The difference between paper and online presentation
Reading content from a web page is harder than reading from a printed document. Users read about 25% more slowly from screens than from paper. They also tend to skim over content rather than read word–byword. Because of this, web content needs to be structured differently.
Ideally, content should be written specifically for the web, or at least re–purposed, rather than just copied verbatim from documents designed for print.
- As a rule of thumb, make text 50% the length of its print equivalent.
Press releases and legal/regulatory documents are exceptions to this rule.
- Each piece of content needs to fight for itself – should not be included as a filler or because it is in the printed version.
Planning content structure
The web can contain much more detailed information than would be feasible in a print article. Lengthy or detailed background information can be relegated to secondary pages. Similarly, specialist information can be available through a link without impacting the general audience.
- Break up a large volume of information into several smaller topics on separate pages.
Alternative options to structure lengthy content include the use of tabs, bullet lists and the use of show/hide functionality.
If you need to maintain a linear structure, it is better to show an entire article on one page rather than break the flow and force the reader to continue on ‘page 2’. Although scrolling may have implications for a casual audience skimming content, for committed users scrolling is usually not a big concern. As long as any user feels that the content is relevant to them and their need and that they are making positive progress, scrolling is not an issue. However, even committed users will give up scrolling if the content is inappropriate or difficult to read.
- Do not arbitrarily divide a single article into a series of web pages.
Each web page should make sense in isolation, as you cannot control the reader‘s entry point.
Always remember that this is the web site and presenting content does not necessarily need to be written. Think of other ways to present content to keep things interesting and interactive. This could be:
- Web casts
Writing for readability
Start with the main points and get progressively more detailed. Placing the key points at the top of the page allows users to easily decide whether they want to continue reading. Structure your content as follows:
- Key points (summary, introduction and conclusions)
- Supporting information
- Background and detail
Always write as succinctly as possible. Pare down your sentences to the minimum required to communicate your ideas. Avoid saying the same thing several times in different ways. Draw attention to key points by using bulleted lists, headings, numbers and so forth.
- Keep to one idea per paragraph.
- Keep paragraphs to four sentences or less, where possible.
- Keep web pages to no more than 400 words.
- On pages with more than 10 paragraphs, put anchor links at the top of the page.
On long pages, use a list of anchored links that jump to corresponding paragraphs further down.
- Keep sentences to about 20 words or less.
Sentence length should be varied to add interest to the writing.
- Use simple sentence structures.
If you are using lots of words such as ‘if’, ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘therefore’, ‘because’, ‘since’ and ‘as’ in your sentences, you may be expressing too many concepts in one sentence.
- Use subheadings to break up the text and provide an outline.
Aim for a subheading every four or five paragraphs at least.
- Avoid jargon, slang and internal terms.
- Avoid unnecessary description.
For example, do not say: ‘the documents below contain information on Corporate Governance’ when the documents are already under a heading ‘Corporate Governance’.
Use bulleted lists to highlight and summarize key information. But don‘t overdo it. Text peppered with lists can seem impersonal.
- Use bullet points to bring emphasis to a series of three or more items.
- In bullet lists of single words or short phrases, begin each bullet point with lowercase.
The sentence above the bullet point list normally finishes with a colon. Do not use punctuation at the end of the lines until you reach the final bullet point, and then place a full stop to show that the series is complete.
- In bullet lists of complete sentences, begin each bullet point with a capital letter and end with appropriate punctuation.
Only the last bullet should end with a full stop to show that the list is finished. The sentence above the bullet point list normally finishes with a full stop.
- Order the list in a logical way.
Put the longest item at the end of the list if possible. The short items establish that this is a list, and the long one finishes it off.
- Follow a parallel structure for list items.
When each item in your list follows the same grammatical structure, your writing will be easier to read and understand.
- Do not use dashes to create lists.
Always use proper HTML bullet points using
Text formatting and presentation
These rules will ensure that your content is presented in a way that enhances its readability.
- Use only the font styles and colours defined by Aviva and specified within the CMS.
Don‘t introduce coding outside these standards.
- Never use underlining to highlight text.
Underlining words will confuse users as this normally indicates a link. Underlining also makes text harder to read and can cause problems for visitors with dyslexia.
