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The Webmaster checklist - things to do and keep doing as a webmaster
Things to keep in mind and things to do (and ways to do it)
explorador




msg:4043559
 6:01 pm on Dec 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Everybody wants to have a website, and many to get rich quick, but the truth is as any other market, it requires hard work or having a great idea well developed for a website to work and keep working. The thing is, most people underestimate the work of a webmaster and get on the boat without really thinking on the possible problems or worst, some won't even read to learn.

Sure we learn from mistakes. I know the post is long but it covers some points we are currently seeing on the forum. This thread is to talk about useful suggestions for things a Webmaster should (must) do.

0. Read and keep reading
From the early stages until you reach your "guru level": read and keep reading to keep learning. The internet is alive and changes fast, besides nobody knows it all. If you are a beginner: read, research. If you are an expert, you already know you should keep reading. Webmasterworld is a great place to share and learn.

1. The beginning, be organized
Managing websites means having things here and there, everywhere, get used to it. Keep a file of your own ideas, resources and bookmarks, you will be amazed how useful those little things you find on the web might be in the future. Try to save useful data on your computer as some sites might be gone when you need that info and you will come with a 404 error. Be organized and keep track of your work and ideas.

Point #1 is the best to say this: keep your mouth shut. You will learn in time how easy ideas come and go and some folks are ready to catch them. This involves the whole idea and names for your projects. Be careful on how you test an idea before working on it. A little idea not so great today might become important tomorrow.

1.1 Don't underestimate little things and details.

2. Drafts and notes
Never underestimate how useful your drafts might be. From graphic files, logos, layouts to incomplete code, most of the times you'll need it in the future. Keep your notes and get used to make annotations of the new ideas. Great websites might take time to complete in your mind before those ideas sound great for you. This kind of organization saves time, you'll see.

Don't delete those "ugly" drafts, you might need them for your own projects or for a client in the future.

3. Organize and save your code and plan ahead
See point #2. Saving drafts and code needs organization. Some webmasters repeat the work from site to site (from time to time). Once you have refined a code, comment it (for your own future use) or add a little text file explaining what it does and what still has bugs, then save it, keep one folder with sub folders well organized. In time you will solve old problems or find new, fast and better ways to do the same things, you will optimize your code and tools (like validators and those little everyday Javascripts). This way you will have a very useful personal library of very small but useful tools and code. (and keep this to yourself).

3.1 Yes, I said Plan ahead
Sometimes is better slow than quick, don't rush, take your time and plan ahead to grow. Many webmasters fail at this point and then find themselves with a website too complicated to run and a nightmare trying to move to a CMS from hand made pages, or discovering they built the site with the wrong tools.

4. Backup
Keep your data safe, backup your files from time to time, make this a routine. And BE CAREFUL when updating your backups. Sometimes it is useful to keep version A, B and C of the code or drafts. Trust me, sometimes you need to revert the code only to find is not on the backup anymore (only the "updated" not so useful new code). Make backups on DVD (cheap) and at least one more copy on an external hard drive. There is no excuse for not doing it, storage is cheap and if you refuse to spend money then how much do you value your own data? Consider USB backups. Avoid having only one backup: redundancy is very important.

Remember point 1.1, being organized will make your life easier and be better at keeping your data safe.

5. Online Backups
Your local data is not the only valuable treasure. Most of your files are already online, live!. If you have only one server, create a script to backup your site and download it. Some panels have their own backup tools and then you can download the file. Many webmasters have learned how important redundancy is, the hard way. Some have one server for websites and another for backup, I know I do.

Having a backup server allows you to backup your data online from one server to another via FTP, you can do this via Cpanel (cpanel backup) or zip-tar your files and then do a wget from your backup server to get the file there. This makes it easier to restore data (instead of uploading the files yourself). You might have a problem with your server AND your computer at the same time... You'll be surprised how fast one can get back on track restoring your backup to another new server and only refreshing the DNS and leaving the bad server behind. For many of us, one day offline is a thing to avoid at all costs.

