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Managing Your Website
Introduction
Managing a website is fun if you have the right skills. If you are just learning the skills as a beginner, then you have come to the right place. If you are an expert webmaster, then this might offer you some different viewpoints as to how The-OnRamp.Net manages its web pages.

Where does one begin? Management of a website often starts in different places, but I think we should start with the web hosting provider. 

It is common, that an Internet Service Provider (ISP) will offer personal web hosting for their dialup customers, and commercial web hosting for both current dialup customers and non dialup customers. The cost can vary from ISP to ISP, but the rates should be at the market price if not a little less. Once you have found a web hosting provider, then you need to consider your web hosting management style, and that can be tricky based on your skill level.

 

Required Skills
The following is intended to provide you with an overview of required skills  to manage a website from an ISP and existing web hosting customer's perspective.
Let me break down the requirements into sections.

Planning
Content
Tools
Testing
Feedback

This is not an exhaustive list, but something that I think will work for now.


Planning
The most critical part of managing a website is the planned management of it. You can have a good or bad plan. It doesn't matter. A plan is required.  The plan can be created for a website setup, revision of a website, or the migration and deletion of a website. Here are a few recommended planning ideas.

  1. Design a plan that meets your time and commitment level and keep that to yourself or internal with your team. Then, as far as going out into the world and communicating your web hosting requirements, consider the #2 and #3.
  2. Find a good ISP look for smart and savvy support, low downtime, and excellent speed and bandwidth.
  3. Find a good price Not all ISPs are the same, and price doesn't equate to a good web hosting ISP. The-OnRamp.Net offers great pricing and great expertise to hosting your website. Try us. You can just check out our site and see how and why we are the number #1 ISP here in Northern Nevada.

Content
The web pages that are located on a website need to be carefully designed. The basics of web content is not that you are using the best web development package, but you know how your website performs to the user who has a connect speed of 26400 or a user who has a business connect speed of 10MB/sec or higher. Your content should be designed to support the low end connect speed user.  Here are the critical requirements that will guarantee satisfied users:

  1. Content should be simple to follow and concise.
  2. It is best to keep a standard format for a user so they can become accustomed to your site content and learn to expect content in one area versus another.
  3. Use colors carefully. Don't overuse striking colors like red or bold text. Keep your color selection to 3 or less and keep in mind how colors work with each other. Think of complementary colors, shading, gray scaling, etc.
  4. Use punctuation carefully. Don't overuse exclamation marks, semicolons or compound sentences. I once heard that online technical documents, new briefs and such were written so an 8th grader can understand it. That might still be the standard.

 

Speed
Most users will not wait for more than a few seconds for a web page to begin to load. That is why is it critical that you know how an Internet browser displays web content and in what order, but before explaining this, you need to realize that above all else, there are restrictions that will allow yourself some freedom in web page development.

  1. Keep your website average web page size to less than 50Kb.
  2. Use the appropriate graphic format. Use GIF for text labels and graphic images that can be viewed with 256 colors or less. Use JPEG / JPG for photographic quality pictures. If you need to show more than two JPEG images on a web page that exceeds 200Kb combined, then consider using thumbnails of the JPEG pictures that will reduce the page preview to 100Kb or 75Kb.
  3. Test your website on different computers and configurations. Try using a Pentium II computer with 32MB, and maybe an Intel 486DX computer with 16MB and see how the site performs, and of course, try the site with a Macintosh SE, iMac or G3 or G4.
  4. Test your website using Internet Explorer 3.0, 4.0, 5.0 and Netscape Navigator 4.05, 5.0, etc on the different platforms.
  5. Design tables carefully. A browser when displaying a table must load the entire content within it before finding the close table html tag. If you have a long piece of text that goes within a table, I recommend that you break the table down into many tables (not tables within tables, but separate tables stacked). This will allow the web page to load up quickly and appear to gradually grow, instead of stalling and appear as if the website or Internet is stalling.

In all, if you follow those 5 requirements, your website should perform very nicely for the majority of the users. I would encourage you to gather some friends or post to a newsgroup the fact that you want some folks to try your website and see if there are errors, issues in load speed, etc. 

