Tuesday, 5 July 2011

How to proofread a website – tried and tested tricks

Another pair of eyes
If you're the person who wrote the body text, headings and metadata, get another person to check your work – someone with an eye for detail. 

Proofreading your own work
If you're proofreading your own work, leave the pages for a few days then come back to them. After a break, you'll be more likely to spot errors. Particularly those that the spellchecker missed.

Spellcheckers don’t always know which one of these we mean to use: 'there', 'their' or 'they’re'. Then there's ‘your’ and ‘you’re’. Not forgetting bear and bare, eek! and eke, peek and peak ...

Put on your mechanical head
It’s tempting to randomly click through pages to see if you can spot anything that needs fixing, but deep down you know you need to put your mechanical head on and be systematic.

Learn to love spreadsheets
Anyone who doesn’t like spreadsheets should run away now. Most projects I’ve worked on have relied on Excel’s rows and columns to keep track of things that have been checked and things that are still outstanding.


Make a long list
In your spreadsheet, make a long list of everything that needs checking, in the order it needs checking. You could start with the features at the top of every page – the URL, browser title, page title – and work down.

URL, browser title, page title – all these things need to be spelt correctly and be meaningful to help Google make sense of the page. (One aspect of search engine optimisation.)

The invisibles
Add to your list absolutely everything. Ensure each image has alt text. Make sure audio or video content has a transcript. Add a metadata description for each page. The description needs to give Google – and potential visitors – a good idea about the page's contents. All these things help with accessibility and search engine optimisation.

Beware of goldfish memory
Believe me, if you don’t tick everything off systematically as you go along, you won’t know what bits you’ve done and what’s still to do. And it will take you twice as long.

Common glitches: squished, small text
If one paragraph of text looks small and squished compared to the size of others, it may be because it has lost its <p> tag – so you'll need to go into the HTML code and add one.

And sometimes normal text ends up giant-sized because it's got sucked into an <h2> heading tag.

Oops  all my text is bold
You'll need to go into the HTML code and look for stray <b> tags. Or if you're using a CMS, unbold it.

Print it out, read it out
Many people find it easier to proofread on paper than on screen, so if you can print the pages out, this may help.

Reading text out loud can also help you find errors. I always warn colleagues before I start reading out loud and they’ve mostly been amenable.

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