Structuring content

Date adopted: 
December 13, 2018
Last update: 
August 26, 2020

Page content should stand alone

To make information easier to find, ensure that page content stands alone. For example, users shouldn’t need to read Page A to understand the content on page B.

Make your point quickly

There is no minimum or maximum page length for Yukon.ca. However, remember that people only read 20 to 28% of text on a web page.

The pressure on the brain to understand increases for every 100 words you put on a page. This means that the quicker you get to the point, the greater the chance your target audience will see the information you want them to.

It’s most important that you write well. If you write only a single paragraph but it’s full of caveats, jargon and things users do not need to know (but you want to say) then it’s still too much.

Most important content goes first

Use the ‘inverted pyramid’ approach, putting the most important information at the top tapering down to lesser detail.

Use subheadings

Break up text with descriptive subheadings. The text should still make sense with the subheadings removed.

Make sure your subheadings are front-loaded with search terms and make them active.

Do not use:

  • gerunds, eg. ‘Apply for a licence’ not ‘Applying for a licence’
  • questions
  • technical terms unless you’ve already explained them
  • ‘introduction’ as your first section – users do not want an introduction, just give the most important information

Write short paragraphs

Good online content is easy to scan and takes minimal effort to understand.

  • Do not repeat the page summary in the first paragraph.
  • Paragraphs should have no more than 5 sentences each (aim for 1 to 3).
  • Use short words (up to 5 letters) instead of longer words (more than 9 letters).
  • Use short sentences – aim for 20 words or fewer.

Use bulleted or numbered lists

  • Use bulleted or numbered lists to break up large blocks of text.
  • Use numbered lists only if you need to show users how to complete steps in the correct order.
  • Minimize the number of items in your list. This will help your user remember them. If you have a longer list, try creating several smaller lists with clear headings.

Ensure bullet points are grammatically consistent. Put words that apply to all points in the introductory sentence.

Good example

At the activity centre you can:

  • swim
  • play
  • run

Bad example

At the activity centre:

  • you can swim
  • you can play
  • you can run

For more information on formatting bullet point lists see the Government of Yukon Style Guide.

When to use contact information

Include contact information on an as-needed basis rather than as default information at the end of every page. Put it where a user will need it (eg. instructions on submitting an application).

Example

  1. Complete the application form.
  2. Submit the application.
    In person: 10 Burns Road in Whitehorse. We are open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    Email: example@gov.yk.ca
    Mail:
    Government of Yukon
    Department of Environment (V-3A)
    Box 2703
    Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A 2C6

For some pages, contact information may fit best at the end of the page. Let the user know why they should contact you using the following format.

Example

For questions about registering for the Hunter Education and Ethics Development course email coservices@gov.yk.ca or phone: 867-667-5617 or toll free in Yukon: 1-800-661-0408, ext. 5617.

Do not use FAQs

FAQs are strongly discouraged on Yukon.ca. If you write content by starting with user needs, you will not need to use FAQs.

FAQs are discouraged because they:

  • duplicate other content on the site
  • cannot be front-loaded (putting the most important words people will search for), which makes usability difficult
  • are usually not frequently asked questions by the public, but important information dumped by the content editor
  • mean that content is not where people expect to find it; it needs to be in context
  • can add to search results with duplicate, competing text

If departments get questions that really are frequently asked, get in touch with your department communications unit. They will help you find a way to take care of those user needs.