6. Passwords
Valuable data is nothing if you can't access it. The life of a webmaster requires opening accounts on different online services like social media, directories, email accounts (for submission or newsletter reception) also your personal email accounts and yes, 5 websites will require at least 1 email, so 5 websites means at least 5 email accounts. Do your best to get used to safe passwords and login. Avoid using the same password for all your accounts. Don't use the same set of passwords for your data and free services. You will learn yourself, many people use the same password to register on a free forum, and the same one on their email account. Avoid it.

Set of passwords: many webmasters have developed 5 or 10+ safe passwords. Instead of using each for different accounts, combine them together. Never use personal data (dates or names).

As you can see, new registrations will mean more data, so remember to stay organized and also the point 1.1

7. Security and safety of your local data
Keep your data safe from accidents (external hard drives hitting the floor, dust on your dvds) and also avoid having important data on your portable USB (yes, the one on your key-chain or the one accessible on your desk). Some one might stole it or you might drop it and there goes your treasure. Learn to zip-rar with passwords or encrypt your data.

Security and safety means being careful on what you install (software and extensions) and what "free" services you use, as well as where you login into your accounts (avoid free wifi spot access for important tasks). Spyware is a reality, avoid your crucial data and passwords from being stolen.

If you sell your computer remember to erase your data, format your hard drive and over write it. You don't want an stranger using your saved passwords stored on your browser. There are tools to erase and write ones and zeroes before you reinstall.

8. One man band - and working with other people
Sharing work and responsibilities involves skills, also order and having someone to trust (and CLEAR agreements). Some webmasters become a one man band doing all by themselves (design, code, articles...) This sure has its benefits as well as problems: work overload and having nobody to help you in times of troubles (only you know how and where everything is).

If you decide to work with somebody else or a team, be clear and think ahead. Make clear agreements and don't just trust people for what they say (even if they are your friends). A little idea could become the next big thing, so, leave clear responsibilities and benefits on paper, this will save you problems in the future. Some have learned the hard way and find their team split with "shared" ideas in the middle.

8.1 Test drives
Don't trow your big projects just like that. It is better to give the person, friend or company a test drive to see their performance, quality of work and time of delivery before committing with something bigger.

8.2 Read and review
If you work with a team don't just trust their work, read it. I know you hire friends and quality services but you won't want to be confused on why somebody removed you from their link lists, directories or search engine because "you" did something malicious. People stealing content or copying articles happens more often than you think (or somebody copying your content and claiming property of it). Perhaps you hire people worth of trust but sometimes people don't have clear how delicate might be to quote somebody else work or using their pictures. Some authors have their own policies on permissions.

Sorry, there is no excuse for this, if you value your work and you consider to get some income from it, you must know exactly what's on your websites, where it comes from and who did what.

Many respected webmasters have said this before: work hard, create your own content. It is better to have a long lasting website (with X income) than a big shot that ended up nowhere quickly. Create respectable relationships with other webmasters. You won't be able to do this if you have copied content. Trust me, there are sites paralyzed because nobody serious wants to exchange links or worst, to work with them. Once you get big you might have the opportunity of making contests or having your own advertisers, that's when the bomb might explode if you don't really have built your own castle. As you can see that "castle" might become your own prison if you break the rules.

9. Online security
Take a look at your website from time to time, daily if possible. Review the stats and check your files on the server. Remember, servers (shared or private) are not bullet proof. You already know about the hackers attacking sites and replacing content.

Not every attack is that clear. There are cases where hackers inject code into websites sometimes replacing entire pages or parts of your code, like affiliate ids or pub ids (Adsense) then part of the money goes to their pockets. Also, there are cases where the attack leaves code that makes itself invisible but hijacks the page and shows any kind of random content. In other cases their htaccess file is compromised redirecting visitors from time to time to other websites.

