Web Site Maintenance

Now that your site has been uploaded, there's a need to provide ongoing maintenance so that future uploads will keep it current. Your 'site' starts at your PC hard drive, although it should carry over to your server if you've been keeping it synchronized.

In the course of doing ongoing development to our websites, we make many changes, add new pages and their graphics and other objects,  rename pages and other objects, and we delete some objects. We  also create many files 'temporarily', often graphics files, and our intent is to delete these temporary files along with the ones we never decided to use. It's very cathartic to actually go purge these periodically. Try it, you'll feel good!

Another, quite different, scenario can play out at the server end. This would apply to applications which run at the server which have little to do with your PC. Examples include database applications, discussion boards and guestbooks. We have files which are created and changed away from our PC which we may want to synchronize with what's on the PC, if for no other reason than to know they're backed up. As important, we  should monitor these files carefully. It's pretty gross to own a discussion board riddled with obscenities and inane babble, plus the OK stuff which is so old as to be useless. Server space is also finite, another reason to thin the herd up there as well.

So ... how do we manage the many files at the PC and the server and exercise some control over them?

First off, we're in pretty good shape if we already have a synchronization tool that we're knowledgeable of and comfortable with. (This issue was covered in some detail in the Uploading topic.)  Therefore, if our site works at the PC, it 'should' work at the server, give or take a few exceptions like upper case filenames, environmental differences between Windows and Unix, and things like CGI scripts and FrontPage server extensions which can only be tested at the server.

The primary responsibility of site maintenance software is to monitor and report the relationships between the site's various objects and to monitor the validity of our links to other sites. It should be the responsibility ofpub_maint_frontpage.gif (69622 bytes) your HTML editor to assist with this. Rather than lecturing, I'll tell you a few things I do with FrontPage which are invaluable to me. In case you're  interested, here's a 'Site Summary' from FrontPage 2000's 'Reports' section to give an idea of the types of management information it makes available. I'm not a 'pitchman' for Microsoft but this is the tool I'm using now and I certainly wouldn't settle for less from a competing software package.

 If I want to purge my site of sound and graphic files which I never used or once used and no longer need, I can look at a display of all my site's objects and will readily see what pages use this object, if any. Conversely I can see all the links to pages and  objects for any given page. Especially useful is a report of unlinked files, often called 'orphaned files'.  These are my best candidates for the trash heap!

A good general rule is that you should do all your web maintenance within the control of your HTML editor software. It understands all the linkages and may help you avoid a painful mistake when you delete or rename a file.

Many times I will choose to rename a graphic file to make it more meaningful, or I will decide to create a special directory on my site for sounds and then relocate sound files to that new directory, or I may rename an HTML page which meanwhile is known to 20 other pages by that name. Can you imagine the kind of work involved to do these simple things manually? You would have to use a tool like Windows 'file find' and search all the files on your website looking for a character string (e.g. the name you just changed) and either write its name down or deal with it right then and there. Ouch! FrontPage 2000  just advises me that 'x' other files may need to be changed; do I want it to go ahead and do it?

Sometimes we drag and drop an object into a web page from another directory on our hard disk and if we do it wrong, our HTML page will refer to it at that external location, and it will work fine. Now we go ahead and upload our site's directory and that object doesn't get included. We learn later that our site on the web server doesn't work and yet it tested OK at our PC. A thoughtful editor will flag these oversights as 'externals' and if asked, will copy those objects from the other directory to the site directory and makes changes to the appropriate pages that refer to them. What a nice feature!

Link validation is the last thing I'll mention here. As you know, or will soon find out, my pages offer you many, many links to other internet locations. From time to time, I logon to my ISP and go through my pages and take all the links. Wow, does that take a long time, but it's necessary! Don't you love it when you're given a link to some really neat site only to   find out it's not there any longer? Sites become defunct all the time,  or they may change their names', or very frequently move your favorite page to a different directory or rename it. If you noticed on the FrontPage 2000 report (above), there's a line-item for 'external hyperlinks'.

When I ask it to, the program will go to each site and test it. It doesn't actually try to bring up pages from those sites, but it sends out a request to them (something like a 'ping') and waits a reasonable time for them to acknowledge. This all happens very quickly. I'm then shown a display of my sites with a marker next to those which haven't responded. I can wait a while and recheck those sites manually; there aren't too many. It's good advice to recheck the ones that failed the test because they're often there but responded too slowly. These tests aren't fool-proof, but it gives me the peace of mind of knowing my links are OK. Please verify your links or you quickly lose credibility. A dead link says you're careless and don't test your pages.

If there are any aspects of site maintenance which you think deserve to be mentioned here, please send me feedback. Meanwhile, I've tried to hit most of the high points.