webmaster’s work of planning

I found this quote quite interesting:

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
– Dwight D. Eisenhower

As a webmaster, we also need a good planning skill. A good start with sufficient planning and avoid the extra works and continuous planning while running the site can help keeping the site running smoothly.

Here are some things I would do when starting a project:

1. Find the right hosting plan and host service.

The right hosting from beginning can pay off in the long term. I used some crappy hosting service off the start and I had to spent a lot of energy to worry about the downtime. I eventually dumped the service but I can’t get my lost time and productivity back.

If you want to run a quality site with a large code base the right hosting makes a lot of difference.

2. Design the site, page and more importantly URL

Most people focus on the graphic design at the beginning to make a site look sexy. Sexy site sells. But at least equally important, are the page navigation, content design and URLs.

A good page navigation organize the content hierarchically; the good use of on page html markups (h1, h2, etc…) make the page more readable to the search engines. A good markup structure is a good way of information organization.

A new site, for example a directory site with a bunch of empty categories, can possibly have a lot of empty pages that look similar in the Search Engine’s eyes. In Google’s case, they will be excluded from the main index and dumped into the supplemental list, which is a place a page should try to avoid getting into. A webmaster should plan on the growth and gradually add the pages naturally.

The URL is also an important piece. Ideally the URL for each page should be well considered from the beginning. Although a 301 redirect can always be done if the URL changes, it will be much better to start with good URLs and stick to them.

3. Plan on marketing the site

No matter how good your site is, you will need to get the work out somehow. There are a lot of ways to do this. And a good planning should use different marketing strategy progressively. This will make the advertising more effective, and your marketing $ goes longer way.

For a newly start site without much content, it is probably not a good idea to dive right into a big advertising plan off the start.

The early marketing steps may include post your site on different webmaster forums for reviews, submitting to free or low fee directories to get some low power back links.

As the site gradually improves it is the time to target links from some more authoritative sites.

Web site marketing is tedious and continuing process, the continuous effort is what it takes to make a name in a already crowded community.

Running a site:

1. Always watch your site.

A website is a 24/7 business and it should be monitored to make sure it stays up that way. There are some good free service for website monitoring and you can use a combination of them to monitor a site from different geographical location.

A frequent downtime is an early warning for an unreliable hosting service or a sign to investigate the code and optimize.

2. Planning for space and traffic.

Using Google Analytics, you can have a good idea about the traffic of your site. A webmaster should plan ahead for next hosting upgrade instead of waiting till the site can’t handle the level of the traffic. The increment of the traffic is always a good thing for a webmaster, but can a site handle it? The “Digg” or “Reddit” effect can bring a burst of fame to a site, but they can also take a site down.

Changing host is big deal but if planned early the execution can be smoother. For example, setup a staging environment early to regression test the site will eliminate most of the “surprises” from the actual migration.

3. Watch the system logs and attacks.

If you are using VPS or dedicated server, you have a great responsibility to keep your box secure for the sake of your site(s) and the whole web community. A webmaster should continue checking out the logs for the potential break-in attempt and misuse of the email system.

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