Keeping a Web Site Clicking
The amount of Web site maintenance required depends very much on the size of your Web site and the amount of new content that is being added to it on a regular basis. Web sites are not like brochures or other print material: they change (or should), sometimes because of an action you have taken and sometimes because of external factors. Web sites must therefore be monitored on a regular basis. Think about the following:
- The functioning of the Web site must be constantly monitored
- New content should be published regularly (to boost the site's appeal) and old, outdated content removed
- All links, forms, and programming elements must be checked regularly to assure that they still operate as planned
- Regular feedback should be solicited from visitors
- Security must be constantly policed
Ideally, a Web site should be checked at least once a day to ensure that everything is working properly. It should also be regularly tested from different computers, browsers, and bandwidth access points, at different times of the day. Otherwise, it is highly possible that some members of your audience may be having a hard time interacting with your Web presence. Just as you would routinely update a Powerpoint(r) presentation for a live audience, you should do the same for your Internet audience.
A Web site old, out-of-date, even incorrect content gives a very poor impression to visitors. Content must be created, edited, and published professionally on your Web site. Old content, or content that is found to be libelous or otherwise incorrect, must be removed quickly. Set a daily (or, at least, weekly) publication schedule for the Web site and stick to it!
New graphics should be checked for size. The objective is to have the graphic looking as good as possible while at the same time keeping it to a minimum file size. Graphics can make a Web page zing; on the other hand, if too complex or too dependent on special plug-ins, Web graphics can slow down how fast a Web page loads. Slowness on the Web means that fewer visitors will access your content.
Smart Web designers establish a range for the total file size of a page, including all graphics. 35Kbytes to 70Kbytes should do it, with the objective of staying well below 70Kbytes, particularly for the home page. This size will grow as soon as universal high-speed Internet access (broadband) becomes a reality. For now, these sizes work best. And, even broadband users appreciate as fast a download as possible.
Make sure that your Web site is accessible to people with disabilities. What you'll find, however, is that this makes sense for all potential visitors. Why should anyone have a hard time reading or using your Web site? Adhering to the standards for Web site accessibility should bring you more visitors who find your site quick and easy to use.
Web site links, forms, and programming elements break, so it is important to check them regularly. Such Web devices are code, which can become corrupted (or outdated as new browser versions are released). Then again, links may break because the page that you have linked to has changed or been removed from the Internet. A wide selection of software that will check broken links is available.
Forms must be checked on a regular basis (at least monthly is advised). Put your own e-mail address and dummy data into the form to test that everything works properly. Again, everything on a Web page is computer code in one way or another; programming elements can malfunction, so they simply have to be checked. Regularly.
Web site logs are important for tracking not only who's coming to your Web site but also what they do once there. Such logs can provide very useful technical information. For example, you can check whether the log shows an excessive number of page errors (which might indicate technical problems or broken links); moreover, if the log shows any spikes in visitor behavior that may be causing bandwidth shortages, this could indicate your Web pages may load too slowly at peak times, a major Internet turnoff that can be addressed by simplifying your page structure or increasing server capabilities.
A set of standards should be established with regard to the navigation, search, layout, and design of the Web site. Simply put, it should never be hard to navigate your Web site.
Visitor feedback is critical in ensuring that a Web site continues to evolve to meet the needs of customers and other visitors. Consider getting a small group of customers in a room and observe how they use your Web site; you'll learn an amazing amount in that session in terms of what you are doing right and wrong as a Web content provider. Lastly, computer security is an increasingly critical issue for Web sites. You should have an Internet security policy and adhere to it strictly.
Lazar, Jonathan (Editor).
"Building and Maintaining a Web Site": http://strategis.ic.gc.ca/epic/site/ee-ef.nsf/en/ee00747e.html
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