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Maintaining a Site

Designing a web site is only the first step. Managing and maintaining the site and planning for growth is what keeps your site fresh and useful. Specifically you should strive to keep your site complete, current and cohesive.

  • Complete - everything important is on the web
  • Current - nothing is out of date, archived information is clearly distinguished from current information
  • Cohesive - new pages follow your web site's style guide

Tips for staying Complete, Current, Cohesive

Check Links - Use a tool that checks for broken links on your site. WebXM is available that will automatically check all the links on your site and send an email reporting any broken links.

Link and File Management - Fixing broken links on a large site can be tedious and time-consuming. Identifying orphaned files (files that don't have anything linking to them) can be difficult. Manually keeping all pages on your site up to date with your style guide can seem impossible. You can greatly reduce your link and file management workload by doing the following:

  1. Use relative URLs rather than absolute URLs.
  2. Make common pieces of your web site modular. Analyze your site looking for common elements across pages like footers, headers and navigation bars. Isolate these common elements into a single location that is referenced by your web pages. Methods for isolating a common element include:
  3. Use a Site Management Tool, such as Dreamweaver. Dreamweaver gives you the ability to do the following:
    • Check your links site wide or within a page.
    • Change the name of a document and have all links pointing to the document change site wide.
    • Use templates or library items to maintain consistency across pages.
    • Update the template or library item and have it automatically update all pages that use that template or library item.
    • Synchronizing the files on your local and remote sites.
    • Set up Check In/Check Out on files in a collaborative environment. Checking out a file is the equivalent of saying "Hey, I'm working on this file now, don't touch it."
  4. Consider using the refresh option of the meta tag to auto-forward people from the old location of a page to the new location of a page. This is helpful for external web sites that have direct links into your pages. To find out more about the meta tag and how to do a refresh, check out the Web Monkey article Refresh a Page Using Meta Tags.

Regular Review - Hold regular web site review sessions with your content providers monthly or quarterly. Suggestions for your meeting agenda:

  • Show & Tell - Review new content that was published since the last meeting. Recognize the people who created the new pages/content and show appreciation for their efforts in keeping the site complete and current.
  • Review - Bring up the major pages of your web site and ask the group - Is everything current on these pages? Is anything missing on these pages? Think outside the box/Think like a customer when you answer these questions.
  • Share - Share new tips, techniques and information that can help your publishers and content providers be even more effective. Give everyone an opportunity to ask questions.

Web Analytics - tracking and analyzing your visitor logs can reveal useful information. You can tell from your logs what files or pages are most frequently visited and least frequently visited. It is always a good idea to support server log analysis with user tests if you are going to use them to make design decisions. Real people will tell you why something is happening, while a server log may only vaguely imply.

Conduct Periodic Usability Testing - Ideally, every year or every other year, you should check with your users to see if you are still meeting their needs. Running a quick Focus Group or Usability Test can really help pinpoint opportunities to improve your web site. Don't let the terms "Focus Group" or "Usability Testing" intimidate you. I promise that there is a goldmine of information to be found from watching and listening to your users. For a quick introduction to Usability Testing check out Learn Usability .

  Updated 2008 May 27
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