 

Layout
First impressions of a website not only includes how fast the page loads, but how easy it is to navigate from one page to another, and find immediately what the user is looking for in less than a few seconds. Most people dislike change (I don't want to use a strong word like hate)  and if you continually change the layout of a website, then users will be turned off. So, unless you are doing a major website revision, make your changes subtle and planned so the users can expect to find things when they return to your site.

This leads to some layout ideas:

  1. Navigation Headers I recommend that you create a header for a web page that is consistently the same so a user can jump around your website quickly. Look at the home page for www.the-onramp.net and see how the header always is located at the top with a link to the home page, and while on the home page there is a refresh home page link instead. 
  2. Tables Use tables carefully. As mentioned in the Speed section above #5. Sometimes it would be more prudent to 
  3. Frames Frames when properly used can be successful, but I don't recommend starting a website design with frames in mind. Consider tables or something that matches the effect you want to deliver to your customer.
  4. Graphics Consider placing graphics where they should be expected and consider the number of graphics. That old saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words", remains true to this day. For instance, an online newspaper, graphics can be mixed with paragraphs of text; an online graphics library would provide a matrix of graphic thumbnails organized into different categories or libraries; 
  5. Banners Position them carefully. If possibly, if the banner is related an Affiliation program, then position it either at the top or bottom of the web page, and keep in mind that what is the purpose of the website. If it is designed to drive your Affiliate program, then be creative and keep an open mind to how your users are going to perceive the impact, location, colors, size of the banner. 
  6. Monitor / Screen Resolution Know the screen resolution and color palette of your users. You can program your web pages to record this information so you can keep in mind the users who are running 640x480 256 color or higher. The Internet standard today is 800x600 High Color (16 bit) resolution. The-OnRamp.Net is designed at 640x480 256 color to support the vast majority of users who are not familiar with or aware of how to increase their video resolution settings.
  7. Themes Don't use them. Too much overhead. A professional webmaster will find the right web publishing program to keep the bulky extra web page code to a minimum.

Scripting & Error Handling
Websites can be designed with static web pages or to include client or server side scripts which leads to programming. In managing a website, it is important to know if there is or is not active content within a web page before you begin to edit the site.

  1. to be completed...
  2. to be completed...

 

Tools
One cannot say it enough, but one must use the right tool to do the job right. With website management, the following tools need to be obtained, learned and utilized.

  1. Microsoft FrontPage For the beginner to intermediate user, I recommend this program, and also for the advanced user who works with a mixed team of professionals who are both beginner and intermediate webmasters.
  2. CuteFTP - To transfer files to and from your computer hard drive, I recommend one of the two programs: CuteFTP 3.5.3 by Globalscape Inc. or WS FTP Pro by Ipswitch Inc. These two trial ware programs are pretty easy to download and use.
  3. HTML Specification yes, this is a tool. If you can read HTML code, i.e., the tags, then you are on your way to really understanding all the concepts of managing a website.
  4. JavaScript Specification - yes, this is a tool, too! It is a reference on how to properly program JavaScript within an HTML web page.
  5. PFE32 - Programmer's File Editor 32 is a great utility for editing web pages.

Testing
When a website is properly tested, over 95% of the users and guests will find the site easy to use. What goes into testing has a lot to do with how well skilled and knowledgeable you are with the Internet surfers and the programs one would use to access your website.

  1. Develop or create a testing team   
  2. Test using different computers  
  3. Test using different Internet browsers  
  4. Test from different parts of the world  
  5. Test at different times of the day  
  6. Test regularly, not just on release or on revisions  

In all, if you have a good test plan and follow it, then you will be very successful and less stressed in managing a website.

 

Feedback
Requesting and processing user feedback is essential in the management and growth of a website. One must plan and expect to receive user feedback. To manage a website, design in and continually monitor the feedback methods that you have created. Here are some different feedback methods I recommend:

  1. Online Feedback Form
  2. Newsgroups
  3. Guest Books
  4. Bulletin Boards

If you use any one of these methods for feedback, I suggest you also consider communicating when the feedback is submitted that if the user does not provide some identification like their email address, user id, customer reference number, etc., then a response or action is not guaranteed.

 

 If you would like to submit additional mining information that benefits your company, organization or group, please email us with your request at webmaster@the-onramp.net


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