Web editors can lose control of their publication though passing crucial decisions to non-communicators and reducing the effectiveness of their websites in the process.
Editors of newspapers and magazines have to be very much in control of structuring their publications. They need to identify lead articles, prioritise features and news items.
This hierarchy is then conveyed through article length, position, use of graphics and typography. In this respect, publication on the web is no different to paper and the editor cannot afford to delegate this degree of control to a programmer.
If the publication is not created using a content management system, it could be that a web programmer has to be supplied with a schedule of file names relating to each article, its related photographs plus accompanying captions and 'alt tags'.
The writer will also need to indicate the size they want the pictures to be reproduced and their positioning relative to each other.
'Alt' tags as they are commonly called, but more correctly termed 'alt attributes' are brief descriptors that are displayed before a graphic loads, or when the mouse hovers over it, but are mainly intended for the benefit of blind users of the web.
Programmers should never be left to write these. Visualise the nightmare scenario when the portrait of the chief executive loads into the browser accompanied by the alt tag unflatteringly describing the image as bald ugly bloke.
The editor really does need to be in control and should be checking this copy! Thats not my job Gov also applies to leaving the programmer to the design of the navigation.
It is important not only to consider local navigation but global navigation too. By being actively involved in a dialogue with the webmaster you can ensure your material receives appropriate priority placement.
Allocating navigation priorities should not be the preserve of an IT or programming department.
Allocating navigation priorities should not be the job of an IT or programming department.
Programmers can often be helpful in bringing technology to bear on communication issues.
They can provide reader surveys for you, display the results of straw polls on important issues, they can create roll-overs to explain acronyms, and offer news tickers to keep readers abreast of news as it happens. So fostering a good relationship is very important for effective web communication.
How quickly can you update existing web pages or publish new ones? Is this process delaying effective communication? If so this needs to be addressed.
Journalists are notoriously bad at design and often leave layout to the web designer. But perhaps their powerful whole screen graphic treatments are not attarcting the right response, or the reader avoids the text completely as a result.
Eye-tracking research confirms that people do not always respond in the way we might expect. Text treated within a graphic may not even be looked at - and deliberately bypassed.
The upshot of all these issues is that web communication needs close teamwork. It also highlights that there are many new responsibilities that need to be added to the writers job description.
The more the writer understands the technical issues the more constructive the dialogue will be with their technical colleagues. Our courses not only aim to teach the basic principles of web writing but also provide a helpful grounding in the technical issues behind web publication.