The online security begins with the kind of services you choose (research first, like +Xcompany +sucks). Search for references and also take care of your passwords and where you login to avoid your data being intercepted. Checking your stats and your income reports daily helps you detect strange traffic changes.

9. Protect your income
Valuable websites and work worth money. It doesn't matter if you planned it or if your non commercial website became commercial, your income is very important for your website survival and yours as well.

Protect your income keeping on the hard work, nothing lasts forever and if you stop working, is very possible your rankings and income will drop. Doing questionable things puts your income in risk, remember to create your own work and be careful with others people work published on your website.

Read point #8. Protecting your website is the beginning to protect your income.

Don't tell your friends. Yes, there are many cases where sharing this information meant having an account suspended for invalid clicks coming from "friends" who tried to help you to earn some more money.

10. Low profile or not
This is up to you, you decide. Revealing YOU are the one behind X website might be a good thing if you know how to deal with it, it links you to the brand and is useful in conferences (hey that's Jim!) or to get more work and $$. You might become part or essence of the brand just like your website giving conferences per example and getting clients. But choose carefully choosing to promote your website, yourself or both: you can't control what others do, like point #9 where friends get your account closed.

Going public could compromise your privacy. Some will see you as "the competition to track and defeat", it also makes you vulnerable to personal attacks when people don't like what you do or the decisions you make regarding your website or content. NEVER use your own identity on your forums, you as a person and a brand together might become a nightmare to manage in certain fields.

There was an example here at WebmasterWorld where a webmaster struggled with an user who took his pictures and made fun of him altering the images and text. Just as you publish a picture of you, anyone can grab it and make a funny graphical joke about you. This doesn't mean you have to hide, just think about it.

11. Forums and you
Opt for an alter ego, never use your own personal data on forums, remember you could be dragged into a fight or be the center of the jokes and there is no easy way out of it. Having an alter ego makes it easier to deal with discussions as is very hard to take it personally this way.

12. Keep record and prepare for attacks
Research and learn how to track an identify. A malicious user might be behind certain attacks, as a protection, you should identify the ips of the sender when somebody use your contact form or when they register on your forum or public services on your site. Is not about invading the privacy of the users, is about identifying them to understand them (like a CRM) and also for your own protection.

You'll be surprised how an user might react if you prove you remember him after one year when they ask you a new question.

Keeping your emails handy (and the right email client) might help you to see between the lines and discover your competition asking for prices and valuable data acting like client interested in your services. Is not about becoming paranoid, remember point #1.1, trust me, when the troubles come you will need all sorts of data to identify where the attack came from.

Conclusions
The list can grow, I surely forgot some points. I bet some of the suggestions appear obvious and meticulous but yet, many webmasters fail to include them in their work routine and then the problems appear, those little things won't seem so little.

Give something back to the community. Many webmasters helped you along the way when you need it, remember them and do the same too, cooperate. The funny thing is how uninterested help might bring opportunities too, little projects today might overcome your own. The world is a small place.

We webmasters seem to have an extra sense to detect people who only want the cake for themselves, be kind, accessible and honest. If you ask for help say thanks and also share how the advice worked and how you managed to solve the problem. Many times good webmasters help on the forums and we never hear back from the users until they have a new problem, guess what, we won't be interested on helping such kind of people again.

Many work relationships are built from trust and personal behavior (how people act) that's why some won't link to your site, remember, create your own content, work hard and be honest.

[edited by: explorador at 6:45 pm (utc) on Dec. 15, 2009]

 

Brett_Tabke




msg:4043576
 6:27 pm on Dec 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

excellent post! Bookmarked. Homepage bound after it gets some support legs from members.

piatkow




msg:4043691
 9:44 pm on Dec 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Backups - if you use your own digital images then remember to back up the originals as well as the copies optimised for the web. I was approached for commercial use of one of my photos earlier this year - the 50k copy on the web was properly saved but the print quality original had been lost in a disc failure.

mack




msg:4043742
 11:09 pm on Dec 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Absolutely incredible post. Thank you for taking the time to share.

