Sending clear update requests

Everyone likes websites that are clearly written and easy to understand. The same goes for the development process. If that doesn’t carry much weight for you, consider this: these suggestions will save you money by saving your developers’ time!

It’s all about clarity

Sending a clear, complete update request to your web developer is easy and helps tremendously.

Suggested content change/addition request

  • Include a 1-line summary (this make a great email subject line): “Please [add|update|replace|delete] this [page|photo|paragraph|sentence|link] at [affected page’s title and/or web address] [by…|after…|ASAP]
  • specify exactly what’s to be done:
    • if a person is being added to a list of people, where does the new person go in the list?
    • If it’s an event, include date, time, venue, cost, rain date/venue, contact info, appropriate web addresses (e.g. for venue or transportation), accessibility info, etc.
    • If it’s a photograph, include caption and alternative text, along with photo credit information (you do have the right to use the photo?), and
  • be precise when referring to businesses, places, or people — abbreviated, colloquial, or unofficial names used in correspondence will confuse things.
  • does anything else (on the same page or elsewhere) need to be updated or deleted because of this content change?
  • is everything included? In the appropriate format;? Including translations? Links?
  • don’t forget to attach attachments!
  • explicitly state any deadlines and/or embargo dates, including times (and timezones!)

That’s really all there is to it. Beyond clear instructions, how best to send updates depends on the content itself.

Text (copy)

  • For simple additions, put the text in the body of the email. If you like, use a word processor to check spelling, but there’s no need to attach a Word or Pages file for a few lines of text. Having to open (or install!) a word processing application just takes time.
  • For edits that involve deletions and insertions, consider marking up a printout of the existing page with a pen and attaching a scan (or smartphone photo) of the marked-up printout. As above, any copy being added should be included as text in the body of the message, to facilitate copying/pasting, and to eliminate typos.
  • For complex formatting, consider also attaching a PDF, a screenshot, or even a smartphone photo of your changes so that your formatting intentions from your word processor or page-layout program will be met. Also include the copy in the body of the email.

Images

  • Microsoft Office and images don’t mix. Images collected in Word or PowerPoint get scaled and compressed, dramatically lowering their quality. Attach image files directly to your email, without putting them into a Word or PowerPoint file.
  • Don’t send images that have been “prepared for web”. In this era of multiple devices of many different resolutions, optimizing images for delivery is anything but straightforward. Your web developer bases compression levels, dimensions, pixel-density, and format decisions on many factors, and trying to save time by doing their job for them will most likely only make it take longer, wasting everyone’s time.
  • Send the largest, highest-quality images you have that have had the least-possible manipulation (every time you re-save a JPEG, for example, it re-compresses it, throwing away more data). Images that are too large to attach to email can be shared via Dropbox.
  • Photos prepared for print have likely been converted from their original RGB colour-space to CMYK. These files are not ideal for web use. Provide the original RGB files if possible. (It may be helpful, early in the process, for your web team to coordinate with your agency to discuss optimizing print-based workflows for the benefit of your website. Relatively minor changes to a print-based pipeline can yield much higher-quality images on your website. Unfortunately, converting back from CMYK to RGB doesn’t undo the damage from the previous conversion.)
  • Non-photographic images. Logos, wordmarks, charts, drawings and other types of non-photographic images come in a variety of file formats (.ai, .eps, .svg, .pdf, .dwg, etc.). Ask your developer, don’t convert formats, and don’t paste them into Office files.