June 5, 2022

A Few Suggestions for a Webmaster

Advice from the late 1990s

I found this document when cleaning up my home office. There's no date on this, but I believe that its sometime around the late 1990s.

First, you make it easy for visitors/users to find your site: get an easy to remember and appropriate "domain name"; advertise in the right places; list your services in various sites that maintain a list, such as Yahoo; announce your site in various appropriate newsgroups and listservers; let other potentially interested webmasters know about your site; include your web address in all your publications, advertisements, announcements, etc. Make it easy to find.

Second, you need to create an attractive and well-designed site. Utilize graphic artists and professional writers to boost your site. The design of your site should reflect the knowledge level of your client/customer/visitor and what they appreciate. Balance the fancy new browser features with what you believe your typical visitor might have for a browser and bandwidth capacity. Remember that including large 24-bit graphics, audio and movies can slow down the delivery to your viewers to a crawl on a 14,400 modem. Make your site not only exciting and attractive but also effective.

Third, create a guideline and standard for where the files will be placed in your directory structure and in the virtual web link that branch off from your home/index page. Write a style manual for pages not only reflecting design standards but also writing formulas and criteria. Plan and maintain document flow. Know who is working on what document, and where. Keep version. Create your own templates specific to your organization and documents. Create a distinct and consistent look for your site. Use the Netscape SiteManager and Netscape Gold-Editor to help you manage and implement these features. Plan in advance.

Fourth, make sure that information is easily found on your site. Supply various navigation links, such as buttons, lists, imagemaps, etc., to allow the user to find the information they need. Highlight major information that you or your visitor would want to know. Use graphics, font size, color, etc., to emphasize various topics. Make your site easy to use.

Fifth, you want your visitor to come again and again to your site. To this end, make sure you update your site regularly and provide information that others wish to have above and beyond the simple specification of your products and services. You have plenty of space to provide more detailed information. Your visitor has come this far because they are interested, keep their interest by creating a well-designed and informative site. Do not underestimate the intelligence and don't stereotype one type of person. Maintain a varied set of facts, and make your site the site for anyone wishing to know anything about your main subject. Include links to other sites of interest to your visitors. Provide additional information that might interest a visitor. If you wish to use your website as a place of commerce, then consider it more of an "infomercial" than a commercial. Even better, consider your site the expert area for anyone interested in your product and/or service, a place that is also regularly updated with new and relevant information. For example, if you are selling cooking pots, provide recipes, history of culinary arts and utensils, testimonials of others and how they used your pot, instruction on how to use the pot, awards for the best use or based on the number of visitors that have visited your site, etc. Make your site a regularly visited bookmark/hot list for your clients/customers.

Sixth, take advantage of the capabilities of your server, site manager, and editor. Learn and use these tools to enhance your site. A website is not a re-print of your company brochure, it includes a lot more capabilities. Take advantage of the interactivity, multimedia, and programming capabilities of the web. For example, you can have users register their products, fill out a survey, use your website as a place for customer service and technical help/support, allow the visitor to search through various technical documents for the information they need, and have them buy your products, watch a presentation with sound and graphics, see a demo, etc. Also, don't limit the capability of the website for only external use- use it internally for inter-departmental exchange of information, sharing of documents, managing a project, discussions, etc. Use the Netscape Guru and test various site options that might be of use to you. Be creative.

Finally, make sure you are ready for the number of visitors you might have. Know your server and allow for the bandwidth needed to provide the best service for your visitors. A service that is slow or difficult to access becomes a service not to access. Be prepared.

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