All Web Sites Are Always Under Construction

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, September 03, 2009 at 04:00 AM with 3 comments

photo of construction sawhorseJust say no to sawhorses and construction helmets on Web pages!

It bugs me to no end that in 2009 one can still see the words “under construction” along with some form of icons on Web pages, with the attempt to communicate the message that the Web site is still being built, so come back later once the content and functionality is ready. Imagery of a sawhorse in black and yellow is supposed to symbolize physical labor is involved the creation of what goes on the Web site. What was cute in 1994 is downright unprofessional today, not to mention unnecessary.

This author is guilty of using those 2 words over the course of his 13+ years of working on the Web. At first, it was because everybody else was doing it – it was the standard. Over time, the standards changed. Apparently many people did not get the memo that the standard was no longer, as the thinking of Web sites has changed. Think about – all Web sites are always under construction.

The great thing about a Web site is you don’t need to print 50,000 copies of it to bring to a trade show. It is there, 24/7 (hopefully) and ready for all to see. This means it can change, adapt, be updated whenever without having to go back to square one. Well, that is unless you want to, but I digress. As business or personal needs change, the Web site can grow, contract, be redesigned – whatever is needed. Knowing this going into it helps you realize the building process really never ends.

Original use of “under construction” was to alert Web visitors they hit a dead-end. If the Web site was not live yet, it would be on the only page live of the Web site. If the client testimonial section of the Web site was not ready when the rest of the Web site went live, it would go on that page. The wisdom was you would show in the site navigation all of the things that would eventually be on the Web site, whether they were there or not. There’s nothing like opening a door only to find a wall, right?

Today we know better, or we should know better. Web sites are expected to change. We can add the link to testimonials later, when there are actual kind words from clients for others to read. To begin with, we need to plan for that section (or any other sections) to be there and accommodate for it in the design and layout of the Web site. You add it to navigation when the page or section is ready. We can then use the “what’s new” section of our Web site to alert people to that new content once it is live. We also update our sitemap – both HTML and XML – to let the world know the pages are there. If we offer search, we re-index the Web site to include it for those searching for them. And don’t forget about tweeting the link on Twitter or submitting to social bookmark sites, as well as mentioning in your next newsletter and other communications.

So which is more effective? For the 1-time visitor to your Web site, if something isn’t there, you don’t win either way. For the returning visitor, you have professionally and gracefully informed them.

But wait – there is one exception to my introductory statement. If you’re in the business of selling sawhorses and helmets or are in the construction business, you have my blessings to use them.

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