Why writing for the web is like driving a car in traffic.

Driving in trafficYou’re driving downtown, in three lanes of traffic, during rush hour on a Friday afternoon.

Your foot is jumping between the accelerator and the brake. Your eyes are looking out front, but also frequently checking the rear-view mirror.

And you’re in the middle lane, so you’re watching your wing mirrors and turning your head to check the blind spots.

In short, you’re moving forward, but constantly aware of everything that is happening around you, and adjusting how you drive accordingly.

And then…every now and again you’ll end up behind one of those annoying drivers who does none of these things, other than staring straight ahead. These bad drivers act as if they are completely alone on the road, without any regard to anything that is happening around them, with the exception of what’s right in front of their noses.

If I can hold the analogy together, the good driver represents a good online writer or copywriter. And the bad driver represents a bad online writer or copywriter.

Let’s look at the bad writer/driver first.

He sits down to write or rewrite a webpage, working hard but totally unaware of anything other than the one page he is writing. Like the driver who thinks he’s the only driver on the road, the bad writer acts as if he is writing a web page in isolation…that the page he is writing is the only page on the website.

He forgets, or doesn’t even consider that the page is just one part of a much larger, dynamic environment.

Let’s say it’s a second level page. So it’s going to be connected to the home page, and perhaps to other second level pages, and almost always to several third level pages.

Visitors are coming to that page from the homepage, other site pages, social media and direct links from elsewhere on the web. And they are leaving that page through a wide choice of links or “off ramps”.

In other words, a page is never just a single vehicle on a stretch of empty road. It’s part of something much bigger. Something that is connected, dynamic, fluid, and always very busy.

A good online writer or copywriter knows this.

He writes for readers who may have arrived through an internal link on the site, or from another site, or through a mention on social media. And so on. The page has to work for all of these audiences. He has to accommodate a variety of visitor expectations and intentions.

(I’m not talking here about landing pages that have been deliberately created for an audience from a specific email, PPC or social media campaign. This page is part of the permanent architecture of the site.)

He has to write the page knowing where he wants people to go next. At the end of his page, some readers will be ready to go directly to a sales page. Others will want more information first. Others are nowhere close to buying, but might be interested in reading a related page or signing up for the site’s e-newsletter.

Also, he has to be mindful of the fact that his readers are easily distracted.

If he doesn’t stay focused on the topic of the page, and he mentions things that aren’t directly relevant to its purpose, he may break the concentration and focus of his readers, and lose them altogether.

In other words, in the same way a good driver is constantly aware of everything that is happening around him, a good online writer or copywriter must be just as aware that the page he is writing doesn’t stand alone.

Every page on a website is connected, both internally and externally.

And every page has to be written in a way that it works well within this dynamic environment.

Never write a web page without being mindful of who is going to be reading it, where they might have come from, the intentions they may have, and the various places they might want to click through to next.

Always be the good driver when writing for the web.

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2 thoughts on “Why writing for the web is like driving a car in traffic.”

  1. Good post, totally agree with the notion that the writer has to write each page bearing in mind it’s context within the whole, but also write knowing what he wants his readers to do next.


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