The best books on writing for the web

Henneke Duistermaat Author Of How to Write Seductive Web Copy: An Easy Guide to Picking Up More Customers
By Henneke Duistermaat

The Books I Picked & Why

Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

By Steve Krug

Book cover of Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

Why this book?

This is the book that taught me how to write for the web. It’s essential reading if you want to engage web visitors and lower bounce rates. Web visitors are in a hurry. They’re not reading a web page like they’re reading a novel. Their reality is closer to racing passed a billboard at 60 or 70 miles an hour. 

Krug explains how we can write for such hurried readers so that we can offer them the right information at the right time and capture their attention, so they want to learn more from us, about us, and about our products. 


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Content Design

By Sarah Richards

Book cover of Content Design

Why this book?

Content design is about creating content (not just written content but any type of content, including maps, infographics, and images) that best serves users’ needs, and it’s key to getting found and read online. 

This short guide in plain English features many examples of how to create content that pulls readers towards a website (rather than just pushing content outwards). I especially like the chapter on the science of reading as well as the chapter on job stories and user stories.

I love how practical this guide is. It’s written by someone who’s clearly been knee-deep in the trenches of content design. 


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The Adweek Copywriting Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Powerful Advertising and Marketing Copy from One of America's Top Copywriters

By Joseph Sugarman

Book cover of The Adweek Copywriting Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Powerful Advertising and Marketing Copy from One of America's Top Copywriters

Why this book?

This book is a comprehensive guide on copywriting and selling by a legendary direct response writer. It’s not specific to writing for the web but covers the basic principles of persuasion such as how to sell on emotion and help people justify a purchase with logic. It also includes many useful writing tips such as how to write the first sentence and how to sow seeds of curiosity to keep readers engaged. 

I’ve probably highlighted more quotes in this book than in any other book on writing. Highly recommended! 


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The Art of Explanation: Making Your Ideas, Products, and Services Easier to Understand

By Lee Lefever

Book cover of The Art of Explanation: Making Your Ideas, Products, and Services Easier to Understand

Why this book?

A lot of what we write online are explanations. In blog posts, we explain our ideas. In sales copy, we explain how our products or services help make our customers a little better. 

This book discusses the common pitfalls of explanation, and it teaches you how to really explain something so your readers feel enlightened. 

Lee LeFever is probably best known as the co-founder of Common Craft, where he wrote scripts for animated explainer videos. However, the advice in this book is equally applicable to written explanations. Improving our explanation skills is key to writing better online.


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Valuable Content Marketing: How to Make Quality Content Your Key to Success

By Sonja Jefferson, Sharon Tanton

Book cover of Valuable Content Marketing: How to Make Quality Content Your Key to Success

Why this book?

For writing online beyond your own website, I highly recommend this book. It presents both the big picture and the nitty-gritty of content marketing for small businesses.

What I like about this book is that the authors understand that as a small business, you can’t do everything and be everywhere. So, choose where you want to be and create content that captivates, educates, and inspires your audience.


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