Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pardon our mess

A friend of mine e-mailed me today. He thought that perhaps WJMA-FM, our local radio station, had been reading my posts on their site. The old site is down, and there's an "under construction" placeholder at the URL.

Well, perhaps.

I'm looking forward to the new site will look like -- but I still have some trepidation. If Piedmont Communications read the commentary about their site, they didn't read very carefully. Back in November, I explained why "under construction" signs were not professional.
that page [on WJMA's website] is still under construction. Which is a real web design no-no. Keep the freakin' page offline until the content's finished. An "under construction" notice is like asking someone if they want a soda, and when they say yes, responding that you don't have any.
Well, it's not the first time. In October of 2001 WJMA still had the "under construction" sign that promised the site would be ready by May 2001. In 2006, there was another "under construction" sign that hung around until April of 2007. It promised they were "in the process of developing a site that will complement our radio broadcast." Um, well.

In the early days of the Internet "under construction" signs were common, but not now. For the past several years the use of "under construction" signs for long periods of time have not been considered good professional practice. Have to take the site off-line? Have a backup ready. If that's not possible, make the switch at the lowest traffic times (around 2:00 AM). And it's not just me.

All good web pages are always under construction, but some web designers still insist on placing a under construction icon on their site. This graphic comes from the designers feelings of insecurity. They know their page is incomplete or not functioning, so they put up a little sign that is supposed to excuse them from any problems their site may have. Problem sites are recognizable with or without under construction signs. Good web designers should not put up a site until they feel comfortable enough to display it without the under construction warning. [emphasis mine]

Yes, the Apple store always goes offline before Steve Jobs talks, but that's deliberate. It's down for less than a day, and its back online with the new content the minute Jobs has finished his presentation.

A site that's "under construction" for any length of time suggests poor organization and understanding of how the web works.

Oh. And one more thing.

The current "under construction" sign has a copyright date of 2006! Didn't we talk about that already?

- Ralph

Day 1 of the WJMA Web Watch.

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