- Do not use colour to highlight text.
Other than those already defined in the Aviva templates and page modules.
- Do not use italics.
These are difficult to read on screen
- Avoid using all CAPS text.
Use bold instead to highlight words. Users read all–capped text about 10% slower than they read text in sentence or lower case.
More information on formatting and Aviva web styles can be found in the Aviva Website Guidelines.
- When writing in English, use UK English, not US English.
Local and national communications in languages other than US English should only follow these principles if they are appropriate. Please contact your (local/regional/market/country) brand manager for details of the approved local style guide for your market.
Write with translatability and internationalization in mind even when you do not know whether the content that you are writing is to be translated.
These guidelines will ensure that your copy is easily translated in different languages.
- Think global from the start.
Do not use examples and illustrations just from one culture. Otherwise it is obvious the country the text originated from.
- Provide both the local and international version of contact details.
- Don‘t use idiomatic language such as slang.
- Avoid references to recent political or social events.
Unless you can be sure that they are known about on a global scale. For the same reason, don‘t refer to TV programs or celebrities.
- Don‘t use references to prevailing weather conditions.
For example, don‘t assume it is hot in summer or refer to rainy weather as ‘bad’. In some countries, it is ‘bad’ when it gets hot or humid.
- Do not use sports references or analogies.
- Do not use terms or phrases that have a religious connotation.
- Avoid ambiguity where possible.
Ensure that your meaning is clear.
- Avoid colloquialisms.
- Avoid using ‘and/or’.
This can introduce ambiguity into a sentence. Rewrite the sentence to give more accurate information to the user by using ‘and’ or ‘or’ instead.
Key page elements
The title tag is the piece of text that appears in the bar at the top of your browser (and also on the tab in newer IE browsers or Firefox). It is also normally the most prominent piece of text displayed within search engine results.
Title tags should be structured as follows:
- Global website:
- Homepage: Aviva – Xxxxxxx xxxxx Xxxxxx xxxxx
Other pages: Page title – Aviva
- Country or business websites:
- Homepage: Aviva [Country/Business] – Xxxxx xxxxx Xxxxx xxxxx
Other pages: Page title – Aviva [Country/Business]
- Every web page should have a title tag, and this should be unique and meaningful.
- The title tag should reflect the main theme of the page.
- Include your top page keywords within the title tag.
Anticipate what your visitors are likely to be looking for when they come to this page.
- Limit title tag length to 65 characters or less.
This should include spaces – anything longer is liable to be cut off in search engine results.
- The title tag should be similar, if not identical, to the main page heading.
Although the main heading can be longer if necessary.
- Ensure the title make sense out of context.
Sometimes title will be seen when the rest of content is not available to provide context, for example, in search engine results.
- Never use only ‘Aviva’ (or other business name) solely as a title tag.
The headings and subheadings within a page should convey the major ideas of the page and include important keywords. Use headings to increase scannability and make information more readable.
- When putting content together, outline all your headings first.
Headings can keep you organized and focused on the topic when you are writing copy.
- Keep main headings short to avoid wrapping onto two lines.
However, wrapping is sometimes unavoidable, especially with long product names on our retail sites.
- Make sure the first few words of a heading contain the important keywords.
This helps to convey key messages and helps search engine optimization.
- Emphasise verbs and use noun (and noun phrasing) sparingly.
Although keywords are typically nouns, it‘s the verbs that compel visitors to engage with the page. Also, on the web, people are typically trying to complete tasks so use of verbs (‘actions’ words) is more relevant and helpful.
- Write headings in sentence case.
For example, ‘What investors will see from Aviva’ (rather than ‘What Investors Will See From Aviva’).
- Read your headings and subheadings in isolation.
If they were all your reader could see on a page, would they communicate your point? Also consider whether the heading will also function as a headline on the homepage or in RSS feeds. Make sure your copy will work wherever it appears.
- Use a consistent structure for headings of the same level on the same page.
For example, do not mix sentence fragments (one word or short phrases) with complete sentences, questions with non–questions, etc. Wide variation in heading structures is distracting and potential confusing to readers. However, it is acceptable to change the structure with the level of heading as this can help users understand the document structure by signalling a change from top level to subtopic.