Mack.

ken_b




msg:4043754
 11:33 pm on Dec 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

>> digital images

Boy that hits home. Always shoot your photos in high resolution and the resize and optimize a copy for the web. I don't know how many times I've had purchase requests for high res versions of my online photos and for the early ones I only have the low res version I shot just for the web.

Hard lesson learned.

Leosghost




msg:4043767
 11:49 pm on Dec 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Magnificent post..we are all going to be pointing newcomers to it again and again and again ..golden :))

phranque




msg:4043959
 8:10 am on Dec 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

excellent post, explorador!
thanks for that contribution.
hopefully i'll have more suggestions to add later, but i wanted to offer these immediate thoughts.

6. passwords
i would suggest using a password keeper/valet.
easier than remembering dozens of passwords so you will be more inclined to use stronger passwords.
i had one for my palm os and use one on my current handheld.
obviously it should use strong encryption.
a good one will have a password generator and mine has options for things such as length, usage of case, numerals, pronounceable, etc.

7. security
if you login using secure http protocol (a https: url) you should be ok with your password.

re:external hard drives hitting the floor
just a story to show that "stuff happens"...
i downloaded a large number of very high resolution images from a borrowed camera directly to an external drive and returned the camera.
it's the only time i've ever done that.
the next day before i could sort them and back them up i knocked over the drive - it was on a carpeted floor and it basically just tipped over.
the drive was wasted - made horrible noises.
it's the only time i've ever damaged a hard drive.
the memory card had already been reformatted by the owner.
it was a while before i found a media recovery program that restored the deleted images from the memory card.
no money lost but a lot of time wasted.

10. profile
with real time search on G now a reality it's fairly easy for your name, brand or domain to show up above the fold - something to keep in mind.

Alternative Future




msg:4043983
 9:18 am on Dec 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

Yes I agree an excellent post - and thanks for taking the time out to provide this valuable information :)

-Gs

Status_203




msg:4044000
 9:49 am on Dec 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

4. Backup

Sometimes it is useful to keep version A, B and C of the code or drafts. Trust me, sometimes you need to revert the code only to find is not on the backup anymore (only the "updated" not so useful new code)

Use version control and back up the repository.

martinibuster




msg:4044017
 11:07 am on Dec 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

Plan for growth
When planning your site architecture try to leave room for the ability to grow. This affects how you name the different sections.

Sale of the site
If you become popular you may have to start entertaining offers for the site. Sites that are dependent on a single person will generally be valued less. Think about ways you can distance yourself from the site so it is not so dependent on you.

Sites that can chug along on their own without their founder are worth more because you can pass the business off and it will essentially run as usual.

johnhh




msg:4044153
 3:25 pm on Dec 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

Good post !

I would add

Just go and do it - the biggest obstacle can be yourself.

albo




msg:4044198
 4:14 pm on Dec 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

Superb summary: much learning and many good reminders, here!

re, 7, "If you sell your computer", there is some debate, and I have asked around several places (including here) about whether one can trust a utility fully to erase the contents of a hard drive. I am convinced it cannot.

Three years ago, we got rid of an old IBM desktop (can you imagine, a machine with a mere 512M?) which had prompted my inquiries about the hard drive. At that point, I removed the hard drive, took it to the garage, inserted it into the vise, and used vise grips and sledge hammer and played Captain Destructo for a half hour. (Those boogers are robust!) We disposed of the various pieces in several places all over town.

piatkow




msg:4044230
 5:02 pm on Dec 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

Last time I disposed of a PC I simply removed the hard disk and put it in an external HDD enclosure and carried on using the data stored on it.

johnmoose




msg:4044254
 5:46 pm on Dec 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

Good post indeed!
In addition to normal (daily) backups I might add that when working on code (or any file for that matter), make a quick copy of the original file (an easy cut and paste, ctrl-c ctrl-v, after selecting your source file) before editing may save the day, someday.
Its quicker to go back to the original copy this way, then having to restore complete directories/files with your favorite backup utility.

