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HWG-News Tips Early March 2000

Site Maintenance Strategies

HWG-News features member-submitted "tips" in each issue, in the space between articles and announcements. These were the tips submitted for the 4 March 2000 newsletter, for the following category:

Site Maintenance Strategies

Building a site is often just the beginning of the process; maintaining the site can be as much work, or more! How do you keep a site fresh? When do you update it, and why? How often is a complete redesign necessary? Are there unexpected costs associated with site upkeep?

This issue's winner!

Plan ahead and use an external cascading style sheet (or more than one if needed) to define most if not all of your page attributes, such as text styles, backgrounds, colors, etc. By using an external cascading style sheet, giving a web site a nearly complete make over is a snap, by simply changing the style sheet.

-- Submitted by Bill Gentry <>

Other Site Management Tips

The biggest pain when designing a site is modifying an element that is displayed on every page, such as a navigation bar. If you can't use server-side includes, you can use the iframe tag to include the same portions of code on multiple pages.

-- Submitted by Chris Snyder <>

If you have created a flexible and comprehensive linked (external) style sheet and use this sheet on each page of your site, you will find that "global" changes to a large site are really easy since you only have to make one change to the external sheet as opposed to utilizing an HTML editor, like Homesite, to perform many extended replaces and reloading all documents to your server.

-- Submitted by Howard Merrill <>

By far, the easiest tools for updating is web site is to originally template your design in JavaScript or Cold Fusion, creating a dynamic web site capable of updates to every page when you change just one.

Once you have the basics of a top and/or side menu bar (with categorical links), you can use them for the same design for all of your web pages. After all, your e-mail links, graphics and consistent content directory locations should remain the same.

Try to avoid using frames except when absolutely necessary, until the current and former browsers of yesterday accept frames as a common application. We might be a couple of more years before this happens.

At this point, for a small design change, you can simply change the textual content of the page (leaving your menu bars the same) and adding your new Meta-tags, saving you many hours of redesigning the graphics and links. In future redesigns you may just want to just change the fontface and/or color of the menu bars to give yourself a new look without the additional design effort and time.

Perhaps you can add a new background graphic to change the look. You can also opt to make most of the new design changes in your text tables thereby eliminating the necessary changes to your overall look and menus.

-- Submitted by Ken Weatherford <>

Only update (FTP) the HTML files that have changed, don't upload the entire publication (this may sound obvious to experienced webmasters, but it is an error often encountered by people new to HTML site building).

When designing your website, also take into consideration how you want to do updates, and how often. What will you need to update? Can the majority of the information be contained in one or two pages of a similar theme?

For info you will have to update on a regular basis, consider including this as a plugin, as opposed to conventional inclusion in your HTML file. Files such as Word documents will plugin very easily, and the almost all surfers have Word of some version or another installed on their PC. If not, it is just as easy to offer "Word viewer" as a plugin as well. I find this works extremely well, as you can change an entire listing, for example a stock or price list, and upload the word.doc to your server, never touching your website pages. As long as you maintain the same file name, it will update itself.

-- Submitted by Mark Bramwell <>

This is what I do. I list each page on the site. Than I list each link & url and banner on each page. It is vital that you check links on a regular basis. Though things may look well on the outside once clicked you can see /or not see the sites and breaks.

I click each link and check content validity. This is noted on the list next to the link. If I find a break I don't panic but check the source through view- see if it is something simple that just slipped by- like a missing slash or faulty code.

Refreshing the site as often as needed. But remembering that loyal visitors sometimes like things the way they are. A change in background or shade of color can sometimes have a great impact and make a positive dif when no content change is required.

-- Submitted by Isis Heart <>

The best way to keep your site quick and easy to update is to use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and Server Side Includes (SSI) wherever possible. CSS will help you quickly change the site's o verall look and feel, while Includes will allow you to easily change bits of copy without having to dig through pages of code. Both technologies allow you to make sweeping changes to your entire site by updating a single file.

-- Submitted by Anne McKay <>

The most common unexpected costs occur when those really useful resources you linked to on another site disappear because the other site did a redesign and changed the URLs. Suddenly you have broken links everywhere and have to spend extra time searching for the new locations.

