words jumbled and overlapping

Copy Issues to Check Before Handing Off a Website

A last bit of proofreading will save you headaches. Here are some common copy issues to look out for.

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February 2, 2016

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It’s worth it to do a final proofreading of your site copy after loading it onto a new (or redesigned) site. This will  save you the embarrassment of your client or boss finding a typo when they take a look. It also helps keep the content and dev teams on schedule by making sure that content load/editing/updating is properly looked at as part of the development process.  and stay on schedule.

Big copy problems are rare in the closing stages of a website project because everything has been reviewed, revised, and approved before you start loading onto the site. But small grammar & styling mistakes can still cause closing delays.

This final check should be a part of quality assurance, but sometimes gets overlooked because of prior approvals or a tight schedule. Doing this last on-site read ensures that you’re delivering both the right copy and the right presentation of the copy.

Common Content & Content Layout Issues to Doublecheck on Website Projects

Here are some common copy mistakes that a good site read will catch. Note that the mistakes vary from grammar, to copy and paste quarks, to style[sheet] decisions.

Copy Punctuation & Formatting Issues to Check

  • Forgetting articles: not preceding nouns with “a/an” or “the”.
  • Forgetting commas: not using commas on the final item of a list OR not using them to separate the parts of a sentence.
  • Overusing commas: using them rather than conjunctions (and, or, but, yet, etc.).
  • Bad spacing after a period or comma: having no space after punctuation or 2+ spaces.
  • No punctuation at the end sentences: forgetting a period, question mark, or exclamation point.
  • Missing bullets on the last list item: an issue when cutting & pasting or moving list items around.

Copy Layout/Presentation Issues to Check

  • Using bold for headings: you can call it a style decision, but using h1-n HTML headings is better for SEO. You can make them look anyway you want by using CSS, so better to use semantic HTML.
  • Large gaps in the copy: large gaps between paragraphs because line spacing in Word or Docs gets converted to multiple “ ” when pasted into your CMS. This also happens when the block or module in your CMS doesn’t handle line breaks well.
  • Different letter-case on different pages:  choose “Title Case”, “ALL CAPS”, or “Sentence case” and stick with it, especially for headings, brand names, and publications.
  • Broken or invisible forms: I see this a lot when sites use shortcodes and also if you’re pasting the code in from another source like your CRM or email program. This might require a little snooping by a developer: the cause is awesome an incomplete code embed or a module/block that isn’t configured to parse the code.
  • Tiny or Huge embedded videos: happens when you grab an embed code, but don’t check the dimensions. Figure out the right size for pages and then double check before posting.

Miscellaneous Issues to Check

  • Email addresses that aren’t links: if an email address is part of a CTA, then you want visitors to be able to click it.
  • Uncategorized or un-tagged content: you forget to assign a category or tag, so the content doesn’t show anywhere.
  • Leaving “test” pages everywhere: this isn’t really a copy issue, but it often falls to editors to spot and remove. Fortunately, you should be able to check what pages are live in the backend of your CMS.
  • Incorrect URLs: Not necessarily broken links. You might have different URL syntax (e.g. dashes-between-words or not) or have a link pointing to the wrong version of a page.

Why Care? Small Bumps Can Ruin the Journey

If you’re working on a smaller site, then these issues aren’t going to cost you much time. Maybe ~3 minutes per page depending on the length of copy and how complex your layouts are.

But checking every page on an enterprise site and making the corrections adds up pretty quickly. You also have to consider stakeholder issues and change requests because you know they’ll have some.

Having a scheduled proofreading as part of your QA process gets you points for your attention to detail versus having to add hours (and mea culpas) because your client caught mistakes you didn’t.

Plan for it & Do the Read

Building the proofreading into your timeline will give you more accurate forecasting and make sure your client doesn’t have any unpleasant surprises. Doing the read is tedious, but its essential to a worry-free and on-time handoff.

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