On the web, content is king. A new design will help Lafayette stand out, but the design is only as good as the writing and imagery it helps present.
This page offers guidelines for a new consistent writing style for lafayette.edu. Voice and tone are the two main components of content writing, as explained by Nicely Said: Writing for the Web with Style and Purpose by Nicole Fenton and Kate Kiefer Lee:
“People often use the words voice and tone interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. Your voice is your company’s public personality. It doesn’t change much from day to day. Like your own individual personality, it comes through in all of your content and influences how people perceive you. On the other hand, your tone changes to fit the situation. While your voice is more about you, your tone is more about your readers and how they feel. Together, your voice and tone make up your writing style.”
The following are the voice and tone keywords. A piece of content doesn’t need to fulfill every word, but care should be taken to avoid undermining these values.
Lafayette College students are high achieving, connected, and curious. The best way to ensure your content conveys those characteristics is to tie them to the amazing work they’re already doing. Celebrate their accomplishments, get excited about their opportunities, and quote them whenever possible. Try not to focus on a core group of over-achieving students. Highlight accomplishments big and small. Go out and find small, interesting stories. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Some things to look for:
Prospective undergraduates are young, busy, and often stressed out. Information about admission and financial aid should avoid some of the other keywords (particularly challenging and inventive) and focus on plainly helping students through the process. Amongst all the talk of tuition, SAT scores, and graduate outcomes, they’re also looking for a place to feel at home, quite often the first home away from their parents. When talking about campus life and housing, keep that emotional side in mind. Use personal and human language wherever possible. In admissions sections, talk about “what we look for” rather than “what Lafayette looks for.”
Passion, pride, and spirit are not just cheerleading. These are not just emotions the students feel for the school and for the teams. This is a pride that the school takes in its students. The primary audience for this site is prospective students, but if the site ignores current students and their needs, applicants are going to notice that. Make it clear that when students come to Lafayette, they get not just a home and an education, but an environment that’s going to support and champion them. The best way to do that is to show how you support and champion the students already at Lafayette. If prospective students are the audience, current students are the subjects. Don’t be afraid to gush about them a little.
Prospective students spend the equivalent of days on university and college websites. They are going to be aware of patterns and conventions. Especially when it comes to navigation and titling, it’s usually a good idea to stay close to convention. But whenever it won’t get in the way of the user’s experience, try defying convention. Where your competitors use marketing language, go with plain language. Where other schools are trying too hard to be youthful and hip, be real. Find ways to be cool while knowing your limits. Surfacing an amazing historical photograph is cool. Showing off student-planned events is cool. And when you quote your students and let them contribute, they can be youthful and hip without the cognitive dissonance.
Ensuring that the writing on the website comes from a consistent voice means every writer, contributor, and editor must come to a common understanding. This document can be used to bring new members of the team up to speed, but it shouldn’t be set aside after that. Over time, consistency will fray, sections will diverge. Use this guide to periodically audit the site, especially high-level user-facing pages.
In general, remember to refer to the keywords, keep your audiences and their emotions in mind, and never be too rigid to bend the rules and meet their needs.
This document provides the foundation for Lafayette’s voice. The best way to build on that foundation is to write, try new things, and refine. For more guidelines on writing for the web and in general, we’ve provided a list of helpful references.