Beta Content

Before officially releasing software, smart software companies release “beta” versions to be reviewed and inspected by everyday people that might or might not use their software. These people dissect and probe every part of the interface to spot potential problems or conflicts that would affect performance. They are not influenced by prior knowledge of the program to overlook the obvious flaw. Obviously, some bugs may slip through the cracks and go unnoticed, but the chances are reduced when you have the opinion and critical eye of these beta testers. The same rule should apply when designing your web site; by getting feedback from others before you publish online, you reduce the possibilities of glaring errors giving visitors an unfavorable impression.

When you “finish” your site, i.e., you have all your pages created and “ready” to publish, read through each one a few times. First, check each link to see if they are broken (the page that is called for does not load). Does it not load because you entered the wrong HTML file address, or is it because the page does not exist?

Next, make certain that the correct images load into each page. If they do not, have you given the correct source location or is the image nonexistent? If it looks distorted, have the height and width image attributes been entered incorrectly?

Proceed to look for incomplete tags. Is the entire content in bold or an oversized font when you only meant for the heading to be that way?

Finally, check for spelling and grammatical errors. Don’t just rely on your spell-checker to catch misspelled words, because sometimes the letters may be incorrect or rearranged, but you nevertheless managed to spell a proper word. Check also for grammatical blunders, like hanging prepositions, passive and run-on sentences, and subject-verb agreement.

Then, get as many friends, co-workers, and whoever you can grab to review your site. Publish it at a temporary site unannounced to the world and sent out e-mails asking people to review the site. You may be surprised how many people write to tell you: “It looks great, but you misspelled… you’re missing… etc.” Make sure to find people that aren’t afraid to critique your work (this shouldn’t be too hard!) because you want honest answers not only about the content but possibly the layout. You may discover that people find the navigation difficult, the font is too small to read on their monitors, or that tables are too wide. Analyze every one of these comments and use them to improve and polish your site. The final results should look spectacular and you will know that your site will create a favorable impression to its visitors.