Cheers!
John

bwnbwn




msg:4044370
 8:56 pm on Dec 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

I think in the top three there should be.

Research and get a good host with static IP's. I know when starting out every penny counts but cutting corners on your hosting is not a place to start.

If you need a secure certificate get one in the beginning not down the road.

SEOMike




msg:4044374
 9:04 pm on Dec 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

Outstanding post!

Another thing to remember when working with a team of people is make sure they work with the current version of a file which is not necessarily the one on their hard drive. It's such a pain when someone overwrites your hard work with theirs. If your hard work was adjusting code or something behind-the-scenes, it may go unnoticed for a long time.

With regard to images, if you use photoshop, be sure to save the PSD file and back it up. I've seen too many clients with just the optimized jpg. If someone needs to change words on an image, change the size, or manipulate a gradient, etc they are out of luck without the PSD and have to recreate the image.

I would also recommend that there is an off-site backup of files. I worked at a company once that was burglarized and one item stolen was the firesafe which contained all the backups.

LostOne




msg:4044376
 9:15 pm on Dec 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

Re: backups

I'm terrible at that. My new years resolution is now in action. Thanks for the great reminder!

jastra




msg:4044377
 9:15 pm on Dec 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

Excellent post.

Speaking of getting organized, saving passwords, accounts, code, procedures, financial and other critical info: after 13 years in this business I stopped and realized just how much absolutely critical information about my business I carry around in my head. Not written down anywhere. Nobody but myself knows it all. God forbid something should happen to me. What would my family do? Without all that info, my business would be essentially worthless.

It's been talked about on this forum before, but you need to keep a private stash of your business info, all in one secret place, where your family could retrieve it. The on-line storage companies such as M*zy and all aren't really the final answer because their T&Cs specify they'll turn your info over to government officials when demanded under the law. Safe deposit boxes at the bank? Same thing.

Trust me, it's best to get organized early and keep everything current as you go. Catching up after years of laziness isn't fun.

dailypress




msg:4044380
 9:22 pm on Dec 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

Just go and do it - the biggest obstacle can be yourself.

I agree. Also would like to add: do more than planning...

there have been days where I spent hours on WW or other forums reading and researching or posting why is my income going down? well, if I spent the time updating my site I think I would have been better off.

in short, I love WW and think we should continue reading as you suggested but: find a balance between planning and actually working on your site

Digmen1




msg:4044420
 10:37 pm on Dec 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

Boring Post
I have read it all before.
Too much empahsis on security - visits and income are more important.
Backups are important though. (I back my site up once a week to a DVD)

jastra




msg:4044491
 1:25 am on Dec 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

See John make a bunch of money with his Web site. But, see John callously disregard backing up his proprietary and financial secrets, because he only thought visits and income were important.

Oh, see John get run over by the bus! See John's surviving family go into poverty.

But, then, I guess that's the merlot talking to me.

(Apologies to other than US-schooled students who, back in the day, learned to read through "Dick and Jane" readers.)

LOL

webastronaut




msg:4044511
 3:11 am on Dec 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

Great post for sure...

Working for yourself as a Webmaster will get harder when your business plans succeed. I just learned the hard way how the tax man will catch up to you.

Make sure to have an accounting plan in place before you start. I have multiple
sites with different affiliate services on each site and when you start getting
many checks in the mail from many different places, it's easy to ignore
all the small checks here and there when preparing your taxes. Eventually the tax man will find out
so make sure you treat yourself as a business and file everything.

Musicarl




msg:4044545
 4:24 am on Dec 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

I like this post because it shares specific information on ways to back up a site and use passwords, and also explores an interesting topic: The public relationship between you and your website. Looking back a decade or so, I think making no reference to myself on my main site was one of my best decisions, because it could have easily become about me instead of the subject.