I like to reserve part of the home page to highlight research results, awards, and news items. I keep the format similar, but update the content on a weekly to monthly basis (depending on how many items I have to choose from). Including a related image adds visual interest.

-- Submitted by Betsy A. Riley <>

To make my graphical updates and changes easier, I do the following from the site's inception. I start in PhotoShop with a new 400x600 pixel (or whatever size you need) document. Then I make every single element; text, backgrounds, buttons etc., a different layer and save the document as a PSD file. I then open the PSD in Fireworks and re-save it as a PNG. You can also build the whole layered site with Fireworks instead of PhotoShop and avoid the transfer step. I then slice the graphics, add rollovers and/or animation, and export the whole thing to an HTML file including all the JavaScript which Fireworks creates automatically. That way, when there is a change to be made down the line, I just open the PSD, edit the appropriate layer, and re-export the whole thing to HTML again. Way easier than re-building entire graphics and as a bonus, the site design almost always looks cleaner and more professional this way!

-- Submitted by Rick Floyd <>

Tip 1.
Logical organization of information provided through the site is very important and should be studied before even starting designing a site for the first time. This can eliminate organizational problems when a site is to be changed or more pages added. Logical organization has nothing to do with the internet, but is a result of clear thinking and understanding of the site owner's internal structure and ways of operation.

Tip 2.
A difficult task in modifying a site, is to keep the old urls alive, which your visitors may have bookmarked or search engines recorded. Most visitors do not pass through a site's main page but go directly to other pages or directories.

-- Submitted by Peter J. Papadopoulos <>

1 - Hire a designer who can add to your own ideas for fresh content. Designers are a valuable resource due to the amount of sites they have seen and/or created!

2 - Don't underestimate the need for maintenance! It's important to periodically review every single page of your site because you may not even realize that there is outdated information. If you have a page on your site for Y2K issues for example, has it been updated now that we've survived it? Has your references page been updated to include more recent references?

3 - If traffic is lower than it has been in the past, it could be due to lack of promotion but could also relate to the fact that your site is not current. Not only is it important to keep your site's content up-to-date, it's also important to keep the format of the site current. If crisp and clean is the trend and your site is bright and colorful, it may negatively affect your traffic because others may not forward your URL on to others. It may be time for a site re-design!!

-- Submitted by Glennette Yelverton <>

I have the following 2 site maintenance tips to offer:

#1: If you have ample server space, develop a logical system of archiving backup versions of pages and media files. For example, instead of renaming files "myfile.html.backup", I like to add the date when I replaced that file; e.g., "myfile.html.12.18.99".

#2: I generally design on the mac platform, and always work from local versions of the websites inside folders with the same names as the URLs of my sites, e.g., "". Then, you can quickly move between the local and online versions of your sites when previewing your work in a browser.

-- Submitted by Jim Duber <>

When putting together a site, I create a separate directory and page (for my own or the client's use) containing just the links and where they occur. Every couple of weeks I go to that page and check that the links are active and up-to-date. If a link no longer exists I can delete it, or if it has been referred to a new address I can easily make the change in the appropriate place.

-- Submitted by Ed Edwards <>

I am the webmaster of a few sites that demand regular updates. The number one time saver I have come across over the years are style sheets. Even if the customer gets tired of the sans-serif style, and wants to go to an overall serif style (i.e. from helvetica or arial to times), it only takes a few keystrokes in the style sheet, to update 10, 20, 30 pages within the site.

-- Submitted by Liz Rainey <>

To insure that graphics are not slow to load on your web site causing clients to leave before page is finished, use the following code for low resolution to be loaded before higher resolution is finished. Use: <IMG SRC="ladystar.JPG" LOWSRC="small_ladystar.JPG" alt="Picture of Lady Star">

-- Submitted by Lady Star <>

I've been fooled too many times! When testing your last upload, remember to refresh or reload the page so that you're not looking at the old copy that was in your cache. This is especially true when you're experimenting to find what works.

-- Submitted by Art Dieli <>

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