Use appropriate language and terminology
Practically speaking, the Web audience is global and anonymous, making it impossible to truly "know" and target an audience with an appropriate writing style. Most sites cater to a specific audience: College and university sites cater to prospective and current students, e-commerce sites cater to consumers, reference sites cater to users with a specific knowledge level. For example, a programming reference site might be written specifically for intermediate to advanced programmers. However, that does not preclude beginners from accessing and learning from the materials on the site. Indeed, determining the interests, literacy, language, and knowledge level of the audience for any Web site can only be done in the most general terms. The best approach to targeting a diverse audience is to write with clarity and precision and without unnecessary complexity.
To determine an appropriate writing style, we must use terminology in a way that is meaningful to users. Whenever possible, establish the vocabulary by initially defining concepts and terms. Users who are familiar with the topic can skip over the foundational information and go directly to the more advanced materials, while users who are new to the topic can establish a foundation before advancing. Once terms are defined and put into service, apply them consistently throughout the site. Do not introduce new terminology to describe established concepts.
In some instances, one writing approach cannot be used for all audiences. For example, with health information, one style and vocabulary cannot meet the needs of both patients and practitioners who are seeking information about a particular disease or condition. When one size cannot fit all, include multiple versions targeted at different audience groups (Figure 14.3).
Figure 14.3: The National Library of Medicine offers medical information targeted at its different audience segments—the public, health care professionals, researchers, librarians, and publishers. www.nlm.nih.gov