There Is No Final Draft
When You Write a Web Page

As students, we were told we should write a rough draft followed by a final draft. And maybe some additional drafts in between.

As adults, particularly in the print world, we were taught the same.

We write our final draft and then, very often, someone else proofs our work to make sure it is complete, without errors, and ready to be printed.

It’s not surprising that we bring a similar approach to writing web pages.

We write a few drafts, have the final draft checked and approved, and then have it uploaded to the website in question.

And there our writing sits, unchanging, as if it were carved in stone.

But that’s not right. The dynamics around that page will always be changing:

  • New pages will be linked to the page you wrote.
  • Information on that page may become dated.
  • You may think of better ways to say what you first wrote.
  • The addition of new pages to the site may shift the purpose or role of that page.

A website is dynamic, always. That means there never is a final draft, not for any page.

If you’re writing sites of your own …

If you’re writing for a site you own, always review your pages from time to time and consider the shifting relationships between connected pages, old and new. You’ll almost always find a way to make improvements. A shift in emphasis. The addition or deletion of links. A change in the text for links.

Also, keep an eye on what is happening outside of your website. Has there been a shift in the number and kind of sites linking to your pages? Should that lead to some changes in what you first wrote?

And how about keywords? Are the phrases that worked well for you when you first wrote the page now a little out of date? Are there new buzzwords being used? Are new or better phrases becoming more popular? As the language shifts and changes in the universe of sites that link to your site, you may want to edit some of the titles, headings, and text you first wrote.

If you’re writing for an employer or as a freelancer …

If you work for an employer, you should raise your hand and let your managers know that web pages need to be updated. You’ll need to put a review system in place. You need to allocate time to do this. And someone needs to be tasked with keeping his or her finger on the pulse of your most important pages. Are they working as hard as they used to? Are they as relevant as they used to be? Are they current, or are they old?

If you work as a freelancer, here is an opportunity to expand on every new project. Grow the scope of your relationship with the company by pointing out the need to have someone watch over the site and suggest updates and revisions as they become necessary or even just desirable.

Concluding thoughts …

Websites can become dated quite quickly. Relationships between pages lose their purpose and their relevance. Some pages need to be replaced, others need to be updated or simply improved, sometimes in minor but important ways.

Remember, while there may be a final draft when you write for print or other offline media, there is no final draft online.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: May 6, 2009

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