10 Rules for Preparing Texts for a Website

Editor Angela Khachaturova on texts for the Culture and Creativity Programme’s website.

I got my experience in journalism at one of the biggest publishing houses in Ukraine. Over the past three years, however, it was geared more towards working for a TV channel press service. Nevertheless, the Programme’s website has made me reconsider my usual techniques and take training to do certain things. For example, I had to learn to manage of the heart of the website — i.e. to use a special program where the content is created and edited.

Before the launch, we were guided by not only our professional experience but by our readers’ experience too: we analysed favourite websites, their approaches, and developed our own content delivery standard. And the following guidelines have been developed:

Content is King: Good content should be useful for the reader. That’s a priority. Therefore, we publish only the best and most practical materials: successful projects and practices, reports on relevant research, and new solutions for the cultural and creative sector development.

Easy to read: We gave up large formats in favour of small articles. The only exception is exclusive interviews or original texts from experts. The size of such texts is 5,000-7,000 characters on average.

There is no room for waffle or lyrical digressions in our texts. Because their goal is to inform about important news and events, provide guidance and toolkits, present best practical experience. The reader can always find links at the end of the text to further explore the topic.

Uphold traditions: There are 1 to 4 new articles on our website daily in one of its sections: Strategy, Practice, Tools, and Opportunities. On Mondays, we make sure to update the list of grants, residencies and other opportunities in the cultural sphere. By following the links, our readers can always find several dozen current opportunities for researchers and professionals from the cultural and creative sectors in the Eastern Partnership countries.

Multilingual profile: Every text is always published in two languages understood by all the countries of the region: English and Russian. The texts are also translated into the language of the country targeted by the content of the text. I must admit that it is sometimes difficult to navigate the incredibly beautiful but completely foreign letters of the Georgian or Armenian languages. Google’s https://translate.google.com.ua/ is a saviour. Whereas when editing texts in English, I make sure to turn on Grammarly, a proofreading platform (I have installed a browser extension, but the online editing version can be used as well).

Clear illustrations: The visual part sets the tone for the entire publication. Therefore, we devote a great deal of attention to the visuals that we pick, the infographics that we create and the stylistic unity of the layout of expert direct speech.

Well thought-out tags: Arguably, the most painful pitfall that we had to overcome was working with tags, which are special keywords assigned to articles on the website. If they are not well-thought out from the get go, you will have to come back to them sooner or later. And fill in the empty spaces “by hand”. It’s one thing when you have a dozen untagged texts, but what if there are hundreds of them?!

Well-written headlines: We don’t use puns, don’t distort the essence and don’t fall short of expectations. A good headline has a good measure of provocation to it in order to arouse interest, but always mentions the topic of the text. In our case, practical headlines with figures and quotations work well. For example, 10 FACEBOOK PAGES ABOUT CULTURE THAT YOU SHOULD FOLLOW, or MIKKO FRITZE: "CULTURE IS NOT A FACTORY WHERE YOU KNOW EVERYTHING IN ADVANCE". This approach ensures a good future for our texts in social networks (and we get most referrals to our site from social media!). Combined with an interesting subhead and a good image, a good headline increases the chances of the text being read several-fold! By the way, before sharing an article on Facebook, it’s worth using the Facebook Debugger tool. This will allow the social network to properly generate a “preview” of the post.

Structured text: Various design tools, such as lists, bullets, quotes, subtitles, enable the structure of the text to be “scanned” quickly. We never overlook this. This also improves the convenience of reading.

Timing and planning: First, counting on a prompt comment or approval of articles from overly busy people is short-sighted. Second, before a text goes onto the website, a literary editor should proofread it, and translators and editors have to do their work too. All this takes time. Fortunately, we don’t have strict deadlines, albeit we do receive urgent or unique material, which has to be published promptly, so we are forced make the time shrink :)

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