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Web Content Blog

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Your Most Important Page

By Debra Torres

Is your home page number one?Is your home page number one?

You've just created a beautiful home page for your department's site, and you're feeling pretty confident about it. The page has targeted, web-friendly text that follows the Liberty University Voice and Tone Guidelines and even has a compelling call to action. You've done your job, and you know that as people land on your home page, they'll have everything they need.

After all, your home page matters most right?

Your real most important page

When I talk with people about the web, I like to ask them what page holds the most weight for their site. Most often, people say their home page. And there is some truth to that. After all, you do want your home page looking its best. It represents who you are to your users, so of course you want it to make a good first impression.

But there is something we’re forgetting.

If we can get in the head of one of our users for a minute, I think we’ll find that at the start of their search, they are not looking for our home page at all. But instead, they are searching for the page that answers their most immediate question. Remember, people searching the web want it to answer their questions, solve their problems, or heal their pain.

So if this is true, then your real most important page is whatever one your reader lands on.  

Academic program pages are top in higher-ed search

In the case of academic search, users want information about their specific field of interest. And this can mean a specific degree coupled with location. So when they type “business administration degree in New York City” in Google, are they landing on links to university home pages?

Nope. Here’s what they’ll see in organic search results: 

All of these top-ranking pages link to program or degree pages for their university.

So in the case of academic search, it makes sense that users are landing on degree pages. And, if these are bare-boned pages with no relatable text, guess what's communicated to your users?

In his SlideShare presentation, Get with the Program, Digital Strategist Doug Gapinski shares how and why we should provide better information on our degree pages.

It's important, says Gapinski, because "Program listings are the top priority for prospective students - according to them!" And since programs are our core product, Gapinski wants to know if we demonstrate the value of our product on these specific types of pages.

Gapinski's points can make serious impact on how academic departments can go about making things more effective for their target audience.

Make each one count

Whether your department is academic or not, all your pages matter. And since your home page probably already looks great, how about taking a closer look at some of your other pages. Do they have compelling text? Do they answer your user’s questions and tell them what to do next? Do they explain how your information can benefit them?

After all, each and every one is your most important page.

Posted at 9:52 AM | Permalink

Monday, August 10, 2015

Making the Web Accessible

By Diane Austin

Web accessibility refers to how easy it is for all people to use the web, regardless of cognitive or physical disabilities. In most cases, when we improve access for those with disabilities, we also improve the web for everyone else.

Provide text alternatives for images and videos

JAWS screen reader
Picture of a person using JAWS Screen Reader on a website. Image © 2010 Paul Downey.

Ask yourself if a blind person could understand what your web page is about. 

What if you have a video on the page, but your website visitor has a hearing impairment? She can see the video, but can’t hear what is being said. Will the video make sense?

In each case, your visitor will rely on text to understand your content. If you provide a transcript or closed captions for your video, a hearing-impaired visitor can still understand it.  

Visually impaired web users often use screen readers to navigate and understand websites. Screen readers rely on text and html markup to understand the web. Proper use of page titles, headings, and image alt text go a long way to making web sites accessible for all people.

“Screen-reader users scan with their ears”

Just like sighted users scan web pages to find what they are looking for, people who use screen readers skim the page to find what they are looking for. In other words, “Screen-reader users scan with their ears,” said Ginny Redish and Mary Frances Theofanos in their 2003 “Guidelines for Accessible and Usable Web Sites: Observing Users Who Work With Screen Readers.”

Sample of header levels a screen reader would indicateExperienced users often set the screen reader to work at a faster than normal reading pace when scanning. Most screen readers allow the user to jump from heading to heading to get an idea of the main ideas or to hear a list of all the link text on the page. You can see why “click here” isn’t useful taken out of context. Even worse is a page with multiple links called, “click here.”

Learn more about web accessibility

We have put together a checklist of best practices for web accessibility as well as some handy browser tools for Chrome and Firefox to help you make your web pages more accessible. If you want to read more about web accessibility, check out or the Redish/Theofanos paper referenced above.

Diane Austin

Posted at 9:28 AM | Permalink

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Page Sign-Off UPDATE

Helping you keep your pages current

The publisher/page sign-off tool has been updated to make it more helpful to our Web Manager publishers, editors, and normal users. More specifically, the time frames for page sign off has been changed to more realistically match your own update schedule. So now, you will have a reminder to make those updates. 

See Tutorial for Sign-Off Feature for more information.

Here's what we updated:

The time frames available to set on each page are now as follows:

  • 1 month
  • 3 months
  • 6 months
  • 9 months
  • 12 months

This means that you can set each page to be reviewed in one of these time frames based on how often you typically have an update for that content. All pages should be reviewed at least once a year to make sure they are still useful and up to date.

