Why can Web writer style be improved by screenplay writing?

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Answered by: Ted, An Expert in the Creative Writing Category
Web sites are like screen plays to me, requiring a “plot,” dialogue and staging. The plot being, “What is this Web site about…” Will the lone user overcome the clutter of information and features to accomplish their task or goal? Can the user make the right decision and resolve their problem?

The dialogue is the narrative and often overlooked in good Web site design. To me a Web site must have a “voice” and characters that narrate information—talk to the people who use the site! Like your natural voice when talking to friends, a Web voice must understand its reader, know their desires and interest before it can strike a familiar easy tone.

The staging is the page design and navigation. Good creative writers anticipate the reader’s interests and know when to cut a scene short and get to the chase. Interactive Web writers must also anticipate the user's interests and next steps--offering convenient instructions, tips and reminders. The Web writer must drive the direction of the Web design--forcing the design to serve interests of the user.

And like a good play or movie a Web site has several key subliminal issues that must be considered and resolved: “What do you want this Web site to do?” “Who is going to be coming to this Web site and what do they want to do or accomplish?” “What do you need to provide so your end users can have a productive, rewarding experience?”

Last, good Web writer style anticipates return visits, and continued engagement offering a friendly, familiar voice and tone that encourages a trusting relationship with the user. A key issue to consider when establishing a friendly relationship is integrity. The quality and accuracy of the information you provide establishes trust, and like a good playwright, a conscientious Web writer must be taken at their word.

This "screen play" approach to developing a creative Web writer style can also be compared with good magazine or newspaper design. Before I began my career in high technology and multi-media, I was a magazine editor and cartoonist. Both magazines and cartoons use of a facet of graphic design I call "editorial design." It's a method of design that demands you make the content easy to read, view and browse. Most magazines are designed to be read and viewed--if the readers don't read the magazine, the they most likely will not continue their subscription. A magazine art director who fails to design the publication to be read will soon be out of a job. A cartoonist who fails to place their dialogue balloons in a good, easy-to-read position, and author their dialogue in a succinct and clear style with voice and character will not be read and no one will get the joke!

If a Web writer style employs these creative screen play methods then all of the copy, the interactions and design will have a guiding principle that provides focus, purpose and appeal for what is offered and available to the user. The end result will be a very successful Web site that performs as an information and service product that delivers a rewarding, memorable user experience.

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