Writing for the Web – In Technicolor

I wrote this white paper with Mike Rundle about 4 years ago. It still holds up I think. Feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions or would like assistance. Thanks!

Welcome to our first whitepaper. (67KB PDF)

We worked to find a balance between saying things that have been said before and giving the information we think is essential for a good business weblog. A lot of you who signed up for the whitepaper will read it and say, “Well, duh!”

Which is a good sign, because it means that 1) you agree with us as to what it takes to write a good weblog, and 2) you already do what it takes. But the other part of our potential audience is still getting into the game.

There are plenty of companies out there who are still trying to optimize the site they already have. Starting a weblog may seem overwhelming, or not a good option for return.

We don’t want them transferring crap copy making any mistakes from the get-go because it can lead to a quick weblog implosion. That audience will read our whitepaper and say, “Blogs? WTF?!” Which is an acronym that means “What They For?!”

What’s Inside?

Within, we explore…

  • Choosing your voice and being consistent with it.
  • Understanding your audience before you begin and as you go.
  • The type of posts will best suit your company.
  • Making things easy to read.
  • The importance of humor.
  • The necessity of honesty.

So. Download, read, and let us know what you think either in the comments or via our contact form.

This has been fun for us. So much so that we’ve already started work on Whitepaper 2 – This Time It’s Personnel. Okay. That won’t be the title. Promise.

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22 Responses to “Writing for the Web – In Technicolor”

  1. Alexis Bellido Says:

    Hi, congratulations on the new whitepaper, I’ve just downloaded it and will let you know my comments as soon as I finish reading it :)

    Regards!

  2. Prabhath Sirisena Says:

    Hopefully, after reading this, our company too will go for a blog with the upcoming redesign for our website.

  3. Nicola Rubeo Says:

    Thank you very much, it will be useful in improving the news section of my website. Keep up the good work.

  4. Jörg Petermann Says:

    Thanks for email me the new whitepaper.
    I will read it with care and post soon.

  5. Tom Collins Says:

    Great stuff on writing as text and a wonderfully clean, accessible page layout.

    Now for the BUT.

    What happened to the graphics? From your Phark blog and your resume, you seem to regard the web as a visual medium, not just text. Why not address writing as a visual communication endeavor that can be enhanced with wise use of graphics (just as you advocate using “meaningful” headings to improve “scanability”)?

    Your post title above promised us information about writing in Technicolor and so much more can be done by adding informative graphics. What you’ve produced is great, but …

  6. Matthew Oliphant Says:

    Thanks to everyone for the feedback so far. We received a number of responses off-blog, as well as the comments here.

    Overall the feedback has been positive, and the feedback I would call “negative” has been entirely constructive.

    We’ll be taking it into account as we build our next one.

    Tom: I don’t have a specific answer to your query on graphics. We just didn’t have them in the document. Nor did we talk about their use (obviously, I know).

    My opinion is that most people will have an easier time getting writing correct and have a much more difficult time using graphics “wisely” as you said.

    Thanks again to all for the feedback.

  7. Humberto Oliveira Says:

    First of all I would like to say that the contents of the paper are absolutely well written. Congratulations. One thing I realized after printing was the lack of page numbers. Was that intentional?

    I know that the paper was designed to be read on the screen but I felt a bit lost after someone scrambled the pages right after they left the printer.

    Anyway, good work!

  8. Jonathan Haber Says:

    I have a comment about comments. The last few comments in this blog were nothing more than… “thanks, I’ll let you know what I think later.” Why do people leave comments with no real message to convey? I think we just uncovered the topic for the next White Paper. How about “How to leave MEANINGFUL comments.” Come on folks, just wait until AFTER you’ve read the White Paper, and THEN leave your comments?

  9. Matthew Oliphant Says:

    Humberto…

    Good catch. There are three reasons there are no page numbers in this paper.

    1) We want you to put magnets on the back of each page and use the whole thing as magnetic poetry.

    2) We always like to leave a flaw in a thing of beauty so as not to offend the gods.

    3) We’re saving page numbers as a feature enhancement for version 2.0 of the paper.

    Good reasons, every one. ;)

  10. Alexis Bellido Says:

    Hi, I totally agree with Jonathan, my first,and silly, comment, was not needed. It was just an impulse to let know the authors: “Great, I got your whitepaper and will read it!” but didn’t help in any way to this blog readers.

    Now, my real comments:

    I understand it’s a whitepaper, it must be short and to the point, but I think there were some points missing, maybe a second version is coming. Or maybe that is just a symptom when you read something you like and finish wanting more.

    That said, everything was very well explained, the writing style was objetive and user experience was well thought of.

    I’ve been reading a lot about persuasive copywriting, user experience and writing for the web lately.

    Every blog, business or not, should consider those issues, and this whitepaper does a great job noticing that.

    Regards!

  11. Brendon Connelly Says:

    Nice work, folks! Just got done reading the whitepaper, and I think you did a fine job overall. I liked the notes on the length/frequency discussion and especially appreciated the emphasis on humor (which you guys do so well).

    Good start and I’m looking forward to more from you!

  12. Ilana Yanovsky Says:

    Hi

    Thank you for putting so much effort and unveiling intimate professional secrets
    I find your whitepaper enlightening and wish to see more of your ideas come true
    on the web.
    with my best regards
    Ilana

  13. Greg Says:

    Is a French translation available?

  14. Matthew Oliphant Says:

    I can translate it into French for you. Do you want French.fr, or French.ca?

    Also, I might have to skimp on some words. All I know is “Que mangez-vous pour le déjeuner?” And I probably messed that one up.

    Actually, since this is the first request for a translation I will have to get back to you on that. We hadn’t planned one for this release, but it is not a bad idea.

  15. EricB Says:

    Hi,
    Very good read – nice and to the point … your site and company continue to impress me.

    I will be linking to this document as a valuable resource for our blogging clients.

    Eric

  16. Hunox Says:

    Great read! Very helpful.

  17. Daniel Szuc Says:

    Good read and easy to read.

  18. Luke Dench Says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article, well done :)

  19. francey Says:

    First, it was very well thought out and well written – I agreed with pretty much all your content.

    That said, I really wish you could have included more information regarding getting the audience you want or hope to have. Obviously, great content will keep them there, but some more advice about generating buzz within the blogosphere would be very helpful, especially for small start-ups who don’t have a well-established name or brand already.

  20. Divorce Blog Says:

    Thanks so much for the helpful information. I’ve just started a blog for my business, and I’m struggling to make it successful.

    I particularly like your comments about Voice for the blog. It certainly is difficult not to be too formal and not to get caught up using the jargon of your industry.

  21. Gloryhole Gays Says:

    Your post title above promised us information about writing in Technicolor and so much more can be done by adding informative graphics. What you’ve produced is great, but …

  22. Seth Popinchalk Says:

    I just read this white paper, and I like it a lot… Matt actually gave me a printed copy, and I Googled to find it (this page is #1). The reason I wanted to get an electronic copy is that I have a colleague who want to share it with. I must echo Greg’s request for a French translation… my colleague is in Grenoble!