I need advice. An organization creates a website, using some sort of goofy software. It looks fine to the (non-technical) person who created it. When I look at it, the text and headings are all superimposed on one another, making it impossible to read. Turning CSS off doesn’t fix it; everything is absolutely positioned. I check in several browsers, on several different platforms. Occasionally it looks ok, but mostly it doesn’t.
I’m genuinely interested in what this organization posts. So I take a screenshot of the home page, send it to the responsible party (whom I know slightly), and even offer to help fix it.
She writes back to say that it looks fine in her browser.
I figure if I push in email, it’ll just annoy her. I would actually like to have access to the information on this website, but I can accomplish that by cutting and pasting the text into an editor.
What would be a good way to get this problem fixed and this person educated, without offending her and burning bridges?
Oy. I feel for you. I deal with this a lot when trying to educate other non-technical folks here on campus about properly developing web pages, especially when they use softwware like Frontpage and are unfamiliar with the idea that their web page will look different in different browsers.
It’s made even tougher because many people then feel the pride of creation when they create a web page. It stirs artistic pride, and people feel immensely proud of having made something like a web page in a technical environment.
So often the best approach is to blame the browsers and the technical environment and avoid critising the creator’s ability, while at the same time adding to their knowledge.
You might be able to gently educate by emailing back and saying something to the effect of, “Yeah, it looks *great* in X, Y and Z. But each browser will handle the code behind a web page differently and it looks like A, B and C are choking on something. That’s why web developers have to test their pages in a zillion browsers to avoid major glitches.” Note also that you realize it’s difficult to test in all environments unless you know a bunch of people who have those environments, and then offer again to help test and fix glitches.
The key is to avoid critiquing her ability but still make it sound as if it’s not too much extra effort to fix and that it has LOADS of benefits (more audience) after the tiny fix is made. This approach usually works with the folks I deal with.