Using Microsoft Word to write content for the web – practicalities

This is the practical guide that follows on from our article about the background to using Microsoft Word to write content for the web.


Heading levels

Web pages need structure so they need heading levels and conveniently Word has a similar facility. Later versions of Word have a navigation pane that can be found on the View tab which makes the levels easy to see.

When this box is ticked, you’ll see a pane like this on the left:

This is showing the heading levels in the document. How the various levels render in Word will depend upon how you have set up your document template. The styles are shown on the Home tab and some of the ones we use are shown below:

We wouldn’t recommend using more than four heading levels on a web page though it is possible to go up to six ie there is an h6 tag.

Keep it simple

The main reason for keeping it simple is to meet the needs of responsive design. Your web designer or content editor only needs content and they can always apply custom formatting as appropriate when they prepare and post the page.

So only use basic styles, simple tables (ie not tables within tables). Use only simple indenting – the designer will adjust the amount for different screen sizes.

Create a Word template for your web documents

If you are planning on writing content routinely for the web using Word, then it’s a good plan to set up a template, particularly if you are in a shared environment. A template has a .dotx extension and is usually kept in your templates folder so it’s available when you create a new document.

To get started you can download a simple Word website content template from us into your templates folder that you can modify for your own purposes (recommended) – see the box at the bottom of the page if you’re not sure where your templates are kept. Once you have found the template in your file system, you will have to right click on it to open and edit it. If you just double-click on it, a new document will be created. Here is the website content template.

The downloaded template contains four heading levels and a few other typical (and readily convertible to HTML) styles. There are two important things to remember:

The colour, font and size of the Word styles may not be reflected on the website. The colours here have been chosen to be distinctive so we can easily see which heading level is being working on. The web styles will have been set by the web designer.

Save it as a template type (.dotx) in your templates folder after you have made your changes.

When you’ve finished modifying the template, you may want to remove all the text so that you start your template with a clean sheet.

Planning your content

Decide if you need a folder hierarchy in your website

The need for a hierarchy starts when you have a number of related items. To choose one boring-but-necessary topic which is ‘legal’, this will have to cover terms and conditions, privacy policy, cookie policy, terms of use, company information and so forth. Depending on the nature of your business, some of these could get quite long and deserve their own (child) page.

By all means, grab a pencil and paper and draw yourself a tree structure.

An extensive hierarchy obviously makes things a little more complicated for the visitor, so use with caution.

Create a structure in your file system to match your hierarchy

The business of organising a structure is covered in related article Organising your files.

Make a list of the pages

This can be a bit of a brainstorm. Don't be afraid to add topics, even if you mark them for the future.

Write the home page content last

As you write the inner pages, ideas will come to you. After you’ve written your ‘starter pack’ then you can look at how the navigation on the home page is going to work.

One of the principal objectives of the home page is to navigate the visitor to where they want to get to, so normally the content for the home page should be succinct. For those of you worried about the negative search engine optimisation (SEO) implications of limited text, remember that the search engines analyse the whole site these days, not just each page on its own. If a human arrives at your website home page, they don’t want to be swamped by a lot of verbiage because they are focused on the job in hand.

Finding your Word templates location


Click on the File menu item (top left of the screen), select Options (down the bottom) and then Advanced. Right down the bottom of the Advanced pane is a button marked File Locations. Click on this and, amongst others, you will see two entries User templates and Workgroup templates. These will show the folders where your templates are stored.


Click on the Word menu item and then Preferences. Go to the Personal Settings section and then click on File Locations.