Behind the scenes of a website edit
Are you a busy entrepreneur, perhaps juggling the demands of a day job, raising a family and creating a new business? You have poured your creativity into building your website but need a second pair of eyes to spot the errors and ensure that your content makes sense and is speaking to your target audience.
In this post I will outline a recent project brief and walk you through what a website edit actually looks like.
Help! The words don’t make sense anymore!
You’ve spent days, weeks, months writing your website copy. You’ve pulled everything you know and want to share about your business out of the depths of your brain and put it onscreen. Now the deadline to going live is looming, but your eyes and brain are tired, and you can no longer see the words, let alone determine whether they’re spelled right, are in the correct order, or even whether they make sense.
It’s OK, this is really common. Our brains just can’t effectively check our own writing. The science says so! It’s not just the typos that become difficult to spot when you’ve spent so long creating written content, the appropriateness of tone and context for your reader also becomes difficult to assess.
Rachel Mills, founder of Buttercup Learning, connected with me in the ethical business network, The Duck Pond. She needed someone to take a look at her home page copy and was impressed with my detailed response, which included suggestions for making her copy clearer and her formatting more consistent. She subsequently hired me for a full edit of her twenty-two-page WordPress website.
Of my three website proofread packages, Rachel went for the Proofread Plus:
Checking for errors and inconsistencies in spelling, grammar and punctuation
Clarity and tone – does it make sense, and have you used the right tone for your reader?
Styling and formatting – is this consistent across all web pages?
Checking that all contact details are correct (according to search engines – a very pricey mistake that companies are desperate to avoid!)
Checking that all internal and external links work and go where they’re supposed to
Rachel used my free style guide template to confirm her preferences for certain spellings (e.g. e-learning), formatting choices (e.g. fonts and how bullet points and headings look), grammar conventions (e.g. how abbreviations are punctuated) and tone (professional but relaxed). If you’re not sure what to include, I can help with this.
She also created a Word master document of her website copy, so I could use Word track changes to show her my comments and edits. This stage isn’t compulsory; however, it does reduce the chances of introducing new errors or missing edits when transferring the copy back into the website platform. Rachel also reported that she now has a backup version of her website copy, which could potentially be a lifesaver! So, providing a Word master document certainly has its benefits. If you don’t fancy doing this, I can do it for you.
Lastly, Rachel provided me with a website inventory. This is a list of the URLs from your website, so I know exactly which pages I’m checking and can keep track of everything. I did spot six pages that hadn’t been included in the inventory, simply by clicking through all the internal links, so these were added to the list. These pages can include documents that you link to, like your Ts and Cs, and pop-ups with promotions, etc. You may be surprised at how many pages you’ve actually created!
Next step: The words
My first job was to complete a copy-edit of the Word document. I use track changes so that my clients can see exactly what I’ve changed and choose whether to keep my edits or not. I’m also able to leave queries and suggestions, for instance rewording something to avoid repetition of a certain word or to make something clearer. This screenshot illustrates an example of a copy-edit and proofread in action.
All my clients receive a track changes copy and a clean copy of the Word document. The track changes copy looks like the example above, whereas the clean copy has all the edits accepted and just the comments showing. This means that once you’ve checked all the comments for any actions, your copy is ready to go!
Diving into the details
I can’t complete a website edit without looking at the web pages, so I then move over to PowerPoint for the next step. Buttercup Learning was the first time I had used this approach and it worked like a dream! On previous projects, I had provided a Word report detailing stylistic and formatting issues, but PowerPoint allowed me to show Rachel exactly what I was referring to, making it far easier for her to make changes. It takes a bit longer to edit this way, but it’s worth it for the client.
So, what am I looking for on the web pages? I can now see the text from Word in context and how it looks on the screen. Is there any strange alignment or white space that distracts the reader from the text? Have you applied the same font across the website? Sounds obvious, but there’s always at least two sections that have been missed. Punctuation in headings and testimonials is another one that falls through the gaps when you’re creating such a big project. Here are some example slides from the Buttercup Learning project to give you an idea of what is involved.
Here, I’m questioning the colour of the text as it was inconsistent with the brand’s colours. There was also some missing punctuation in the quote and an unnecessary full stop in the heading.
In this second example I’m querying the alignment and spacing and making suggestions for bringing the text together and keeping the style consistent. I’m also querying the accessibility issues of the black background for those with visual impairments, and an incomplete postal address.
Here is a before and after shot of Buttercup Learning’s blog. I suggested breaking the text up a little, using white space and headings to improve readability and to guide the reader through the post.
All project briefs are different. Some clients may be happy with this level of detail, others may have clear priorities and a tight deadline for turning around these edits. The Buttercup Learning project resulted in thirty-nine PowerPoint slides. Although each slide had maybe one or two small edits to make, this can add up if you’re pushed for time getting your site together. Clients often have priority pages and will work through these, saving some edits for a later date. Having a website is a working process. Please be honest about your requirements, deadlines and expectations when we chat about your project. I’m here to save you time and stress, not add to it!
Back to the inventory
The last document I return to my clients is a brief table noting any link and function issues on each web page. I also use this document in the final check right before you publish – more on this in a minute.
This is where I check your website for its function and usability – basically, does it work the way it’s supposed to, and is it getting your reader to where they need to be as quick as possible? Here’s a snapshot of the report for Buttercup Learning.
What do you get and what next?
At the end of the process a client receives:
Word track changes copy
Word clean copy
If you need me to work in a different program, or to edit directly into your website platform, this can be arranged.
When we discuss the project brief, I’ll ask for your ideal ‘going live’ date. I will schedule my work so that you have time to make those changes and receive a final read-through before you publish. This is free!
Things inevitably get missed in the transition process and errors are sometimes introduced when applying changes. The final read-through catches those little errors and reassures you that your site is professional and ready to go!
You now have a polished, professional website that really shows off your business and brand. What would have taken you an epic amount of time and frustration, you’ve successfully outsourced, instead focusing on the other demands of running a business. You’ve also hopefully picked up a couple of tips along the way that you can apply when you next update your website.
If you’re interested in what Rachel thought of it all, here’s what she had to say…
If you are a small or large business owner looking for a proofreader and copy-editor I can’t recommend Emma enough. The level of scrutiny over my website copy was beyond my expectations. She did such a thorough job, checking that she not only flagged up inconsistencies in spelling, grammar and tone but also made some recommendations for clarity of message. I feel a lot more confident in developing my website knowing that I can call on Emma again to check any new copy, and I will certainly be working with her to develop and proof my copy for courses and e-learning. I love that she flagged some accessibility issues too that I had missed. Because of her complete documentation I also have a reliable offline clean copy of my website’s copy. She has a really clear and comprehensive approach to working with others that made the process so easy and as a busy start-up founder that’s gold.
If you want to know more about how I can get your website ready for publishing, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the Services page for more info. You can also get your free style guide template here.
Thanks to Rachel for consenting to have her project included in this case study! Rachel Mills is the founder of Buttercup Learning. They aim to change the way environmental science and sustainability for families are taught online and in books, offering educational resources that can be used to guide your family’s eco and sustainable learning journey. Find out more at https://buttercuplearning.com/sustainable/our-story/
© 2021 Emma Hewlett Proofreading