Regarding the organization and saving drafts, my tangled brain works differently, and if I don't go through a project quickly from start to finish, all the work leading up to it becomes pretty much meaningless. Old drafts have never served me well.

Petrogold




msg:4044578
 6:35 am on Dec 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

Great post! We must appreciate Explorador for the insights and time spent to contribute.
Other WM definitely could add more valuable tips. However, we must remember the power of 3. So dear Webmasters please be kind to write 3 powerful & most critical issues that you feel not highlighted by Explorador.
-Keep the files/docs/Codes & passwords etc. in the cloud server.
-Protect your content from rip-off & duplication.
-Share with other WM how did you succeed with new innovations.

Best of Luck & Regards,

Asia_Expat




msg:4044579
 6:35 am on Dec 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

Surely a candidate for 'Greatest WW Post Ever'
Thanks for taking the time to write it explorador.

oodlum




msg:4044638
 8:42 am on Dec 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

What an excellent post.

10. Low profile or not
This is up to you, you decide. Revealing YOU are the one behind X website might be a good thing if you know how to deal with it, it links you to the brand and is useful in conferences (hey that's Jim!) or to get more work and $$. You might become part or essence of the brand just like your website giving conferences per example and getting clients. But choose carefully choosing to promote your website, yourself or both: you can't control what others do, like point #9 where friends get your account closed.

This is a great point. I was deliberately quite visible in the beginning when I launched my dating site, to foster a reputation for honesty and integrity - my main and most crucial points of difference. I blogged about the site and what I hoped to achieve, and the members responded with good will. Chat rooms were often empty at first so I sat there and said hello to people when they came in! Members were amazed that I was a "real" person they could talk to.

Now I have a great group of fiercely loyal evangelists. As the community grows, however, I feel it's appropriate for me to step back and take a more behind-the-scenes role. They can still contact me, and I still pop in and say hi now and then, but it kind of cramps their style to have the "boss" hanging around too much. Not to mention the need to be an objective observer when adjudicating the occasional blow-up.

Status_203




msg:4044662
 9:31 am on Dec 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

4. Backup
Sometimes it is useful to keep version A, B and C of the code or drafts. Trust me, sometimes you need to revert the code only to find is not on the backup anymore (only the "updated" not so useful new code)

Use version control and back up the repository.

I'm going to start sounding repetitive now, however...

In addition to normal (daily) backups I might add that when working on code (or any file for that matter), make a quick copy of the original file (an easy cut and paste, ctrl-c ctrl-v, after selecting your source file) before editing may save the day, someday.
Its quicker to go back to the original copy this way, then having to restore complete directories/files with your favorite backup utility.

Version control.

Commit/check-in early. Commit/check-in often. Label releases so you can get back any released version of code/recognise work done since a release.

Another thing to remember when working with a team of people is make sure they work with the current version of a file which is not necessarily the one on their hard drive. It's such a pain when someone overwrites your hard work with theirs. If your hard work was adjusting code or something behind-the-scenes, it may go unnoticed for a long time.

Version control.

Make sure that your release processes take the files to be uploaded from the repository. Even if somebody does overwrite somebody else's work you can

a) roll back the release more easily.
b) identify which lazy *&@$^& ignored the warnings when committing/checking-in.
c) get them to combine the changes properly as both sets of work will still be in the repository, not lost forever.

If you are unfamiliar with version control then check out Subversion and, if on Windows, Tortoise as a front end.

richelectron




msg:4044751
 1:15 pm on Dec 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

I can only say I was nodding my head repeatedly as I was identifying with several of these points I have come to learn myself as a webmaster - and thanks for the heads up on a bunch of points I hadn't quite grasped yet :)

ulstrup




msg:4044754
 1:18 pm on Dec 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

Wonderful Post! Thanks for sharing.

Future




msg:4044755
 1:33 pm on Dec 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

Excellent post explorador.
Thank You.

This 33 message thread spans 2 pages: 33 ( [1] 2 > >
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