Understand best practice principles so you can write better content for the WorkSafe website.
About this writing guide
This is a reference for anyone that writes content for WorkSafe's websites... or anyone who just wants to know how it all works. Before you get started, we highly recommend you learn the basics about writing content for the web, usability, accessibility and search engine optimisation. Jakob Nielsen is the perfect starting point
Let's get started
If you're asked to write content for the WorkSafe website, it's because you're an expert in your field... or you've been tapped on the shoulder by one. Either way, it's an honour and a privilege to have you onboard. This guide is for you. It'll help you write web content that is:
practical without being over-the-top
easy to read
easy to understand
clear and precise
able to solve the reader’s problem
true to our brand
Easy to read and understand
Sometimes the more you know and understand about a subject, the harder it is to explain in simple terms. Sound familiar?
It's easy to forget that the person reading our web page isn't an expert. In fact, they might have zero background knowledge. That's why they need your help. It's time to leave the jargon behind.
Clear and precise
People visit the website because they have a problem or knowledge gap. The best web content not only helps people – it gives them certainty. They can leave the website knowing they have the answer.
Not always an easy task, but we try.
On that note, it's time to introduce you to a few simple principles that'll have you writing like Oscar Wilde in no time (maybe).
Seven signs you're doing alright
This is a best practice guide of sorts. These aren't rules - they're simply things to think about when you're writing for WorkSafe. Treat it like a checklist.
You'll notice this guide is easy to read. It's written in simple, clear language that leaves no room for confusion. It follows the same principles that it explains.
If you look for these seven signs and stick to the style guide, you'll write great content. Guaranteed.
1. Keep it simple
Do you want people to read your content?
Then it needs to be simple and factual. Always use plain English and avoid confusing words and phrases. Ask yourself: would a 12 year old understand this? If not, you need to simplify it.
How do you know if it’s simple enough?
There’s a great tool called Hemingway Editor where you can test your writing. Aim for a reading level of Year 6 or lower. This whole section tests as Year 4 - nice and simple.
A really basic (maybe too basic?) rule of thumb... keep the number of three syllable words to a minimum and if it’s four syllables, replace it.
You should write for a 12 year old because...
WorkSafe provides content and support to anyone who needs it, including people:
who have difficulty reading
speak English as a second, third or even fourth language.
What about audiences with technical expertise?
Sometimes technical words are better, if your users know them. But most of the time technical specialists prefer to read plain English too. Plain English is always faster to read and easier to understand.
You can always test your content with real users to make sure they understand the words you've chosen.
2. Short and to the point
Most people only skim read web pages
If they can't find what they're looking for fast, they'll leave.
If you have a lot of content, think about how you can break it down into smaller chunks. Can you use headings, subheadings, lists or link to other pages? WorkSafe has a few rules about linking, but we'll get to that in the style guide.
You should also ask yourself – does all my content really need to be here?
Tell people only what they need to know
You could fill the whole website with what you know, but readers don't need all that detail.
Get to the point straight away – don't bury your main idea in detail readers don’t need. This will help you keep your content short and to the point.
3. Don’t repeat it
Content that's repeated in more than one place on a website confuses your readers and it messes up the search results.
Remember the last time you searched a website and it gave you 200 irrelevant looking results? Where do you even start to look?
Before you write new web content, check to make sure it doesn't already exist. If it does, don’t repeat it – link to it.
4. Be consistent
Use a consistent style, tone and format for all your web content. It would be strange if you were talking with someone and they changed the way they spoke to you right in the middle of your chat. It's the same with writing.
Talk to people, not at them
Read your content out loud. Does it sound natural? Do you write like you're talking to your reader? For example, 'You can contact WorkSafe's advisory service on...' sounds a lot nicer than 'Anyone who requires further information can request advice from the WorkSafe advisory service on...'
How would you prefer to be spoken to?
5. Write for the screen
Think about how you read the content of a website. It's not the same as when you read a novel, is it?
When you read a novel you read page-by-page. Each word adds to the story and gives you a full picture by the time you reach the end. The web is different.
Skimming for cues
On a website, you want to find the content you’re looking for as fast as possible. You skim the page for cues (and clues) to tell you that you're on the right track – headings, keywords, pictures, lists and links.
Even this guide has subheadings…did they help? Of course.
The eyes have it
Look at these pictures. They show that people's eyes scan web pages in an 'F' pattern.
People look across the top, then down the left side, reading further across when they find what they need.
So, what does this tell us about how to write for the web? Let's take a look at the last two rules.
6. Don't bury it
Imagine an upside down pyramid. It’s largest at the top and gets smaller towards the point at the bottom.
Do the same with your content.
Always start with the most important information and work your way down to the least important. Remember, even your least important content should be useful, otherwise, delete it.
Write this way so people can stop reading at any time and still get the main idea.
7. Write for a purpose
Generally speaking, most people don't come to the WorkSafe website to browse and check out the latest trends. A few might, but it's a rare few.
Most people that visit this website are looking for specific advice. Things like:
how to make a claim
support to get back to work after a work-related injury
how to make their workplaces safer.
Or they want to do a task and leave as quickly and easily as they can:
apply for a licence
pay their premium
register for an event.
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to help them achieve it – fast.
If you've learnt the basic principles inside out, you're almost ready to start writing excellent web content. It's time to understand the WorkSafe style.