How to Find the Most Important Pages on Your Website

If you attended our Planning and Writing Web Content training you’ll recall we cover the topic of core pages during the day. These are the most important pages on your website.

We know that more than a few people struggled to identify these core pages on their own sites. Especially once they’d left the cosy confines of our training sessions, with one of our content officers on hand to help out…

It’s not an easy concept to master as many of our websites are split into sections that could arguably all be seen as important. But here’s a method you can easily follow:

Start with a purpose

Traditionally, websites were created at the University because there was a service, a school, institute, centre or whatever. Sites existed simply because they could – so they often didn’t start with a well-defined purpose.

No one stopped to ask ‘what are we trying to achieve with this website?’

The downside to this is if websites don’t have a defined purpose, then they can literally host ANYTHING. Sorry for shouting, but it’s true. Thousands of pages of unrelated content, hundreds of pictures, videos, power point presentations, blah blah blah – you name it, we’ve seen it.

It’s better to focus on your audience’s wants and needs.

So we have a specific undergraduate website, rather than a Marketing and Student Recruitment site with undergraduate content.

Create your site purpose

  1. List your website users/audiences. For example potential staff, media, international students, researchers.
  2. List the tasks your users come to your website to do. For example contact staff, apply for a course, check event times.
  3. Think about the business goals your website is supporting. For example, recruit staff, encourage collaboration, share news, advertise courses.

These lists are your new BFF and invaluable, they’ll form the basis of your site purpose statement.

Identifying your core pages

The next step is to identify those core pages that will support your site purpose.

Start with your list of user tasks and your list of business goals. Your core pages are those where these two elements meet – where your user can complete a task and you can convey your message.

For example, on a school site users often want to contact staff. One of our University-wide business goals is to enable collaboration, so our staff profile pages are core pages.

Another core page example would be a page about a CPD (or any) course. Users want to know what, where, when and the cost – we want them to apply, contact us, sign up – our business goals.

This exercise combined with data from analytics to show your most visited pages can help you identify your core pages quite easily.

Now you know…get going!

Set aside a few moments to make those lists, and use them to identify your core pages.

We can even help you plan content for these VIP pages. Download a core page template from our website. It’s straightforward and quickly helps you focus on what should/shouldn’t be there.

You can even use your core pages to prioritise what work to tackle next on your website.

Let your core pages help you decide what’s important and what’s not.

Once you know who you’re creating your website content for, and understand what they want to do/know – focus effort on these core pages and by default, you’ll create a better website.

Related posts

How to Use the Core Model to Improve Your Web Content

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Check Your Spelling and Grammar as You Type

Content evaluation tools, like Siteimprove, help you to fix problems like misspellings on your live website. But what about catching the mistakes before they’re made public?

For the past month or so I’ve been testing a browser-based spelling and grammar checker that highlights any issues as you type. It’s called Grammarly. You might have seen one of their ads as you’ve waited for a video to play on YouTube?

Add the browser extension to Chrome and you’re ready to go.

The extension works in most browser-based text editors, from webmail to social media and of course, T4. As you type you’ll see errors highlighted in red. When you hover over them an explanation of why they’ve been picked up is given along with suggested corrections. Just like the spellchecker in Word, you can review the identified errors and choose to accept or ignore them.

Screenshot of Grammarly spelling correction in T4

You can choose to sign up for a free account (although it’s not necessary) to get access to additional features:

  • choose British English rules for spelling, punctuation, and grammar
  • add words to your personal dictionary
  • write directly in Grammarly or upload documents for checking

It’s not perfect, and I’d advise you to read the explanations and use your judgment as to whether you accept them or not. It’s also not a substitute for proofreading your content before it’s published, but it’s a pretty good tool to help you take a step towards minimising spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.

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Making Research Readable for All

Journalists learn early that if you can’t explain your story simply – you don’t know it well enough.

It’s the old adage from experienced editors. It’s a rallying call for plain English and making the complex easy to understand.

Plain English and readability are key in getting your message across, whether your audience are esteemed academics or laypersons.

Fear of ‘dumbing down’

Some research academics break into a sweat over this. It’s as if making research understandable to all is ‘dumbing down’. But researchers often do themselves a disservice with their ‘impenetrable’ web content.

