“I have seen it all!” is what I often tell people when they ask what kind of newbie mistakes I have seen. This usually precedes apologies from my customer for the horrid writing/designs/ideas they are about to give me because they are sure they are about to top the list of worse customer provided content. Fortunately I can say that people rarely meet their own low expectations.
I have designed websites for almost 20 years so I know that not everybody has the same abilities. Some are better at writing while others are better at planning. Others are really good at sales but suffer at management. Some have content provided by other sources and some have to come up with everything on their own. A few have a decent amount of HTML experience while most have very little. Almost all have to find a way to carve out time to get content created.
When I make a website I will always try to make it as easy to update as possible because I don’t want clients to feel forced into paying me to make updates. Many of my clients have come from situations where they were locked in by complicated templates, graphics that were held hostage and custom coding that required a programmer to make simple text changes. That doesn’t mean you won’t have to learn some basics but they are usually not difficult.
Once the website is finished it does get easier since you are not trying to do as much at a time. However, maintenance does have its own challenges and even the most experienced people have occasional problems. I do get requests for help when something goes wrong and the problems usually fall into one of these categories.
- Copying Microsoft(MS) Word content into the text fields
When you type content into MS Word, add styles and colors, or anything else, and then copy it into the text areas of your content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Joomla, you will end up with a ton of junk code. Sometimes you don’t see problems and sometimes it wrecks everything. At least you will have as much as 3 pages of practically worthless junk code for as little as a single paragraph of text. Websites will have CSS code that automatically styles the text to fit the look of the website and the Word code may override this, causing inconsistencies in design and possibly readability problems. This is a common problem and MS Word is the worst offender although others have their problems too.
If you need to use MS Word then it’s best to copy the text into a text editor like notepad to strip out all junk. This will remove styles you applied but you should be able to reapply them using the text controls of the CMS. Some CMSs will have Word code removal buttons but I have had mixed results with them.
- Using illegal/outdated/poor quality graphics
Are you using the unwatermarked samples from a stock photo website? Did you take the image from another website without permission? Chances are, that is illegal, and people get caught quite often. There are even websites devoted to shaming other websites that are caught stealing.
Did you drag out your clip art cds that have been gathering dust for 10 years? That should be illegal. The cuteness of a clip art image rarely outweighs the outdated look. It’s probably better to just use text or pay a few bucks for something more current.
Overtime images lose quality from manipulations and compressions so when someone takes an image, modifies it and puts it on their website, where someone else takes it, modifies it and puts it on their website, where you find it…you get the picture…. By the time you get the image it has been so over-compressed, altered and messed up that it looks grainy and distorted. Sometimes these images are also starting to corrupt which results means that suddenly the image will appear broken in browsers and your image editing program will claim that it’s an unknown file type. Again, go buy an image.
- Making substantial changes without thinking about how it impacts the site.
So you want to remove a category and change the names of some pages. Ok, but what else links to those pages? What content references those sections? Main navigation can usually adjust to name changes but if you have links in your content then those may not adjust. Does your content on one page focus on a category that is being removed, thereby making that page pointless? Do other people link to pages that are being removed? Are you starting an advertising campaign using coupons that aren’t supported by your shopping cart? …and more?
- Using code samples from unproven sources
The open source community is awesome! People helping each other, offering code for free, giving free advice–there is a world of information out there. While most intentions are good, not all the abilities are, and what works today can fail with the next security update tomorrow. Be careful what you download as you could open yourself up for hacking and viruses. Most often though, people just use code that is out of date or never worked fully, and when you put it in your site everything goes blank or the page is full of error codes.
- Only proofing the page in the browser they use
It is very common for people to assume that everyone uses the same browser. Another common misconceptions is that most people use Internet Explorer. I won’t even get into how Mac people view the world. 🙂 The truth is that it depends on your audience and I have seen statistics that showed Internet Explorer as one of the less frequently used browsers. You also have versions of those browsers and the computers they are on that can affect how pages look.
Look at your analytics to see what people are using to view your website and then try to replicate those browsers. You may not be able to get every browser but at least look at a couple of the most important.
- Not proofing at all
When I look at server time stamps, I find pages that were broken for months before anyone noticed. Baaaaaaddd…. Major spelling mistakes, overlapping elements, broken links, missing call-to-actions, text that makes sense to the writer but not to anyone else, these are all problems that can be caught by proofing.
- Let’s face it, people (including myself) miss things from time to time-I have seen major spelling mistakes in headlines of the Adobe website-but you can catch the most obvious items at least.
Also, don’t assume that the spell checkers are always right. They aren’t.
- Going font and color crazy
Have you made a headline in a large font, bright red, blinking, and underlined, all because you wanted it to standout? They stand out alright, and they drive people away. When you add elements that don’t look professional then it makes your company look less competent. After all, to a customer, a company that is at the top of its game would never allow that kind of thing.
If you need help making changes, I and my team are available at fair rates based on the time spent, not how much I think we can get away with. Visit Servator Design to learn more.