Mistakes on websites can make it harder for viewers to understand and cause them to give up and go somewhere else. Whether your editor is a professional freelancer or an employee of your company, there are many different kinds of errors he or she will need to look out for. There can be mistakes in the details, legal and copyright blunders, typos, spelling, punctuation and grammar problems, ambiguity of meaning and awkwardness in sentence structure. Some even more serious editorial problems may exist, like tone and style, visual design flaws, copywriting style, having too much or too little information and having poor page structure and navigation.
Mistakes in details to do with your company or organisation may upset management more than your visitors, but the reason for this is that misinformation can have a run-on effect that hurts the organisation long-term. Even if only a handful of visitors go away with erroneous information, these are people whose experience with your organisation could have been dramatically different if only for a proper editing procedure. Errors in information about product availability, prices, promotions, services, events, technical or scientific details, names of people and places, and so on, can lead to a negative visitor experience. If at all possible, most website owners should try to avoid this.
Legal and copyright blunders won't usually cause you problems straight away, but should be seen as part of your standards, whether personal or organisation-wide. The use of someone else's imagery or text without permission and/or without giving proper credit can lead to lawsuits, though you will usually be given a chance to take down the offending material, first. If your organisation has established any trademarked terms, these need to be supported by your website material, not undermined by it.
Typos, spelling, punctuation and grammar errors may decrease the readability of your text in addition to demonstrating a lack professionalism to astute visitors. Most people are a bit forgiving of mistakes and some may not even notice, but it stands to reason that a carelessly crafted piece of text online is not going to impress certain visitors and may, in fact, drive them away.
Ambiguity and awkwardness are the most common problems found on websites, mainly because so many people are out there throwing websites together and not getting them proofread. In the excitement of creating something for all the world to see, most amateur webmasters think they can be their own editors, or they don't think about editing at all. When it comes down to it, some people simply cannot write well. They know what they mean in their heads, but getting it down in text for someone else to understand is another thing. Thinking about how much a reader will be prepared to read through is yet another factor to consider. And if English is not your native language or you're from another country, then there's a high chance you will have used some words or phrases that don't quite sit right with the culture you're writing for.
The style of writing and graphic design used on a website should be carefully chosen for the target market. Is your target market small business owners? Corporate decision-makers? House-wives? Young adults? The general population? Children? Teenagers? After determining this, you will still have to decide what tone of voice will be best for your particular audience. Choosing a middle ground to service a wide variety of people may work for some websites, but with such heavy competition for eyeballs and keywords, it might be wiser to narrow your target.
Errors can be found in websites far more often than in printed publications, but thankfully they are easy to fix. With a good website editor who understands not only the textual nuances of editing, but also the technical side of web design, you will be able to improve your appeal to visitors and ensure they keep coming back for more.
Amanda Greenslade is a freelance writer, editor and graphic designer of print and electronic publications including books (covers and interior layout), email newsletters and marketing materials. She offers services in writing, editing, layout, email marketing, digital asset management and the basics of do-it-yourself search engine optimisation for those with a limited budget. See http://www.GreensladeCreations.com/ for more information or to contact Amanda.