For this copywriter the beauty of websites is that they’re so easy to update. Accepting changes to her copy after handover is perhaps harder.
Submit samples of your work, it says. No problem.
And then my fingers freeze over the keyboard.
Faced as I am with the ‘box of death’ — the blank space intended for the URL.
Last week it happened again. Invited to submit a proposal I was merrily uploading print samples on the procurement portal. Then it came the turn of web projects. Well, here we go I thought or rather there goes my chances.
You see the most pertinent websites I’ve worked on – writing, editing or advising on the marketing of – could be a few years old. The sites are live. And they have CHANGED.
How dare they.
That used to be my reaction. Until I curbed my instinct only ever to have my words printed on dead trees. They may, in time, rot and decay and end up filling a car engine. But in my lifetime the words would be if not as nature intended, as I intended.
Not changed. And that includes additional wording I did not supply.
Well OK, for the sake of dramatic effect let’s ignore the small matter of reprints. Any changes and updates will be made when a new version of a booklet, brochure, report or sales material is produced.
But not in the same way as digital content. It morphs. It becomes That Which Was Never Intended.
The site I handed over had lots of white space to allow the text to breathe. This will have been discussed and agreed at countless meetings. Once given access to the content management system the site owner than goes about adding a banner here, a text box there and before long it’s a challenge to know where a photo caption ends and the home page begins.
Web content needs to be short, punchy, easy to read ‘get-to-the-point-fast’ copy.
It was. Back then but not now. This leaves me with a predicament.
Submit a website with many explanatory notes – please excuse ‘a wide range of tea’s and coffee’s’, I’m sorry that the manager appears to be called Brain and not Brian – and risk giving the wrong impression. Many relationships are first formed online and it’s hard to distinguish the Grammar Nazi from the ‘please let me get that correction for you while you focus on better ways to spend your time, such as running your business’.
But then not mentioning the changes means I’m being judged unfairly. The prospective client is after all looking for a writer for their website.
It’s a tricky one. I take screenshots of websites for my portfolio – reflecting how it looked at the time it was handed over. But often, and particularly for public sector tendering, the requirements are for a weblink to a live site. There’s no getting round it.
Unless I offer clients an after-care service, flexible options to take care of the copy once the site has been launched.
I would then only have time for writing the occasional website.
Rarely would I be asked for samples of my web work.
The ones I submit would be unchanged.
And I could fill in the blank box.
But what do you think?