Well look at that! You’ve just been told by your club/society/significant other/conscience that a website needs updating. “Those pictures are out of date”, “We don’t sell that any more”, “I don’t like that picture” are often the cries that begin the process that comes under the headline of website maintenance. Trouble is, you’ve never done this sort of thing before. From here you have 2 options… 1) Pay someone else to do it or 2) Do it yourself. The former could be expensive, seriously expensive or new car expensive. The latter at least has a budget that is more under your control. But is it do-able?
Assuming you think it can be done by you then…
The first thing you must have is an idea of what you want in the end otherwise how will you know when you’ve got there? Are you keeping the same layout but changing the text and pictures or are you going for a complete re-vamp? Do you want your visiting public to be able to add their two-cent’s worth or just look up your email address to whine at you privately? In short, are you keeping the same features or adding new ones? Do you think now it is within your capabilities? If not, don’t despair. Help is at hand.
Another thing to do before you start messing with the existing site is to get everything together that you think you’ll need. You’ll spend more than enough time chasing up the forgotten bits and the extra stuff without having to hunt down what you wanted from the beginning. If you’re adding advertising on the new site then reserve the correct size bits of space on your plans. Nothing worse than seeing the layout shoved over because the banner advert was bigger than you expected. The same goes for opinions. Professional web writers get a design ‘signed off’ and charge heavily for changes outside the declared ‘final’ design. Let everyone who needs to have their say, compromise to the necessary degree and then set up the site around that finalised design.
If you’re starting from a template site (a good idea if your HTML knowledge is not as hot as you think you’ll need) then check if you need to resize your pictures or re-flow your text. Make sure you understand the template, especially if there’s a separate CSS file. Template CSS files tend to the complex so make a copy of the original and then play to see where changes occur and what effect they have. Whilst we’re talking of backups, back up your original site. To paraphrase Geena Davis in ‘The Fly’… Be paranoid, be very paranoid.
You’ll probably find that a great deal of HTML knowledge is not always required. Starting from scratch by drawing up a grid and using a 3 by 3 or 5 by 5 sized table based site may not give you the most modern looking web site in the world but if your content is good then the basis of what you really need will be there. Once you’re happy with the index page, save it as a template and then save it somewhere else too as you may just overwrite it whilst developing (I know. I’ve done it!)
How about search engines? In effect, don’t worry. A web page that looks good to your readers probably looks good to search engines as well and in web page management that should be your ultimate goal. Then should you ever decide to submit you site to be checked out by search engine robots, you can relax knowing that it is ready for them.
So here we are. Just a few ideas to get started with. There’s obviously far more to web page maintenance than is described in these few hundred words, but that does leave me more room to write further articles or to offer you an ebook chock full of ideas from the basics onwards. The ebook is at http://www.wsmftnwso.com .