- General Best Practices
"At HPA we are all about digital product creation and easy templates to follow. We love simple UX and UI and thrive in consistency. I am the webmaster for the school and run the school's social media, but also have the privilege of teaching a Digital Journalism class which is centered around an "HPA Product". Each student creates a multimedia product that acts as a storytelling vehicle for the school's website and social media. One student, Kate Sensenig '16, focused part of her time on creating a template for the feature articles we write."
-Aaron Schorn, Webmaster
Hawaii Preparatory Academy
As I hope most of you know, a website's news page is incredibly important in keeping a site's content relevant and up to date. Of course, merely being able to say you have a news page, isn't going to cut it. A news page has to have at least three things in order to be effective:
- Great Headlines
- Engaging Content
- Stunning Multimedia
First off, let's talk about headlines.
At a glance, headlines seem like the easiest part of the process. In essence, a headline is just a brief summary of the rest of your piece, yet they tend to be surprisingly difficult to write.
How do you encapsulate your 800 word article into six, attention grabbing, authentic words?
On one hand, you want to draw in as many readers as possible, but on the other hand, you don't want to join BuzzFeed's clickbait bandwagon. Use interesting adjectives and numbers, maybe even format your headline into a question, but keep it short.
Above all else, a headline must be true to the content it introduces.
Don't be fooled into writing a clickbait headline with the hopes of attracting more internet traffic. If your headline doesn't reflect the subject or theme of the greater article, chances are your readers are going to feel a little bit cheated, and they won't finish reading the article. Internet users usually know clickbait when they see it.
Website Content Planner
Once you've got a great headline to draw your readers in, the next step is having engaging content that keeps them hooked.
Unfortunately, there really isn't an effective step by step process for writing for the web, but there is one thing that is absolutely crucial when creating these sorts of posts.
A very important aspect of creating a great newspage is developing a theme that is common throughout all of your articles. As with anything you write that becomes published, you want to allude back to a larger topic, allowing your piece to gain altitude within its target audience.
While I was writing for Hawaii Preparatory Academy's website, I structured my articles (with varying degrees of success) around the school's vision statement: "Embracing the unique environment and culture of Hawai'i Island to design educational experiences of unparalleled depth and scope, we empower responsible global citizens to create, lead, and thrive in tomorrow's world."
Another tidbit that's nice to have within your article is a link to another article; a personal narrative. For example, I wrote a personal narrative about my time interning with Fred Barbash, chief editor of the Washington Post's Morning Mix. The link to my article ended up being enclosed in a pretty red button halfway through a feature article on the same subject, written by my friend Jordan.
This little red button gently encouraged readers to look a little deeper, and gave them the opportunity to gain a different perspective on the subject.
If you can manage to strengthen your pieces with a common theme — like I did with HPA's vision statement — or a link to a personal narrative, then you are good to go for the writing portion of your post. But the road does not end here.
What follows great content is great media.
Stunning imagery is probably the most effective way to build a news page.
We, the students of HPA's Digital Journalism page, were able to create a pretty great example of the perfect newspage post about an annual tradition at our school, Olympics.
There was an engaging headline, well-rounded feature article (written by none other than myself), and a link to an excellent personal narrative embedded within my feature. The writing would have been fine by itself, but what really topped off the whole package was an incredible video and some great photography. People like easily digestible content, and nothing is more digestible than videos and images.
Tips and tricks like these that I learned in my Digital Journalism class really paid off. Over the past year, I had the privilege of working as a freelance writer for Fred Barbash, editor of the Washington Post's Morning Mix. Three articles were published with my name on the byline; one of which I wrote all by myself.
Of course the guidelines I have described are just that, guidelines. The way you craft and develop will come from continued content creation and tinkering. So go forth and create an amazing newspage!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kate Sensenig is a writer, web-content developer, avid traveler, and aspiring film director. This past year, she worked as a freelance writer for the Washington Post and as an intern at Hawai'i Preparatory Academy's Energy Lab, where she graduated in 2016. She is currently attending the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, where she is acting as her parents' anchor baby. Over the next few years, Kate hopes to hone her skills as a journalist and a filmmaker, as well as try her hand at some heliskiing. Kate worked with Aaron Schorn, Hawai'i Preparatory Academy's webmaster who has created a buzz in the industry around authentic, student-created content and storytelling.