- Limit to two levels of headings maximum ie. heading, sub–heading.
If you find that you need to use more than two levels of headings, this is a sign that your copy may be overly complex and needs to be pared down.
- Unlike in print, headings should be meaningful rather than clever.
The sense may not be conveyed to international users or those not reading in their first language. Avoid using ‘teasers’.
- Do not end headings with full stops.
- Avoid stacked headings
ie any two consecutive headings without intervening text.
Compelling headings are essential to capture your reader‘s interest. In particular, the main heading on a page should stand out. They should make people think and people should talk about them. Here‘s how:
- Be confident, bold, and at times, refreshingly frank.
- Express an informed, worldly point of view.
- Approach topics from an original, different or unexpected angle.
- Use personal, dynamic, energetic language.
Hyperlinks within body text stand out by virtue of being formatted differently, so they should be written to function also as highlighted keywords. Links allow you to provide more information to readers and showcase the added value Aviva can offer. To ensure people choose links, it‘s important to write them so that they are meaningful.
- Links should be descriptive of their destination.
Include keywords where possible, this helps both the user and search engines.
- Link to the authoritative information if it exists, rather than repeating it.
This will avoid the risk of the original information source being updated, leaving out of date information in other places.
- Link directly to the page you are referring to.
Do not link to a homepage of the website where the user can find the link.
- Write breadcrumb trail links and navigation links in sentence case.
- In navigation links, use ampersands, instead of the word ‘and’.
- Ensure your links and the headlines on your pages relate to each other.
Readers like to know they have reached the right page. For example, a text link that says ‘Aviva announces new chairman’ should ideally link to a page headlined ‘Aviva announces new chairman’.
- Locate links strategically in content.
To prevent users from wandering off part way through.
- Do not make links too long.
Avoid creating links containing entire sentences or long phrases, since a scanning eye can only pick up two (or at most three) words at a time.
- Do not use ‘click here’, ‘more’ or ‘here’ as sole link text.
This doesn‘t indicate to the user what will happen upon click and/or where they‘ll go. There are also accessibility issues with including non–descriptive link text.
- Do not put too many links on one page.
Links should be directly relevant to the page content and add real value.
- Do not write out the destination URL as the link text.
For example, write ‘Visit the Aviva website’, rather than ‘Visit www.aviva.com’.
- Avoid the use of pages of links with no content.
- Avoid linking to pages that are already in the global navigation.
Unless these are especially relevant to the page content. Global navigation consists of the main links that appear on every page (usually across the top of the page) that allow users to access the main sections of the websites.
- Format addresses following country–specific conventions.
For example, in the UK, the house/street number will appear before the road name (eg 12 Oxford Street), whereas in Spain, the house/street number will appear after the road name (eg Manuel de Falla 7).
- Remember to include international dialling codes for international audiences.
Write country codes with + replacing 00. For example, +46 20 7662 0215.
- Use spaces between country codes, area codes and the remainder of the number where appropriate.
This aids readability. For example, write +44 20 7662 0215.
- Do not use hyphens.
For example, write +44 20 7662 0215, not 44–20–7662–0215.
- Do not use parentheses when writing out phone numbers.
- Do not include the plus sign for toll–free numbers.
These numbers cannot be dialled directly from outside the country with which the toll–number is associated.
Style and tone of voice
Tone of voice
The tone of voice you use when writing content is very important. It needs to encompass Aviva‘s brand values and communicate the right message to the audience. Keep the following things in mind when writing your copy. For more information, please refer to Aviva brand guidelines.
- Use a personal, friendly and professional tone.
Remember you‘re talking to an individual. Make your writing sound like it comes from an individual not an anonymous organisation.
- Never be afraid to address visitors personally.
Use ‘us’ and ‘we’ for Aviva and ‘you’ for visitors.
- Promote relationships.
Create dialogues not monologues.
- Be positive and enthusiastic.
Avoid boring and flat language.
- Be relevant – talk about benefits and solutions.
Don‘t just talk about products and specifications. What‘s in it for the reader?
- Ensure that the tone of your copy is task–focused.
The copy should reflect that your customers have come to the website with a purpose, either to find relevant information or to find a specific product or service.