The recent Research Excellence Framework review by Lord Stern recommends research impact case studies provide evidence of public engagement and understanding.

You can achieve this with your website content. It’s also a way to attract non-traditional sources of funding. But explaining your work in 65-word sentences laden with verbose language won’t help.

Have the courage to speak plainly

I’m not saying it’s easy to write about technical research. It’s almost impossible to get away from some subject-specific jargon.

But there are ways of delivering easy-to-read research. And that’s without ‘dumbing down’ and patronising your peers.

Writing actively, in tight concise sentences is a start. Bulleted lists and bold to highlight key messages are also good ideas.

The Art of Scannable Content: How to Write for Today’s Online Readers and our blog are great for writing tips.

Use Hemingway App to help you. It allows you to play around with your words to get the best readability score.

Just doing this, without removing technical jargon, will help anyone read your content.

Don’t hide your research behind vocabulary

Don’t just stop at sentence size, structure and scannable content. You’re only half way there.

“All too often, research is hidden behind a vocabulary that is overly technical and disengaging, but there are ways to avoid that.”

Cracking the code for effective research communication, where this quote comes from, gives excellent advice on steps researchers can take to engage web audiences.

Always put forward how your research impacts on everyday life. Also think about whether you need jargon to tell people what it’s about.

Five minutes with Mark Blyth: “Turn it into things people can understand, let go of the academese, and people will engage” is useful. Academic Mark Blyth gives insight into his success through promoting his research online.

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A Quick Guide to…Dates and Times

We’ve standardised how we write dates and times on our sites. This makes it easier for visitors to work out when things are happening.

It also makes scanning a page for key information much quicker.

In the latest of our Quick Guide series, here’s a timely reminder of our best practice for dates and times:


Dates have no punctuation.

The order should be day month year eg Thursday 4 August 2016.

A date range should look like this:

  • 2011 to 2012
  • Friday 28 February to Monday 3 March

Sometimes space is an issue, eg in tables. In this case, it’s fine to use truncated months eg Jan, Feb, Mar.

We’ve also set standards for writing decades and centuries:

  • 1930s not 1930’s
  • 20th century not twentieth century


We use the 24 hour clock.

This makes times accessible to international audiences.

Here are some principles for presenting times:

  • 17.30 not 5:30pm or 1730hrs
  • 00.00 not midnight
  • 12.00 not midday or 12 noon

For periods of time, you can use a hyphen between start and end times. For example, 10.00 – 11.30

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Writing in the Active Voice

The last of our top five tips for writing for the web is to ‘be active’. This encompasses including calls to action and links, but perhaps most importantly, using the active voice.

The difference between the passive and active voice, and how you change one to the other is often something that we get asked about in training. So here’s a short blog post to help.

Active vs passive

To know the difference between the active and passive voice you need to identify the subject and the object of a sentence. Here’s an example of an active sentence:

Andrew edits web content.

In this sentence Andrew is the subject – he is active. Because there is an action the sentence also contains a verb – to edit. And the web content is the object – it is acted upon.

The passive form of this sentence would read:

Web content is edited by Andrew.

Andrew is still the subject and web content is the object, but now the passive object holds the focus of the sentence.

Benefits of using the active voice

The passive voice isn’t wrong, but it’s often a poor way to communicate your message. If you think it causes confusion for you as the author of content, imagine what it’s like for your audience. Using the active voice can make your content clearer, more direct and more engaging.

If you’re using Hemingway to check the readability of your content it will identify passive voice for you – watch out for the green highlights. You’ll see that it doesn’t ask you to remove all examples of passive voice from your writing. But it does give you a target (based on the length of your content) to aim for.

It’s ok to use passive voice when you intend to force the object into focus, for example:

Professor Chris Day has been appointed as the next Vice-Chancellor of Newcastle University.


How to move from passive to active

The easiest way to change a sentence from passive to active is to turn it on its head. Put the subject of the sentence – the one doing the action – before the verb. Once you’ve done this you can rewrite the sentence to maintain its original meaning.

Related reading

Top five tips: writing for the web

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