Policies on a site are used to protect you and your content, as well as protecting your readers. So how do you write a successful policy page? There are a lot of things to consider when writing rules and guidelines. Most of these policies will be designed specifically for you, so every policy page will, and should be, unique.
Here are a few things to consider when writing policies:
- Legal requirements (varies by country)
- Style, tone, and organization
- Relevant policies
- Short versus long
- Understandable terms
Different countries may require certain policies be included on your site. Be sure to research what is necessary for your website policy page in your country. HowTo.gov gives some information about the various requirements in the US for agencies, in the article “Requirements and Best Practices Checklist.” Some important ones to note for policy pages are:
- Web Accessibility
Making your site accessible is also a legal requirement in most countries. Web accessibility is important for people with disabilities to easily be able to navigate your website. You can find more information about web accessibility at w3.org, as well as other web development information.
Style, Tone, and Organization
It is a good idea to continue your style of writing into your policy page, as you do with your other content. Some people choose to keep their policies fun, quirky, rude, abrasive, or professional, to follow along with their writing voice.
It is also very important to maintain authority when writing your policy page. The most successful policy pages balance authority with readability. Try to write policies that are fun, easy to read, but still create a sense of authority. Determine which narrative point of view to use, first, second, or third person, or use a combination. Since these Policies are for readers, second person seems to be the most commonly used.
Another thing to consider is organization and multimodal elements. Sometimes adding in images, video, and relatable content can be very helpful to keep the reader’s attention. Creating short sections, using lists, headings, etc is a good way to create readable sections for your policy page.
Not every policy is necessary on your website. Use your best judgment to decide on the appropriate policies to include on your page. If you have a simple site that doesn’t allow comments, obviously there will be no need to have a comment policy. It is up to your discretion which policies to include on your site. Just in case you aren’t familiar with what each of these policies include, we shall go through the various policies later in this article.
Short Versus Long
With web writing, usually less is more. Generally web writing starts with the most important information, followed by any necessary details, and lastly the fluff. Jany Brech discusses the style of web writing in her article “Inverted Pyramid Style.” Sometimes there may be a lot of rules or guidelines that need to be detailed out. Start with your most important policy information, then go into more detail if necessary. Once you have the basic information down, you can determine where your policies should be expanded upon.
Not every reader has researched policy pages and the terms that may go along with them. It is important for your readers to be able to understand your policies; otherwise they may just disregard it and not even read it. Write in simple terms, and have a structured layout.
Types Of Policies
There are a few basic policies you can include on your site:
Whether or not you have a copyright policy stated, your original content is still protected regardless! Copyright policies are created to better protect your content, whether it is pictures, video, text, audio, etc. When you write your own copyright policy, your readers will know how they are allowed to distribute your content.
Some people choose to have their content as public domain, while others wish certain content not be distributed at all. You can also require citations, trackbacks or pingbacks, permissions, and you can even require compensation if you define fair use first. You can decide what can be done with various types of content.
Rhonda Hurwitz gives three simple steps on “Blog Copyright: How to Protect and Deter Misuse of Your Work:”
- Add copyright notice to footers
- Detail out your copyright
This policy is used to give guidelines for readers when they wish to make comments. A comment policy lets readers know what they are responsible for, and what you are responsible for. Decide what will be allowed for your site and what you won’t tolerate. Lorelle Vanfossen gives some things to consider in her article “Does Your Blog Have a Comments Policy?:”
- Swearing, cussing, inappropriate comments
- Images, videos, and links
- Spam commenters (intentional or not)
- Ability to moderate, block, delete comments
If your site ever has guest bloggers or submission, contributor policy will become an essential part of this process. You probably have a set way of doing things on your site. It is helpful for you, as well as your guest blogger, to have guidelines available. You may choose to require a certain style of writing, or length of post, topic, etc. You may also want to be specific about the process of guest posting. This could be a process such as contacting you, setting up publish dates, draft period, editing period, and final publish.
Disclosure policies let your readers know whether or not your content is affiliated with a company, brand, or person. Sometimes bloggers will be paid to review or endorse products. It is always a good idea to be upfront and honest with your readers if you may be influenced by outside companies. This is a good way to build trust. There are plenty of disclosure policy generators out there for your convenience.
Disclaimer Policies are used to let the reader know the purpose of your site. It also tells your readers what you are, and are not, liable for. They can also be used to inform readers that, although you did your best to find the most accurate and up-to-date information, sometimes the content may be incorrect. On The Blog Herald, Lorelle gives even more information of this type of policy in her article “Writing a Blog Disclaimer”.
- Content validity & accuracy
- External links
- Images, files, programs, etc.
- International & cultural laws
- Liability of damages & harm
- Opinion pieces and personal views
- Protection from commenters/bloggers
- Responsibility of own content
If you collect any sort of information on your site, this policy is important for readers. You are required by law to inform readers of what their personal information will be used for. You must also disclose whether any third parties will be allowed access to the user’s information and what it will be used for. Sometimes sites will have contact forms that ask for name, email address, or other contact info. Readers will be anxious to know that their personal information will not be made public, or used for purposes without their knowledge.
As of January 1st 2014, a new law in California requires privacy policies include a Do Not Track (DNT) disclosure. DNT basically allows users to turn off website tracking when using certain browsers. Some applications may not This lets your readers know whether your website and apps on your site, comply with the Do Not Track setting.
For an example of a disclosure that supports DNT, the article by TermsFeed, “Update Privacy Policies with Do-Not-Track (DNT) Disclosure” states:
The Do Not Track browser setting
We support the Do Not Track browser setting. Do Not Track (or DNT) is a preference you can set in your browser to let the websites you visit know that you do not want them collecting certain information about you.
For more details about Do Not Track, including how to enable or disable this preference, visit this Do Not Track webpage.
Keep Improving Your Policies
Remember, your policies are not set in stone. You can choose to remove, edit, and improve upon your policies at any time. They are here for you and your reader’s protection, and can be updated whenever you see fit.