Thats about it for creating a Web site. But were never completely through with any Web site. Four more stages remain in the life of our Web sites and will also linger on with yours!
We always put our sites through a thorough testing process to ensure that everything works and that we didnt miss anything. We employ a small group of friends whom we allow into our sites. They surf, poke, prod, and click anything and everything. They are picky and quite vocal with their opinions. We sift through their egos and determine what needs to be corrected and those areas where we failed to deliver our best work. We build yet another to-do list and start back near the Lots of Hard Work section and make our way back to testing again. We typically repeat this process at least twice; if our beta-testers dont catch something on the second pass, its probably not that important.
After a site is fully tested, we go live with it. While a site is live, we monitor the performance level of the hardware and the access level of the documents by using the built-in tools in Windows NT (our network operating system) and its Internet Information Server (our Web server software). If we notice or suspect any problems, we take appropriate action. These actions can range from fixing hardware to removing files to changing a sites layout and navigation to permit easier access to the good stuff.
As we get feedback or find broken links that require us to fix something, we make a list of maintenance tasks. We usually schedule maintenance tasks on a monthly basis. Because we have more than a dozen Web sites to manage, we try to stagger the load across a month. As we perform each task, we mark the task complete. These task lists are stored in text files in a hidden directory on our Web server so we always know where to find it. This little maintenance log also helps us determine what areas of our site require the most attention. These annoying sections can then be targeted by efforts to reduce or eliminate associated problems. Often this involves recoding of sections, but it can lead to the surgical excision of documents.
About twice a year, we completely review and revise our sites. This revision often occurs at the same time that we revise the text of an associated publication (such as this book). When we perform site revisions, we restart our development project. But this time we recall whats already been done and look for ways to improve our work instead of starting from scratch.
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Revised -- January 16, 1998