- Realistically represent our clients‘ world.
- Always bring clarity to a subject.
Expertly edit to ensure clarity and precision.
- Make sound logical arguments.
- Use the active, rather than the passive voice.
- Use simple, short and common words for better readability.
For example, ‘get’ instead of ‘obtain’, ‘before’ instead of ‘prior to’, ‘buy’ instead of ‘purchase’, ‘next’ instead of ‘subsequent’, and ‘use’ instead of ‘utilise’.
- Avoid abbreviations.
Exceptions are to express social titles, dates, times and numbers.
- Use abbreviations to express social titles.
For example, Mr., Ms., Mrs. Note – Ms. is the preferred way to address women in business.
- Use parentheses to enclose an explanatory item that is not part of the statement or sentence.
For example, “The study reveals the true cost savings (see table 3)”.
- Use quotation marks to indicate that the words enclosed are the exact words used by an outside source.
Joe Bloggs said, “Profits will increase again this year.”.
- Use single quotation marks (‘ ’) to indicate a quote within a quote.
Mr. Jones said, “When my accountant says, ‘It is not the money but the principle of the matter,’ it is the money.”.
- Use single quotation marks (‘ ’) to highlight a word or phrase that is being defined.
For this report, ‘small businesses’ are those with fewer than 250 employees.
- Use single quotation marks (‘ ’) to indicate a misnomer or special meaning for a word.
Some incidences of ‘fraud’ are more accurately described as improper record keeping.
- Use single quotation marks (‘ ’) to refer to commonly used terminology or phrases.
The ‘Baby Boomer’ generation is ageing.
- Use capitals when a formal title is used directly before an individual‘s name and is not separated by commas.
For example, write “Senior Manager Virginia Collins took over the work” and “A senior manager, Virginia Collins, took over the work.”.
- Write company and trade names in the form the company uses.
- Refer to companies in the singular form.
For example, “Ford manufactures cars and its name is known throughout the world.” and “IT Services has introduced new guidelines.” and “Aviva has 4,000 employees. It is currently recruiting nationally.”.
- Capitalize the names of Aviva divisions, functions and business units.
- Use only a single space after a full stop.
Don‘t use a double period.
- Write ltd, plc, Corp. Rather than LTD, PLC, Corp., etc.
- Don‘t use full stops for Latin–shortened forms.
Use ‘eg.’ and ‘ie.’ instead of ‘e.g.’ and ‘i.e.’.
Here are some web–specific guidelines:
- Write about dates carefully to avoid your content seeming out–of–date too quickly.
Say “In January 2008 our new product was launched” rather than “Two years ago our new product was launched”.
- If using acronyms or abbreviations, write the words in for the first appearance followed by the abbreviation in brackets.
For example, information technology (IT). An exception to this is where an abbreviation is more commonly used than the full form, such as DVD, PDF, or URL.
- Use sentence case for navigation links and headings.
Write ‘About us’ rather than ‘About Us’ or ‘Press office’ rather than ‘Press Office.’.
- Avoid industry and business/in house jargon.
Where technical terms are required provide a clear explanation and a link to a glossary.
Key online terminology
It is important to use a consistent vocabulary across all Aviva communications. We tend to talk about ‘digital, but if you use other electronic terms, follow these guidelines below.
- Keep a consistent style for “e” prefixes.
The consistent style should be: the ‘e’ prefix followed by a capitalised word as in eBusiness, eCommerce etc. The exception is ‘email’, which should have no capital for the word ‘mail’.
- Avoid beginning a sentence with an e–prefix.
If you can‘t avoid this, capitalise the e– prefix. For example, write “Ecommerce is here to stay.”.
- Avoid overuse or over–extended use of the e–construction.
The terms eCommerce and eBusiness now carry their own meaning; e–countries, e–consultants and so on do not.
Prefixes with ‘i’ are becoming more popular and should follow the same principles set out here.
Follow the style of the terms listed below:
- eCommerce, not e–commerce
- eBusiness, not e–business
- email, not e–mail
- internet, not Internet
- intranet, not Intranet
- web, not Web
- podcast, not pod cast or pod–cast
- website, not web site or web–site
- webcast, not web–cast or web cast
- web page, not web–page or webpage
- online, not on–line
- homepage not home page
- multimedia, not multi–media
Web and email addresses
When writing web addresses omit the ‘http://’ prefix, unless it is required for clarity. For example:
- Write domain names in lower case.
