The Yahoo! Style Guide. by Chris Barr (and the Senior Editors…


Yahoo! began in 1994 as a hobby—a way for Stanford University PhD candidates Jerry Yang and David Filo to keep track of their personal interests on the Internet. The two were so excited by the power of this new medium that they wanted to help others tap into its potential, too. They continued to build their lists of favorite website links, and when those lists became long and unwieldy, they broke them into categories, then into subcategories—and the concept behind Yahoo! was born. A substantial, loyal audience grew quickly throughout the Internet community.

I joined Yahoo! in 1995, just as this hobby was becoming a company, to further Yahoo!’s goal of matching people and content. We developed a system of classification and a set of principles to describe what people would find on websites, and created categories that we hoped would be intuitively understandable to people searching for specific information. The myriad, minute choices we made in aggregating and organizing a vast array of content revealed an editorial point of view.

The mere act of aggregation is creation, and it was in building our website directory that the Yahoo! voice was born. Economy of language has been a cornerstone of the Yahoo! voice and a core tenet from our early days. Online audiences expect far more information, in much less space, in far less time, than ever before. Attention spans are short, and every pixel counts.

To inspire trust in this new medium, we began to develop editorial standards and practices, and we’re happy to share with you what we’ve learned about writing and editing for the Web. Elevating content creation to the level of craft benefits everyone on the Web, and clear communication and high editorial standards are important no matter where or why you write.

Today Yahoo! is one of the most visited Internet destinations in the world, and our focus remains on connecting people to their passions—matching the right content to the right person at the right time. As much as ever, we are passionate about helping others realize the potential of the Web to enrich their lives and their communities.

We hope this guide helps you make the most of your online pursuits.

Srinija Srinivasan

Yahoo! Editor in Chief

Sunnyvale, California


What if Google Released This Guide?

If a web style guide was put together and published by Google; oh my, the Internet would be on fire about how this is the most important addition to web publishing since the adoption of HTML. This release isn’t from Google though, and Yahoo doesn’t have the juice it once did, are they expecting a wide adoption of this web writing style? So I will be interested to see what kind of adoption there is for the Yahoo style.

Identify Your Audience

In this chapter

Do your research. Find out who your site visitors are and what they need.

Create an audience profile. Use your research data to develop a well-defined model user to represent your target audience.

Check out the competition. Analyze how similar websites are serving their audiences and figure out how you can make your site stand out.

Using the right voice to speak to your audience is crucial. First, however, you must be able to answer this question: Who is the audience for your website? (Hint: Everyone is not the correct answer.)

People visit websites to find specific information or to perform a task as quickly as possible. If a site doesn’t deliver what they want, the way they want it, they’ll leave faster than you can say gone. That’s why it’s critical to understand the people who are visiting your site, what they want, what they need, and how they pursue their goals online.

If you ask these questions before you launch, you and your team can shape your site and its content to accommodate your potential audience’s point of view. If your site is already online, you may think that you know your audience well, but remember that the Web changes fast. Take time periodically to make sure that you are still addressing your audience’s ever-evolving needs.

TIP If your audience, like Yahoo!’s, includes a broad spectrum of people, target the core audience you can serve best.

Do your research

Identifying an audience is like making a sketch of someone. You add eye color, nose shape, hairstyle…and eventually the face appears.

Don’t worry about getting the full picture all at once. Start with the questions you can answer definitively, then do your homework to fill in the most important missing information. You’ll be surprised at how soon you have drawn a real person: a profile of your target