Ann Arbor Business to Business
Small Business and the Internet

How to Talk to Your Web Worker

May 2003

By Mike Gould

By now, your company probably has a website. You have someone on your staff who can run DreamWeaver, or you hired a company to build a site, or you managed to get a few pages up via a talented family member.

Once your site is up, the issue of regular maintenance crops up, which means you have to go back to your webmonger and get some changes made. This article is a collection of tips to help you better communicate with your webworkers, even if they are just down the hall.

Get on the Same Page
The most important advice I can give is this: always send the URL of the page in question to your site maintainer. As a webwonk myself, I am the guy on the other end of this and there is nothing more frustrating than getting a long rambling email from a client asking for a change on "the page with the bell on it". If your site contains 3 pages and only one has a bell on it, there might be a justification for this, but do yourself and your worker a favor: spell it out. And do it by email; phone calls just slow this process down and invite errors.

Go to the page you want changed. In your browser (Internet Explorer or Netscape, probably), there is a feature called the "Address Bar". This shows you the URL (exact Web address) of the page you're on, something like:

(The above is where previous articles in this series can be found.) The technique is to highlight the address (click and drag through it or triple-click on it, depending on which browser you are using), and then copy it to your clipboard. You then fire up your email application and write something like:

Dear Esteemed Web person;

On page, please change the 2nd paragraph to the following:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud.

Thank you, and the check is in the mail.
Sincerely, Your grateful client, (your name here)

The above will quickly grab her or his attention and your change will be made in a trice (or at the most, 2 trices). After you write "On page..." you paste the address you copied and you have an instant and accurate address the webworker can use to affect your change. And most importantly, the worker doesn't have to spend billable hours searching the site for a vaguely described page.

How to Paragraph
Always work a paragraph at a time. Don't say things like "on the third line of the second paragraph, change always to sometimes...". Line numbers change depending on how wide your browser window is set, and other factors. Your best bet if you have multiple changes to make is to re-write the paragraphs in question and email them with instructions as to which paragraphs these replace.

The easy way to do this sort of editing is to capture the text from the browser window (by clicking and dragging), then copy and paste it into a Word document and re-write it. Once you have your changes made, copy all the text and paste it into an email document as above.

It is best not to do your changes in the email message because it is useful to have the document in your folder called "Web Updates" (you've got of these, right? If not, make one now and keep all your site-related docs there). Having all these docs in one folder makes it much easier to track changes and make sure your webwelder makes all the changes you specified.

Having the changes written out in Word also means you can spell-check them. As webwaxer, I try to double-check all my clients submissions, but things do get by me as well. Remember, on the Web (as with print media) perception is everything, and sites with bad writing tend to scream " I'm a clueless amateur!!" to the world.

If you have a whole bunch of teeny tiny changes on a page, it is perfectly acceptable to print out the page and have at it with a red pencil. Just make sure your handwriting is decipherable. If it isn't, make sure you include your phone number so your person can find out what "lsiaouwd" means in the context of your page.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Typos
The following applies mostly to those using out-sourced Web workers. From time to time, you will need to send pictures to your Web worker. It is perfectly OK to send photos and such via snailmail; just make sure you package them securely. Use lots of stiff cardboard so photos don't get folded, spindled (whatever that is) or mutilated.

As pictures tend to be one-of -a-kind items, and expensive or impossible to replace if lost by snailmailpersons, consider dropping them off by hand to your worker. I have a parcels box next to my front door which has seen its share of dropped-off photos and the like. A little face time is always a good thing anyway - those of us who work the Web like a little personal attention every once in a while.

These days, most companies have a scanner somewhere in their buildings, and someone who knows how to use it. This is best for all considered; your precious photos stay onsite and your worker had minimal work to do in posting them to your site. The trick is to give your worker an image file that is the right size and resolution to do the job. This varies all over the place depending upon the skill levels of the in-house vs. out-sourced workers. Talk to your web worker to determine how best to do this in your situation.

(By now, most of you have figured out that last month's article was an April Fool's joke, right? If this doesn't apply to you, how did you make out with the magnetic ink project?)

Mike Gould is a mouse wrangler for the U of M, runs MondoDyne Web Works, is a member of Fac·, and welcomes comments addressed to

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