of your website or intranet by following our “Writing for the Web” guidelines. People rarely read web pages word by word. Instead, they scan pages, picking out individual words and sentences. They do this because they are task-focused and need to ensure the page will have their answer before they commit to reading it. In this course, you will learn the details of users’ reading behavior online and how to present content in a way that makes it easy for them to find and understand information.

"NN/g brought a vast amount of best practice advice and examples and taught our various campus representatives skills to write and lay out usable content."

Scott Wade, Director of Information Technology Services (ITS)
The University of Montana Western


  • Get eyetracking evidence on how people read online
    • ​Common reading patterns online (F-shape, layer cake, spotted, and committed)
    • When and why people are motivated to read
  • Rules for web writing
    • How to use plain English to increase credibility
    • Writing for fast comprehension and impatient readers
    • Prioritizing information using the inverted pyramid writing style
    • How to write concise copy that is descriptive and scannable
    • Converting feature-driven language to benefits-driven languageso people relate to your message
  • Balancing content with search engine optimization (SEO) and usability
    • Understanding how users search
    • Page elements and their impact on SEO
    • Using page titles, headings, subheadings and other page elements to increase findability
  • Dealing with organizational politics
    • Integrating content strategy into a development process
    • Managing the writing process
    • How to train your writers and enforce best practices
    • Repurposing print documents for the web
    • Creating a style guide when managing multiple content contributors
    • Justifying the re-write
    • Testing and evaluating your content
  • Best practices for formatting online content
    • Content chunks to reduce information overload
    • Page titles that attract attention and help users find information
    • Headings and subheadings as techniques to encourage scrolling
    • Summaries provide short-cuts and context for complex content
    • Lists enhance scanning
    • How descriptive and unique hyperlinks encourage clicks
  • Reading and scanning behaviors online vs. in print
    • Active vs. passive reading behaviors
    • What traditional writers need to know
    • Designing for how much (or how little) people read
    • Designing content so people will scroll
    • When to break grammatical rules to improve usability
  • How to write for your readers
    • Understanding your audience and their limitations
    • Using personas to inform content
    • Identifying goals for your content
    • Help all your users by writing at a lower grade level
    • Measuring readability and comprehension
    • Creating accessible content

Free Material with Course Attendance

This 355-page report offers 83 recommendations for web writing and content layout, plus 102 detailed findings about how people read on the web, including scanning patterns revealed as we used eyetracking technology during usability tests.

  • Checklist: 16 Rules for Web Writing


This course is an interactive lecture. Through in-depth exercises you will learn to apply and practice new principles and techniques while staying grounded in the research that supports them. Individually, and in groups, you will rewrite, redesign, and reorganize existing web-copy according to the guidelines presented in class.

The course also includes:

  • Findings from our own usability studies, including eyetracking
  • Videos from usability testing showing people's behavior in response to content
  • Screenshots with content that works and doesn’t work, and why
  • Opportunities to ask questions and get answers

Companion Course

Complex Web Content is a companion course to Writing for the Web. Each course can be taken independently. Complex Web Content covers:

  • Build relationships with diverse audiences 
  • Strategically decide when and how to adjust content based on site area, audience, or platform (website, blog, social media, mobile)
  • Techniques to break up and organize complex information
  • Learn how to work with marketing and SEO experts to increase conversions


Janelle Estes

Janelle Estes is a Senior User Experience Specialist with Nielsen Norman Group. Estes works with clients in a variety of industries and presents regularly about usability methods, email newsletters, writing for the Web, and the user experience of nonprofit websites. She has been the primary researcher on and co-author of NN/g reports covering email newsletter design, ecommerce communications, non-profit and charity websites, senior users and and social media messaging. Read more about Janelle

Hoa Loranger

Hoa Loranger is Director at Nielsen Norman Group and has worked in user experience for over 15 years. She conducts research worldwide, and presents keynotes and training on best practices for interface design. Hoa has consulted for companies such as Microsoft, HP, Allstate, Samsung, Verizon, and Disney. She authors publications, including a book, Prioritizing Web Usability. Read more about Hoa

Marieke McCloskey

Marieke McCloskey draws on her extensive experience researching human behavior to help organizations improve the usability of their applications, websites, and intranets. She focuses on providing clients insights and recommendations at every stage of the design process. Her strategy workshops help organizations understand their users to build a competitive user experience. Read more about Marieke