Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Jul 16, 2010
Are you a professional? Do you have a website? Does your website represent you as a professional?
Many professionals decide to create their own website using products such as MS Publisher, Frontpage, Word, etc. The thing about programs like these are that they use WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) technology, which makes it easy for them to use because they don’t have to learn code, but also creates many issues that don’t help them get the professional look they’re hoping for. Now, if you’re only creating one page, you can probably do a fairly competent job with things like this and move on with life. But almost every time, if you want to add more than the one page, things start going haywire.
I recently had conversations with a couple of friends who do a lot of what I do. I asked one question; if you had your choice, would you rather create a new page from scratch or would you rather fix up a page someone created using WYSIWYG. Both said they’d must rather create from scratch, and that it would cost the client less to do so most of the time.
See, there’s the caveat… MOST of the time. Let me explain. Back in 2008 I wrote a post after I had finished working on a client’s site. He had used MS Publisher to create his site, and if he’d only stayed with the main page it wouldn’t have looked so bad. But every succeeding page looked different. The menu kept changing colors, the background moved around, he had a picture on one page that totally threw off the spacing, multiple fonts, sometimes multiple colored fonts… it was a mess. He did the best he could, but when he couldn’t get things looking right, he contacted me.
What I did for about 3 hours was try to remove code. He only had 10 pages, but there was so much code that it took me all that time to take care of 3 pages. That was ugly, and I was irritated. And I noticed that as I was removing code, his menu really wasn’t working anymore. It was totally skewed by Publisher because it had decided to create the menu on each page as an image, which means I couldn’t make it standard. Eventually what I decided to do was recreate his first page cleanly, figuring out his colors and changing a few, and that included his menu. It took a couple of hours, but once I got it done I then had a template that worked for all of the rest of his pages except one.
That was the one page with the image, and it took me a couple of hours trying to figure out how to get everything on that page to balance with all the other pages based on the new template. Eventually I got it figured out, moved all the other content, uploaded to his new host and all was right with the world. That took 10 hours to do, but would have taken much longer if I hadn’t been able to just create the template.
Recently I did another similar project. This one wasn’t as simple; more pages, more pages that were designed differently than the other pages. This was going to involve removing code, but also adding code. WYSIWYG allows for some formatting things that it doesn’t necessarily add code for, such as numbering and listing items, and it sometimes does some funky things with images. If you’ve ever noticed how some blogs have images that sit above or below the content instead of having the content wrap around images, like mine, you can bet those sites are most probably set up for WYSIWYG, although depending on the theme sometimes you’ll need to add some code to get those images to look right (I do).
Anyway, I had to remove a lot of code. Because of some tables on some pages, I couldn’t just create a template page for everything. However, I’ve learned some lessons over the years, and one is that when you can, copy newly cleaned code from one page to the other, always making sure to put it in the same place. That helped greatly when it came to the business name and the menus , and probably saved at least 3 hours of coding; many pages on the site, as I said. I found a few other places where I was able to do something similar, all saving time, and the final thing I did was to create a CSS file so that colors and fonts and other specialty things could be handled from one place.
Of course, there’s still the little bit of extra coding one does when fixing things, and it’s always wise to make a copy of a page so that you remember what things looked like before you started so you can try to put them back where they belong. But it’s always important to make sure a website has some type of balance. If your site has a title, the title should always be in the same place. If it has a menu, the menu should always be in the same place. Think of it this way; if you were looking for someone to take care of you and went online to search, unless you knew them wouldn’t you potentially gauge their competence by how smooth their website was? No one needs to be perfect; you just look for some things to be standard so you can navigate through a site easily enough.
Oh, by the way; it only took me 13 hours to do more than 3 times the pages of the first site. We’re always learning more efficient ways to do our work so that we can hopefully save clients money and ourselves time and frustration. When you can, it’s probably better to allow the person working on your website to redesign certain things that will still look good but save you money. When you can’t, just acknowledge that it’s going to take time, that time costs money, and either bite the bullet or make changes one step at a time. That’s harder to do when you want a professional looking site, but you can only pay for what you can pay for. Yes, I meant to say that. 🙂