Do you have a love-hate relationship with your web designer or developer?
I’ve lost count of the times small business site owners or individuals have expressed horror at the thought of engaging with their site: ‘I leave that to my designer/developer’.
This memorable comment was from an acquaintance who worked in insurance. ‘I know my site’s as old as the hills. I don’t really like websites. I prefer to do business with people I know. Over lunch at Whites.
Owners’ fear of their websites puzzles me. Is it because of the jargon? Do less confident designers/developers invoke an air of mystery, like the Wizard of Oz?
Whatever the reason, if your web designer/developer works in a vacuum, your site will be the loser.
That’s not to say that a designer/developer should be responsible for every aspect of a site.
When publishing a book or magazine, different people would be responsible for varying tasks. Editorial, design, production, marketing, rights, sales and distribution. You’d not expect your designer to write or edit text.
It’s no different with websites.
Your first step in working with a web designer or developer is to understand how they work. Sometimes designers subcontract technical aspects to a developer. The main thing is for there to be transparency.
Areas that are logical to take in-house are:
- Writing. You’re the expert on your services/products and competitors. Even if writing is not your strength, the first draft is best coming from you. That said, some people freeze when asked to write. I’ve found ‘interviewing’ a site owner to be a way around this. I’ll ask questions, then work up a draft for the owner to hack around.
- Editing. I’d always recommend commissioning a qualified copyeditor to polish your text and make it web-friendly. In the UK there’s the Society for Freelance Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). They’ll fix any problems with grammar, spelling, punctuation, sense and consistency. Choose a specialist who works in your area and who is experienced in writing for the web (as opposed to for print). I’d suggest trying out a couple of editors on a few pages first.
- On-page SEO. This includes your site’s text and its technical performance. Technical performance is something your designer/developer will need to fix. Text falls into two categories, the first aimed at humans and the second at search engines. Both areas would benefit from the site owner’s involvement, even if the code is input by someone else. This is because you’re best placed to identify the most effective words and phrases (keywords) to use. It sounds daunting but really isn’t once broken down into specific tasks.
- Text aimed at humans. Headings, image captions and link ‘anchor’ text.
- Text aimed at Search Engine spiders. This is the code that tells Google’s spiders (or Bing’s) what your site is about. It’s unseen by humans unless they check out your ‘source code’. This code will include what are known as page title tags, meta descriptions and alt tags (for images). There’s more but these are the main elements.
- Yoast SEO. If you use this excellent plugin you’ll be able to type in your tags, descriptions etc yourself. The plugin combines user-friendly prompts with a traffic-light system where the lights turn from red to green as you improve your SEO. The plugin also gives feedback on readability. You’ll see below how this post was graded before my final edit. I then made the odd tweak until ‘OK’ readability changed to ‘Good’.
Finally, learning website jargon will help improve your communication.
Here are four jargon-buster glossaries to kick-start the process.
An SEO Glossary For 2016: Key Terms Explained – from Business Yell.com
‘If you’re unsure about certain phrases you’ve heard being used, or want a primer before talking to a developer or marketing agency you’ll be working with, this glossary should help.’
Web Design Industry Jargon: Glossary and Resources – from Smashing Magazine.com
Smashing Magazine is an authoritative source on online design. This comprehensive glossary is designed for those new to web design or looking to have a site designed. ‘Below is a guide to industry terms that should get you well on your way to understanding what web designers are talking about.’
From ‘Accessibility’ to ‘XML’.
Here’s another design glossary from the excellent HubSpot. Packed with illustrations and diagrams.
Glossary of Geekery – from the digital agency Bookswarm
A rare glossary from a digital agency (book publishing).
‘We try to keep things jargon-free at Bookswarm, but occasionally the geek speak creeps in.’
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