View Full Version : Dates in your web copy

Dan Furman
03-09-2009, 11:57 AM
Just a spinoff from the "updating your copy" thread. Here's another thing that sometimes bugs me about websites:

Old dates in web copy.

What I mean is, if you have a section on your homepage for "company news" and the first news item is six months old... that's not a good thing. In fact, I feel it's a subconscious negative in a reader's mind - you're basically saying "we start stuff, but we don't keep it up". You're probably better off not having that section at all.

Same thing with a blog. I think blogs should be updated fairly frequently - at least have a post in the current month. If I go to a blog and the last post is three months old, I get a tiny negative feeling regarding that. Now, for certain blogs that I really like, I might not care as much. I think the amount of leeway you get is (in general terms) affected by who you are and what you are selling on the site - a "star" selling nothing doesn't have to update all the time.

But let's say I'm a new prospect coming to your commercial site for the first time. Old dates on just about anything will probably turn me off.

So if you have dates anywhere, make sure those pages / dates get updated frequently.

03-09-2009, 12:22 PM
That samething goes to forums. If you visit a forum and all the dates are months ago, you automatically exit.

It shows a lack of care for a site.

03-09-2009, 12:26 PM
Good point. If there is any specific date in your copy that copy should be removed or updated as soon as that date has past. I'm with you guys, if I see a site that has really old copy or a blog that isn't updated relatively regularly, it tells me the company isn't paying attention.

If they're not paying attention to handling their own business, what makes me think they'll pay any attention to handling mine?

03-09-2009, 12:53 PM
Good points Dan. The one thing I would say is this shouldn't mean you should change the date on your copy just to be recent. That bugs me too. I can't stand reading something with advice from 3 years ago with a date of today. It makes me wonder if the date was changed or if the person is that clueless.

The important thing is if you have a section of your site that calls for updating, like a news section or a blog, then you should be updating it regularly.

03-31-2009, 09:00 AM
Another place where I run into the date issue is in the About Us (or similar) page.

One of the ways to show stability is to tell the visitor how long you've been in business. If you write "...since 1965," the reader has to do some mental arithmetic to figure out that 1965 was 44 years ago. That's too much work to ask of a web visitor, which means they won't do it, which meand your statement won't have its desired impact.

Another approach is to write "...For more than 40 years." This is better, but not ideal. A specific number like 44 has more impact than a generic "more than 40."

The problem with writing a specific number of years is that the client must then update the number annually to stay current. Especially if the date of the business's establishment is given elsewhere on the site.

This recommendation may sound a tad obsessive, but that's the kind of detail I pay attention to.

Most of the time I don't write the specific number of years the client has been in business, because it's a rare client who will update their web copy faithfully every year. I just find creative ways to get around the issue, depending on the client and what other information their website provides.

03-31-2009, 10:50 AM
Marcom you can actually set that up programmatically so you don't have to update each year. All programming languages have some kind of date function so you could do something like.

today - 1965

and then display the result.

I think displaying a date is about what's appropriate. Sometimes a new date is the right thing to use and sometimes an older date is the right thing to us. Depends on the page in question and what's appropriate for that page.

04-01-2009, 02:22 AM
I know one company that use to redo all their stationary and logo and all every year to update it to show how many years, was a little over kill i think, But each to their own i suppose.

04-01-2009, 02:32 AM
That does seem like overkill. I'm not sure I'd add years in business to stationary, but if you were going to it would be easier to say in business since xxxx and then not have to change each year.

04-01-2009, 03:17 PM
Marcom you can actually set that up programmatically so you don't have to update each year.

That did cross my mind. There's a php code that updates the year automatically, which I use in the "copyright" line on my site:

<?php echo date("Y"); ?>

Something similar must exist to calculate "today - 1965" as in your example. I didn't spend too much time on it, because I don't know php and it hasn't been a huge problem so far. But it'd be cool if it could be implemented.

04-01-2009, 05:56 PM
It wouldn't be too hard. You could just grab the year like you did above and do simple subtraction, though you'd probably want to grab the month too and then write a simple function to compare the months and adjust the years in business.

Depends on how accurate you'd need to be.

You could also use the mktime function (http://us3.php.net/manual/en/function.mktime.php) to convert both dates to a unix timestamp, do the subtraction, and then convert back to how you want to display things. If you look on the page I just linked to and scroll down a bit someone gives some functions for calculating age (http://us3.php.net/manual/en/function.mktime.php#86086).

04-02-2009, 02:00 PM
Thanks, van. A little beyond my capabilities, but good to have the link.

04-02-2009, 02:31 PM
It's not as hard as it first looks, but I can understand if you'd rather not grab the code and dive right in. Just wanted to let you and others know it was possible and point you in the right direction should you decide you want to try to get it to work.