This guide is for anyone creating digital content for Sense, or content that will be published on our website and/or on our digital channels, including:
- All Sense websites.
- All our social media like Facebook and Twitter.
Creating and publishing content for Sense websites
All content on the Sense website should be published as a web page. Avoid using downloadable documents or files to publish any information or content. Remember, the web is accessible by default.
Downloadable documents, especially PDFs, can be difficult for people to access, find and read. They:
- Create problems for people using assistive technology such as screen readers.
- Can be particularly challenging for people with visual impairments.
- Are harder for search engines, such as Google, to read.
- Are also difficult to download and navigate using a mobile phone – more than 60% of people visiting our website are using a mobile.
For these reasons, we don’t use downloadable documents as the primary method to publish information on Sense websites.
The only exceptions to this are when we have a legal obligation to publish information in a certain format, such as our annual report and accounts, Ofsted reports or for certain policy documents such as our safeguarding policy.
Writing web content
Creating accessible content is more than just making sure it can be interpreted by a screen reader. It’s also important to use plain English. This will make it easy to read and understand for people with different levels of literacy.
These are some of the key things to remember:
- Keep sentences no longer than 15-20 words.
- Use the active voice. (For example, instead of “the matter will be considered”, write “we will consider the matter”.)
- Refer to the reader as “you”.
- Don’t use jargon or unnecessarily formal words.
- Don’t use a long word where you could use a short one. (For example, write “needs” instead of “requires”, or “uses” instead of “utilises”, or “law” instead of “legislation”.)
- Don’t use abbreviations or acronyms, and don’t write in all capital letters. The only exceptions to this are abbreviations that are well known such as BBC or NHS or when the abbreviation is more commonly used than the full word such as CHARGE syndrome or Covid.
- Don’t describe colours, shapes or any visual cues to provide instructions. (For example, “click the square button” requires the user to be able to see, and won’t be picked up by a screen reader.)
- Avoid italics.
- Don’t use footnotes. Use in-line explanations instead.
- Be punchy and straight to the point.
A good way to test if your copy is clear is to try reading it aloud. Does it sound like something you would naturally say?
Before starting to write you should read the Sense Identity Guidelines for information on our tone of voice and language. You should also refer to our terminology guide, Words we use.
A good web page breaks information up in a digestible way. It should have:
- Short sentences (15-20 words) and paragraphs.
- Bullet points and/or numbered lists.
- A logical reading order.
Poor copy structure
Writer’s block is a condition which affects many well-known authors and poets. It’s incredibly frustrating and can be very inconvenient, striking out of the blue and at any time. You might also find it returning again and again. Rather than persisting if you find yourself struggling to write, the best thing to do is take another break. When writer’s block happens to you, do not despair as there are steps you can take. These include taking a break from your screen and then when returning creating a bulleted list of the main messages or points you want to cover. You can then draft an outline plan of the content structure using the bullets before you start writing. At this point you should find that content will flow more easily. If there is one section that is going particularly well you should focus on that one and not feel that you must start with the introduction. If your writer’s block returns…
Good copy structure
Overcoming writer’s block
Writer’s block is a condition which affects many well-known authors and poets. It’s incredibly frustrating and can strike at any time.
If it happens to you, here are some tips to try:
- Take a break from your screen.
- When you’ve had a break, write a bullet-point list of the main messages or points you want to cover.
- Draft an outline plan of the content structure using the bullets from step two.
- Now start writing. Write whichever paragraph flows most easily. You don’t need to start by writing the introductory paragraph.
- If you find yourself struggling to write, take another break.
Headings and titles
Headings make it easier for both people and screen readers to scan copy to find relevant information. Your main heading and the subheadings you use in your copy should be clear and use the active voice. This compels the reader to keep reading.
Subheadings should be used to break up your copy into sections. These should clearly tell the reader what information they will learn from each section.
Poor heading: Accessibility and inclusion in the local community
Good heading: 5 top tips to make your community more accessible
Good heading: How to make your community accessible for disabled people
All your subheadings should follow a similar format. So, if the first subheading says, “Make space for wheelchair users”, your other subheadings should also be an active instruction. They should logically follow on from each other.
You should write all headings in sentence case.
Search engine optimisation (SEO)
It’s important to write SEO-friendly web copy. This will help our content reach more people.
Here are some top tips:
- Think about who needs to read this page. What information will they want to see first? Put the most useful information at the top.
- Write clear, active headings without unnecessary descriptive language.
- Start every paragraph with the most important sentence. Then, explain it.
- If you’re uploading your content to the CMS, make sure you fill out the meta title and description.
- Include links to other relevant content on our website.
- Use keywords that your target audience is likely to search for in your copy and headings.
- But avoid keyword-stuffing: write naturally, using keywords where it makes sense to use them.
Need help with writing the metadata, or figuring out which keywords to use in your copy? Get in touch with the digital team. [email protected]
Adding links to external content and email
To other websites
When adding a link to a different page or website don’t use shortcuts such as “click here” or “read more”. This is because people who rely on screen readers often browse a list of links to get an idea of the content available.
Links should have a clear, meaningful description of what is being linked to. For example, “Book a Sense Sport workshop.”
This makes URLs much easier to understand, which will help those users with screen readers decide whether to click through.
URLs should never be used in full. Screen readers and text-to-speech programmes read a URL out one letter at a time. Imagine the time it would take to read out a URL like this one: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/frai.2020.571955/full
Sense welcomes contributions to support our work. Please visit our website’s donate page where you can make a donation.
For more information visit the Care Quality Commission website.
Click here to visit the Care Quality Commission.
To email addresses
When providing an email address for people to contact, use the full email address as the link text. Otherwise it won’t be clear that the link is an email address.
For more information please email [email protected]
For more information please contact Customer Service
For help creating digital content
If you have any questions about applying the guidelines, creating content or want to provide feedback, please do not hesitate to contact:
Please contact the digital team for assistance: [email protected]