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Formatting Web Content: Best Practices

People read content online differently than they do in a book or magazine.  Review the tips below to learn how to format your content in a way that makes it easy for people to read and share. Following these tips will also help boost the ranking for your content in search engines, bringing more people to your pages and widening your audience.

Formatting Content

  • Use emphasis judiciously:  bold, italic, or CAPITALS are often used to bring attention to text. If overused they will lose their impact.
    • Do not use all caps.
    • Avoid italics, which are hard to read online. Use bold instead.
    • Minimize use of bolded text.
  • Do not underline text unless it is a hyperlink.
  • Do not center text:  centered text is hard to read. Imagine having to read a book where all the text was centered.
  • Break up large paragraphs of text with headings and bulleted points.

Linking Content and Preparing URLs

  • Do not use “Click Here” for hyperlinked language – use keywords and language that describes what will be found when clicking the link (Examples: “Read more about diabetes/Find out more about diabetes/Learn about diabetes”).
  • Look for opportunities to link to related content, especially using keywords – if the content is about the flu vaccine, link to the words “H1N1 Flu Vaccine.”
  • Do not include the URL itself on the page--hyperlink text when possible (if you’re unsure, do ask how to hyperlink text). An exception is when you expect a document to be printed out and used largely off-line.
  • Avoid beginning a sentence with a link, and see HHS linking best practices.
  • Copy the link URL directly from your Web browser and not from an email message in Outlook. This will lead to broken links.
  • Check URLs to make sure they are working after you publish your page.
  • We recommend the use of keywords separated by dashes (i.e., xyz-annual-report.html, new-east-river-virus.html). Do not use underscores (_).

Images, Video, Blogs, Links, and Social Media

  • Consider incorporating images and video in your content. Images must include alt text, and videos must be captioned and may also include a transcript.
  • Respect copyrights:  Images cannot be used without permission of the copyright holder.  An image pulled from a website without the rights to use it cannot be posted on your Web page. 
  • Think about opportunities to publicize your new content via social media. Suggest some draft language about your new content to use on Twitter or Facebook.

Resources


Content created by Assist. Sec./Public Affairs - Digital Communications Division