Clicking on that publish button is a task often fraught with danger. In the 2-3 seconds it takes between that fateful click of the mouse and the confirmation page you begin to ask yourself all sorts of questions. Do all the links work? Have I misspelt anything? Have I misquoted someone? Does it make any sense? Are these the inane ramblings of a fool?
For me it always takes a strange cocktail of mental fatigue and summoned bravery to unleash content like this onto the web. Sure, you can always re-read anything shortly after publication and very quickly eradicate any ‘Goodness me, how did that slip through the net?’ moments. Or a kind (but with more than a hint of smugness) sibling/friend/colleague/cat can always point out your most glaring of errors with seemingly little in the way of effort required.
Of course, when it’s your own website, blog or social media profile you can usually take as long as you need to publish something. Not always healthy but by and large the pressure (externally anyway) is off. It’s when you’re tasked with publishing content for an organisation with a far larger online reach and responsibility that the pressure is cranked up a notch or twelve and those self-doubting questions receive more airtime within the confines of your brain.
Naturally it’s when time is at its most premium that the online publishing process receives its most rigorous of workouts. Creating and publishing the content behind a breaking story or an emergency for instance can often cause all carefully considered editorial checklists, style guides and workflows to be nonchalantly tossed aside in a frantic bid to get something…anything live.
With headlines, names, numbers, links, quotes, images, and the crucial facts changing as the story develops there’s often a temptation to publish now and hone later – regardless of the content’s initial quality and direction. Even the most serene and level-headed amongst us can lose focus in the blind sprint to provide the reader with information.
Clearly this haphazard approach makes for a veritable breeding ground for all kinds of errors and oversights that you would never usually dream of publishing to all and sundry. And with a likely upturn in exposure to your organisation’s web profile as a result of this story who knows what damage you could be doing to the way your audience perceives you?
As Google begins to apply further weight and prominent positioning to live search results the pressure for some to publish useful, usable, and shareable content fast will no doubt increase. Those editorial workflows, style guides and quality control checklists – considered mere obstacles during moments of high publishing intensity – have never been more vital to ensure the web content you publish is accurate, consistent, relevant, and supports your overall web content strategy objectives.
Before beginning to compose something, gauge the nature and extent of the enterprise and work from a suitable design. Sometimes, of course, impulse and emotion are more compelling than design. But even this kind of writing that is essentially adventurous and impetuous will on examination be found to have a secret plan.
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White, Longman 1999 (4th edition)
Simply put: it’s through a combination of good communication, an open culture of reviewing the work of others, as well as a healthy dose of scepticism that sees most glaring mistakes eradicated before the content sees the light of day.
And with that kind of support and filtering system in place you won’t have to approach the publish button with nearly as much trepidation – unless it’s your own website and the cat (still smug) has now assumed the role of editor-in-chief.
- Chapters 7, 8, and 9 – Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson, New Riders 2009
- “When Content Management Needs a Content Strategy” – Predicate, LLC, presentation from Gilbane Boston 2009
- “Toward Content Quality” by Colleen Jones – UXMatters, 13 April 2009
- Interlude: Creating an organic style guide – Letting Go of the words by Janice (Ginny) Redish, Morgan Kaufmann 2007
- “All about web style guides” by Julie Espinosa – new media mentality, 9 September, 2009
- Anyone for Scrabble?
- The content strategy advocate