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The Problem of Maintaining Websites



The Problem of Maintaining Websites

 

When I was a young child I used to hear my parents tell me that my eyes were bigger than my stomach. When I was hungry it was easy for me to put a lot on my plate, but as I began to eat I would find that I really didn’t want as much as I thought I did. Today we see a lot of webmasters that have eyes that are bigger than their stomachs.

The problem that we all face is that when we start a new project we are excited about it and have all kinds of bright ideas about what we can put into our websites. For the first several days or even weeks we have a tendency to spend all of our time thinking about what we can do to make our website great.

We tend to forget that in time we will find other things that will take up our time and all kinds of things that add to the maintenance requirements are added to the website. When the joy of developing the site wears off we are left with the chore of either updating things that tend to become obsolete or with a website that has the appearance of one that has been created then abandoned.

Proper planning is the key to preventing these problems. As a webmaster one should distance one’s self from the maintenance aspects of the website. A website can be developed in a relatively short period of time while the maintenance will last for the life of the website.

Rather than assuming that one will be able to update the website as the information goes out of date a webmaster should consider what would happen if the website is left untouched for several weeks or months.

If the website is being developed using static pages there should be no information that goes out of date. Never mention things that are going to happen. Never refer to things has having happened last month, or last year.

It is better to say something like, “In November 2005 my dog died” rather than “last November my dog died.” An exception can be made if the article is dated, but it should still be avoided because readers seldom pay attention to dates that are not in the body of an article.

Using dynamic pages allows some freedom, but it must be used properly. Most of the problem with maintaining a website is in deleting the old information rather than creating the new. When something happens or is going to happen we want to tell people about it, but after it is over we really don’t want to think about it.

The last thing a webmaster wants to do is to go through each file and verify that it appears to be fresh rather than something that someone forgot to delete. Dynamic pages allow the webmaster to do lots of nice things, but one of the best things they do is provide the capability of removing obsolete information without the need of the webmaster going through each of the pages on the site.

Another thing that causes websites to be a chore to maintain is too much stuff. Webmasters have a tendency to add things to a site just because it can be done. A well designed site will only have those things that are needed to get the message across. A purpose should be defined for the website and nothing should be included that does not meet that purpose.

The websites that are the easiest to maintain are the ones that are the most fun to maintain. When the webmaster can focus on the purpose of the website rather than on removing old information the website will be better maintained and more fun.

 


About the Author

Timothy Fish is a software engineer living in Fort Worth, Texas. He is the webmaster for http://www.fortworthbaptistchurch.org. He also maintains a website on church web site design, http://www.timothyfish.net.


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