For example, aviva.com.
- Write email addresses in entirely lower case.
For example, email@example.com.
- If .com ends a sentence, put a full stop after it.
- With .brand URLs being purchased this could change in the future.
- Don‘t insert a hyphen within a URL to break a line.
Numbers, measures and symbols
- Use a full stop in decimals.
For example, 3.6 million yen.
- Use a zero before the decimal place when the number is less than 1.
For example, write 0.8.
- Use metric measures.
Unless industry or local convention dictates otherwise, eg. ounces for gold worldwide, miles for distance in America.
- Write whole numbers up to nine, including zero.
For example, “The committee consists of six members”.
- Use figures for precise amounts larger than one.
For example, ‘52’, not ‘fifty–two’. Convert to decimals wherever practical.
- Write million and billion out as words.
Use the words billion and million to avoid the use of excessive zeros and make large numbers more readable. For example, “2 million people live in the region”.
- Write numbers as figures when they precede units of time, measurement or money.
For example, ‘18 years old’, ‘a 7–year–old statute’, ‘9 o‘clock’ or ‘9am’, ‘US$3.50’, ‘3 centimeter’.
- Use figures for page numbers and percentages.
For example, ‘page 10’, ‘2%’.
- Always use the % sign, instead of writing out ‘per cent’.
- Use figures for decimal amounts.
Aside from financial documents where more detail is needed, do not exceed two decimal places. Use the internationally accepted standards of a full stop for decimal place and commas for hundreds places. For example, ‘1,897,976 89.67’ and ‘4,453 employees’.
- Spell out fractions and amounts less than one, using hyphens between the words.
For example, ‘two–thirds’, ‘four–fifths’.
- Use fractions for rough figures and decimals for more exact figures.
For example, ‘3 1/2%’ and ‘10.6%’.
- Use hyphens to write out a fraction and to combine number–unit adjectives.
For example, ‘two–thirds’ and ‘100–year celebration’.
- Make the first letter lowercase of any unit written out in full.
For example, ‘25 grams’.
- Use a space between a number and unit if the unit is written out in full.
For example, ‘16 kilometers’.
- If a sentence starts with a number, spell it out.
Unless you are referring to a calendar year (eg 1998, 2010).
- Use ‘No.’ with numbers to identify an item in a sequence or an item with a given number.
For example, “she works in room No.7”. However, do not use as a substitute for the word number. For example, write “She asked for the number of guests”, not “She asked for the No. of guests”.
- Do not use a space between a number and unit symbol.
For example, ‘12cm’, ‘9m’, and ‘12%’.
- Do not pluralize units of measurement.
Write ‘6cm’, not ‘6cms’.
Dates and times
Remember that when writing for an international readership that local times will be different from your own. Note time–zone differences and make sure your reader knows what local time you are referring to, especially if you are promoting a future event or anything else time–sensitive.
- Use am or pm with numbers to indicate the time of day.
For example, “9am – 7pm”. Do not capitalize ‘am’ or ‘pm’.
- Be consistent in style when writing a number of dates.
- Use the 12–hour clock when writing times.
For example, “9:30am to 5:15pm”.
- Use ‘noon’ and ‘midnight’,
Not ‘12am’ or ‘12pm’.
- Use figures when they precede units of time.
For example, ‘9 o‘clock’ or ‘9am’.
- When writing out dates, use suffixes, such as st, nd, rd, and th.
For example, ‘9th July’, not ‘9 July’
- Do not write ‘01/03/08’.
1/3/08 can mean a different date within different markets. Use “Monday 1 March 2008” instead.
- Do not capitalize am or pm.
- Do not use commas when writing dates.
Even if you are using a day and date. For example, write “Monday 1st May 2011”.
Product and services
When writing about products and services on the website, particular care need to be taken. Follow best practice guidelines below but also ensure that you fully comply with relevant codes of practice and laws. Contact our legal team for more information.
