Spring is the traditional time to tidy up, discarding
the no longer useful, dusting off what you decide to keep,
and adding anything needed. But you can do spring cleaning
any time of year, to a home as well as a home page.
Web experts advise you to periodically evaluate your site
to determine what’s working and what needs to be
improved, whether you have a home-spun Web site consisting
of a few pages or a multilevel, multimedia-rich e-business
site. You can use various software programs for this.
The two most popular programs for creating and maintaining Web sites are Macromedia
Dreamweaver, a sophisticated program used more by professional
and Microsoft FrontPage, an easy-to-use program used
more by home and small business do-it-yourselfers [http://www.microsoft.com/frontpage].
Adobe GoLive, the third-most-popular Web authoring program
is a terrific program that’s both easy to use
and sophisticated. It’s targeted to Web design
newcomers as well seasoned pros.
I asked GoLive’s product manager, George Arriola,
about sprucing up a Web site, using his program or any
other, and he offered some good advice.
Clean Out the Garage
First, look for stale, outdated content,
says Arriola. The Web is all about new. Because information
is easily updatable, it should be up to date. If a site
is cluttered up with musty detritus, it will only reflect
poorly on you or your organization.
GoLive, Dreamweaver, and FrontPage all let you check
which pages have been most recently, and least recently,
Look for broken internal links, which point to pages
within your site, and external links, which point to
other Web sites. If more than a couple of links no longer
work, this can create the impression that the rest of
your site is obsolete as well. Many Web authoring programs
automate this process.
Clean out folders of old files and scripts you’re
no longer using. There’s no point wasting the
Update old contact information. The Internet Age is
the age of connectivity. If people can’t reach
you, why put up a Web site in the first place?
Add Fresh Paint
Give your site a face-lift to improve navigation, usability,
and accessibility. Arriola is a proponent of Web design
guru Jakob Nielsen’s two-click rule: Users should
be able to find content they’re after in two clicks
rather than having to burrow several levels down. If
information at your site is too hard to find, users
may look elsewhere, in a couple of clicks.
If you don’t already have one, consider adding
an internal search engine to your site. Atomz Corp.
lets you easily add either a simple or sophisticated
search engine and sends you a periodic report of what
visitors are searching for. The simple search engine
is free, though available only for sites with fewer
than 500 pages.
Consider incorporating graphical and other enhancements,
provided they don’t bog down users. Examples include
animations, audio clips, or video clips that offer useful
substance such as product demonstrations. Another option
is adding a wireless interface for those accessing your
site using a mobile device.
Gut the First Floor
Some Web experts say that active sites should be revamped
every 2-3 years. Reasons to redesign a site include
new directions in your organization, changing ways that
people use your site, and new Web technology.
Depending on where your site is hosted, you may be able
to use software to analyze which sections of your site
are receiving the most and the least traffic and to
identify any problems visitors may be experiencing in
surfing your site. Virtual hosting companies and some
ISPs can provide this information for you. If you’re
hosting your site yourself, various software programs
can do the trick.
For obtaining Web metrics and analytics about your site,
a number of companies offer solutions, including NetIQ
Accrue Software [http://www.accrue.com],
and WebSideStory [http://www.websidestory.com].
Options in try-before-you-buy software include Absolute
Log Analyzer from BitStrike Software [http://www.bitstrike.com],
SiteVigil Pro from Silurian Software [http://www.silurian.com],
and LinkTrakker DUO from Internet Total Solutions [http://www.affiliatesbusiness.com].
Using this information can prompt decisions to close
down some areas of your site or move them to make them
more accessible or to beef up your hardware.
Finally, consider doing usability testing, testing your
site with real people. Whether you hire a company to
do this for you or do it yourself more informally, such
testing can help you make the most important decision
in designing and maintaining a Web site: Adopt a users’
is a syndicated columnist and author of the book Straight
Talk About the Information Superhighway. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org