the Editors' Association of Canada
Web Sites Need Editors!
By Lu Cormier
Web sites need editors for the same reasons press releases, advertisements,
books, newsletters, and magazines do. Internet surfers may not return
to a site that has unclear information or a poor layout. They definitely
won't return if the links don't work and the last update was two
Editors think about the impression a Web site makes and use their
special skills to help make it look professional - whether the site
belongs to a conservative organization or a hot new 'zine.
Language and content
Clear, concise language is just as important on the Internet as
in printed copy. For many users, what they find on the home page
will determine whether they read on. An editor will therefore
ensure that the brief introduction on this all-important page accurately
describes the site and its purpose.
An editor will also check to see that a site contains useful information.
A financial institution, for example, should provide a list of products
and services while a teen magazine should supply links to other
Copyright laws apply to content published on the Internet. An editor
will provide advice about the need to seek permission to use material
from other sources. An editor can also provide a style guide - a
particularly good idea for large sites and those that have several
Unlike reading printed material, reading and navigating through
a Web site is a non-linear experience. An editor will therefore
ensure that the site is not confusing and that visitors can easily
find what they're looking for.
An editor will ensure that the site is structured for fast scanning.
Short paragraphs with key information work best online, especially
on the home page. An editor will also identify locations where links
would be the most helpful, and point out where to eliminate unnecessary
A consistent layout will help to orient readers as they follow
their own pathways. For example, an online bookseller or publisher
with a large inventory will probably retain a search button on each
screen so readers can always have easy access to book information.
When readers return to a site, they expect to see updated information
that is presented in the site's particular visual style. A site's
"look," along with the proper use of logos and graphics,
ensures that users will not forget where they are, where they've
been, and where they have yet to go.
If a site is large, an editor might suggest a site map to provide
an overview of the site and help users move quickly to a specific
Let's get technical
An editor doesn't have to know HTML to edit a site, but will usually
know the key terminology and understand the limitations of scripting
and browser software. Knowing that some users have browsers that
are text-based only, an editor will ensure that all graphics are
identified using alt tags (alternative text strings) and that text
links are provided as alternatives to image maps and icons.
An editor will verify that each page is appropriately titled to
match the text. The title that readers see when they bookmark a
site should make it easy for them to remember what the site is about.
For example, the bookmark title "Research-It! Your one-stop
reference desk" reminds users that this is a place to go for
online dictionaries, thesauruses, and translators.
An editor will ensure that the site doesn't do funny things like
duplicate or delete a paragraph or chart, and will test buttons
and calculators to see that they actually work and provide the desired
information. If the Web site is linked to external sites, an editor
will check to see that those sites provide relevant and up-to-date
information and, if not, will recommend deleting them.
Editors are professional communicators. They can help you produce
a polished and effective Web site that clearly and accurately conveys
Lu Cormier is a freelance editor in Toronto and a member of
Association of Canada/Association canadienne des redacteurs-reviseurs.
Published in Sources,
Number 42, Summer 1998.
Sources, 489 College
Street, Suite 201, Toronto, ON M6G 1L9.
Phone: (416) 964-7799 FAX: (416) 964-8763
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