I wanted to share this little story with you all – perhaps there’s a message somewhere, or you can leave a comment. It concerns my efforts to penetrate the French market and assist people there with their English Communications (for websites, brochures etc).
In December 2009 I was in Paris visiting some prospective clients. One business, run by a lady called Claudine, dealt with French linen. She had a site of 32 pages, all in French and yet had quite a few British and American customers. I was trying to persuade her to let me translate and upgrade the texts and in effect create an English version of her site. At our meeting she agreed to let me write the texts and do the optimization. But when I mentioned that there was also the cost of the webmaster to take into account, she said “Oh, I had assumed that you’d do the HTML work as well, so that the pages would be ready to use. Otherwise I cannot order this work”. I was planning to just give her a Word file, as usual.
I had to make a decision – either accept the work (with the HTML element that I hardly know at all) or decline it. I accepted, figuring that I would worry about the technical part later. Finally all the writing and page optimisation work was finished, but the job was not ‘completed’ until there was an English ‘set’ of 32 web pages. I set about trying to find HTML editing software. After hunting around a lot I found somebody who would let me use Dreamweaver. I started to turn all these French pages into English, including all the side menus, the Alt Tabs, the Titles, Meta Descriptions and Keywords. I was working on the final pages, not directly on the code. Phew- what a job! I really take my hat off to those webmaster guys!
Finally, I finished and sent the whole pack over to my webmaster, to upload to Claudine’s server (I could use him only at this stage because my client could afford to pay one person but not two – my webmaster would have soaked up all my budget if he had done the work from scratch). Unfortunately when he got it, he said that due to the way the site had been built first, Dreamweaver messed up a lot of things and he could not use the files. He said that software makes changes between the design and code stages and it is best to work just on the code.
We agreed that I would drive to his place (an hour away from me) and use his software (that I don’t know at all) to rework the job. After six solid hours I had completed just 18 pages. Back in my own office. I agreed to use Notepad to re-work the other web pages. I downloaded Page Breeze, just so that it would help me to find my way around the code (Notepad is all in black, no guiding colors). After I sent these to my webmaster, he said that they were still not right – the word ‘Files’ kept being added to the HTML document which would not allow it to be upload properly.
Oh dear, back to reworking YET AGAIN these last 14 pages. Was there any end in sight, I asked myself? Going onto Google for a ‘simple HTML editor’ I came upon Komodo. But this time, instead of working in Notepad with the other software as a guide, I worked directly with Komodo (but only on the code side). Finally everything worked! The webmaster uploaded all the files and I could finally kiss goodbye to this project.
I reckon that I must have invested about four times the hours that I had planned, largely because I had agreed to do the HTML work as well as the rest. Was I wrong to accept this project? On the one hand, I now have a very happy French client with good prospects for further work. On the other hand, this job was huge money-loser for me.
What conclusions can I draw from this story? 1) I now understand much better what webmasters go through when I keep asking for corrections on web pages. 2) I should resist any request to undertake further HTML work, since content and programming work is like mixing chalk and cheese. 3) If I want to invest ‘learning time’, it will be much better to soak up more information about linking strategies and procedures instead.