It is important to present information about a product or service in an accurate, clear and balanced way:
- Provide a straightforward and balanced overall impression of the product.
For example, provide a clear description and key information about the product or service, but also include the nature and commitment required and the risks involved. Give product benefits and drawbacks the same amount of weight and prominence on the page.
- Clearly substantiate headline claims.
Place the substantiation close to the claim itself.
- Ensure information is accurate.
In accordance with current market conditions (eg, correct base rates) and with what the firm is offering (eg, special offers have not been removed once they have expired).
Allow customers to access key information easily:
- Ensure important information prominent and presented in a logical manner.
- Make consumers aware of key information at different points of the process.
For example, at the initial point of contact, while they were obtaining an online quote and also during any subsequent purchase.
- Don‘t locate key material at the bottom of the screen.
- Don‘t bury key information (such as on fees or exclusions).
For example, don‘t place within a separate section such as FAQs or under a heading ‘additional information’. Consumers can easily miss this information.
- Do not refer consumers to statements in documents held offline.
Financial promotions should be ‘stand alone’ compliant. Do not rely on subsequent documentation to provide key information.
- Don‘t use a font size or colour that diminishes the apparent importance of key information.
Where required, clearly and prominently placed relevant risk information:
- Place risk information prominently on the first page the customer arrives at.
- Display risk information near to the product description and repeat further into the application process.
- Use presentational tools to draw attention to the text.
For example, font, position, colour, text boxes and so forth.
- Ensure risk warnings are prominent and not easily overlooked.
They shouldn‘t appear only in the ‘legal notes’, ‘notes’ or ‘terms and conditions’ pages, or other equivalent pages.
- Do not position the risk information separately from the product–specific information.
The onus shouldn‘t be on the consumer to link risks with the actual product.
- Don‘t make users have to scroll down to access the information.
Take into account the different sized browsers of consumers when positioning this information to prevent having to scroll to see this information. If you use devices such as fixed risk, ensure that the warnings remain on the screen even when the customer scrolls up and down.
- Don‘t bury the risk warnings in the small print at the bottom of the page.
Where required, clearly and prominently placed relevant past performance warnings:
- Ensure site contains adequate past performance warnings.
Include the warning on every page that mentioned past performance.
Follow these guidelines when including endorsements and testimonials. For more information, please contact the Compliance team.
- If you use a testimonial or endorsement, hold contact details for the person or organisation who gives it.
This is a UK regulatory record keeping requirement and is also part of the Advertising Standards Authority‘s (ASA) CAP code.
- Ensure the testimonials relates to the advertised product.
- Do not feature a testimonial without permission
Enhance credibility and trust
The quality of the website content can enhance credibility and trust in the site.
- Use a clear, direct and sincere writing style.
Be objective, don‘t use promotional writing.
- Make contact information available where appropriate.
However, ensure you have the resources to support this.
- Keep your website and information up–to–date.
People assign more credibility to sites that have been recently updated or reviewed.
- Always check your content for spelling and grammatical errors.
All content should be spell–checked and carefully proofread. It is preferable to have someone else proofread for you.
- Don‘t make unsubstantiated claims.
In particular, try to avoid sales and marketing clichés, and pretentious words and phrases. Use information, insights, examples, facts and benefits instead. Exaggerated claims or boasts can also have legal implications.
Offer useful information
Traditional marketing pushes information to people. In contrast, online marketing for the most part relies on visitors coming to a website to pull information. Because of this, online content has to satisfy the need for information before presenting marketing messages.
- Deliver reliable, credible, factual, up to date information.
- Highlight the expertise we can offer.
Position content as market–leading thought leadership.
- Keep marketing messages at the end.
Ensure users receive information they were looking for first.
Include clear calls to action
On the web, users read to find specific answers and tend to leave a site if they cannot find these answers. Ask yourself what do you want a user to do (apply, register, download, enquire, view, comment, read more)? Never leave a reader thinking, “So what do I do now?”.
- Make sure copy leads to an action through the text, buttons or promotions.
Examples of calls to action include: subscribe to a newsletter; download a brochure or sign up for a seminar.
- Place your calls to action at the end of your body text and within your related links.
- Base your calls to action on site objectives and customer goals.