Posted at 12:46 PM | Permalink

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Feature vs. Benefit-Driven Copy

By Debra Torres

People search for benefits

Features vs. benefits in web copy.When we search the web, we often seek information, products, and services that will benefit us by answering our questions, solving our problems, or healing our pain. In short, we use the web as a tool to help make our lives better.

For example, just yesterday my husband searched for DIY instructions on how to make a bed rail that would keep one of our kids from falling off the bunk bed. The benefit he sought? No trip to the emergency room in the middle of the night. And today, I’m not feeling so well. So just a few minutes ago, I searched my symptoms. The benefit? I have a pretty clear diagnosis in mind - complete with treatment.

Speak to their emotions

So if readers are connecting with the web on a more emotional level why do we as web writers get so caught up in talking about ourselves and the features of our brand?

In scanning some higher ed websites, it didn't take me long to discover that many universities have fallen prey to offering “feature-driven” copy. Here's the kind of writing I'm seeing in the first few sentences of top-tier pages:

“Our university has grown from 12 students to a thriving student body of 25,000. We now offer degrees in 20 different fields and our students choose from over 1,000 courses. We are a world-class research institution dedicated to teaching at the undergraduate level.”

Now these are some pretty incredible things that have every right to appear somewhere in the copy – but there’s just one problem. Right off the bat, text like this fails to connect with the reader's needs.

Features tell; benefits sell

To illustrate what I mean, I thought it would be fun to create my own degree program and try to draw in students by showing the features I offer on the left and benefits on the right.

I’ll call my program Writing for the Web:

Writing for the web: features vs. benefits.

Now, I have to admit, the features listed on the left are good ones, and I do want to make sure they appear somewhere in my copy. But when it comes to selling my program to a potential student, which side do you think is more effective?

If you’re like me, the list on the right just might sell the click for you. Why? Because the benefit-driven copy hits a nerve, it connects with people on the emotional level and shows how this degree program can meet their needs.

Copy that works

I like what Brian Clark of Copyblogger has to say about features vs. benefits in his Copywriting 101 post:  “One of the most repeated rules of writing compelling copy is to stress benefits, not features. In other words, identify the underlying benefit that each feature of a product or service provides to the prospect, because that’s what will prompt the purchase.”

And although we may not be selling tangible products on our Liberty University websites, we are selling an education. And if we can get someone to see how a Christian education at Liberty can benefit both their character and their career, we just might get them to click that button that starts their journey to our campus.

And that means your benefit-driven copy has done its job.

Debra Torres on the web content team at Liberty University

Posted at 1:33 PM | Permalink

Friday, June 12, 2015

Formatting 101

Image Alignment and Borders

By Kari Barton and Tricia Mieden

Images are a great resource to add to any page, but some things should be considered when placing the image. The way an image is used on a page can either distract the user from the page’s content or enhance what is already there. Here are a few tips to ensure the image is added the right way.


When adding an image next to text, you might think it will be complicated to get the text to wrap around the image. This is easily done without adding tables or paragraph breaks – it’s just a few clicks on the tool bar. Select the image, click on the “Styles” drop down on the tool bar, and select your desired image orientation – “Image on Left” or “Image on Right.”  This action will automatically bring the image to the selected side of the page, adjusting any text around the image with an even margin.


Another important note about adding images is to also add an image border (unless your template does not have a border option). This makes the image look cleanly placed upon the page, and it keeps images across Liberty’s website consistent. This is done in the same place as alignment. Simply select the image, click on the “Styles” drop down, and select “Image Border.” 

See the examples below on the differences between an image with a border and one without.  

The border gives the image a definitive
edge and helps the image stand out.
No border makes the image look
incomplete on the page.


Generally, using all caps gives an impression of urgency, shouting, and general bossiness. This should be avoided on the web. Full paragraphs in all caps should especially be avoided, because they require more effort to read. 



What impression are you getting from this question?

Bullets & Numbered Lists

Using bullets to put content into list form instead of paragraph form is a great idea, and it can be added with the bullet/numbered list tool in the WYSIWYG. Lists make your content easier for users to quickly scan and comprehend. When your content has a specific number of items or steps, using a numbered list may be a better option than just bullets. 


Numbered List


  • Read this 
  • Read this 
  • Read this 
  1. Read this first
  2. Read this second
  3. Read this third
Please don't forget to read this, this, and also this. 
This list is easy to read and items don't belong in any particular order. This list is easy to read and does belong in a specific order.  This paragraph is harder to scan and must be read completely. 

Kari Barton and Tricia Mieden

Posted at 2:50 PM | Permalink

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