The following article was prepared by Mike Taylor, C.P.M., for distribution to ISM affiliate newsletters. January  2007


Web Site Manager:
What do I need to know and why?

May 2008

Are you the Web Site Manager for your affiliate?

If so, you are the person responsible for the management and operation of the affiliate presence on the Internet. This includes managing the affiliate investment in the domain name, web site and web software, as well as making sure posted content is current. The person could be a Board member, committee chair or an appointed position with one or more assistants. The Web Site Manager may also be the Web Author (responsible for updating the web site) and/or manage a volunteer or outside contractor performing the actual update work. In some affiliates this entire task is accomplished by one person. Other affiliates outsource the whole thing.

Web Manager Needs to Know:

  1. Do we own our own Domain name?
  2. Who is the Domain Registrar (where is our domain name registered)?
  3. Who is the registered owner and administrator?
  4. When does the registration expire and how much does annual renewal cost?
  5. What are the passwords or protocols for updating the record?
  6. Who is our Web site hosting company?
  7. Where is a copy of the contract or agreement?
  8. When does the hosting service expire and how much does it cost?
  9. What are the services/features we are purchasing?
  10. What are the passwords and protocols for updating or changing the service?
  11. Are we purchasing features we donít need or arenít using ad should be?
  12. Who actually prepares and posts updates to the web site?
  13. What software is being used to make changes/updates?
  14. What special or more advanced features are being used on the web site (such as member database)
  15. What are the passwords and protocols for making changes
  16. Where is a current archive copy of the web site and all associated documentation, codes, instructions, etc.
  17. Does the affiliate own the web site publishing software or is the web site in simple HTML code where multiple software options are readily available?
  18.  Is there a configuration document which describes the web site, all of the various components and how they work together?
  19. When was the last time someone checked to be sure the web site was secure? Changed passwords, verified that no fraudulent use of the web site space or hosting services was taking place?
  20.  Does the web site accurately reflect our organization? Current organizational information including address, phone numbers, officers, etc. Content is current, complete and relevant to the organization.
  21. Do we have a contingency plan? Are we prepared in case the person who is currently managing the web site leaves unexpectedly?
  22.   Does our affiliate have a web page on the ISM Affiliate Web Sites that needs to be updated, deleted or linked to the official affiliate web site?    http://www.ism.ws/about/AffiliateWebsitesList.cfm?navItemNumber=5454

The Web Site as an asset:

The presence of the affiliate on the web is a world-wide publicity tool for the affiliate. It is one of the few ways the affiliate communicates directly with the general public. Accordingly, the web site, domain name ownership agreement, web hosting contract, publishing software, administrative passwords, publishing procedures, web authoring contract, and web-author training investment are all components of a very valuable affiliate asset. All of the various pieces of this process as implemented by the affiliate need to be managed in a way that preserves the asset for the affiliate independently of any one person. That is the registration records, passwords, update procedures, etc. should all be filed as part of the affiliate record so that the loss of a key individual will not cause the affiliate to loose control of the asset.

Domain Names:

The registered identify of an entity on the Internet. (example: Microsoft.com, ISM.ws, napmftworth.org, etc.) Domain names are registered with one of several domain name registrars for one or more years. The registered owner of the domain name controls where and how the domain may be used on the Internet. Protect the domain registration carefully, with a current copy of the registration, passwords, account numbers, payment receipts, etc. in the possession of the affiliate BOD. Domain registration issues are extremely difficult to fix. If the registration period lapses, the registered owner is incorrect or a key administrative contact departs without updating the record, it could take months to resolve. Estimated budget $10-$50 per year depending on discounts and registration service used. Cautions: 1) Ensure the affiliate is identified as the legal owner. Use a ďWHOISĒ directory service to determine registration information. Example: www.allwhois.com  2) Donít let the Domain Name registration lapse Ė else a pornographer can purchase it and publish an embarrassing web site using your old name.

Web Site Hosting Service

The Web Site Hosting Company provides space on their Internet servers where your affiliate web site will live. This is a contracted service, where the charges are based on the amount of space allocated. Required technical support, extra features, etc. play a big role in the pricing. Hosting companies can add a lot of ďvalueĒ or be a roadblock. Prices range from cheap to very expensive, itís a very competitive marketplace and you should be able to get good basic service starting at about $10/month. Donít use the free services and donít sign a long term agreement until you are happy with the service. The hosting company can also provide the service anonymously for organizations without registered domains, by sharing space in its domain. ISM provides web hosting service for affiliates to post a basic web site.  Example: http://www.ism.ws/sites/hawaii/index.htm .   Web Hosting Reviews and service comparison: http://www.webhostingratings.com http://www.findmyhosting.com/index.asp

Web Author

This generally refers to the person who does the actual updates of the web site. A relatively experienced computer-literate person can usually learn the basics of web site preparation and publishing. (experienced with macros, hyperlink or other pages, formatting codes, relative directories, etc.). Web site authoring can also be subcontracted with the added benefit of more professional looking web sites, but a longer delay in getting items fixed or updated. The expertise of the web author will also make a difference on the support level need from the web host. Web site authoring is a competitive market, but updates can add up and be expensive. Caution: If you subcontract the service, be sure that you get a complete copy of all the basic web site code and updating procedures, so that you can change services if you want to. Donít let them talk you in to a proprietary design that canít be transferred to someone else.

Web Site & Search Engines

Most web search sites (Google, Yahoo, etc.) automatically locate, index and display web sites based on the content, keywords and links from other sites. If a lot of other web sites link to yours, if a lot of people search for it, if it has good content and keywords, then the web search sites will eventually find it and add your web site to their index. Some search sites have ways that you can submit your web site for review (freely) Ė but even then the search engine will not list your site until it is indexed by the search engine system.

DONíT pay any attention to the various advertisements for web site listing services and never pay someone to help get your site listed. Produce a useful, multi-page site with appropriate links, keywords and information and the web search sites will find you. Read some tips from Google about how to improve the chances that your web site will be indexed.  http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/topic.py?topic=8524

Newsletter distribution

Electronic distribution of newsletters can be accomplished quite easily by several different methods. The easiest method is in a PDF file format attached to an email messages. Even if you mail out hard copies of the newsletter, ask the person preparing it to provide an electronic file in PDF format for archiving on the web site and marketing use. You can also have the web author create each newsletter as a separate web page on your web site, then email a link to the web pages as they are posted. This makes the email message smaller looks better on the web site and as a bonus each new newsletter posted is another opportunity for a web site search engine to rank your web site higher. You can also take the web page and email mail it as an HTML message. Warning Ė HTML message can get rejected by some users anti-span software. Also, if your mailing list is long, you might have to split the distribution into several smaller groups to bypass email volume limits. Caution: NEVER distribute your newsletters by email to people who donít want to receive them Ė that is called SPAM Ė and always allow people a way to ask to be taken off the distribution list.

Email and newsletter mailing services:

Maintaining a complete and accurate email list is a labor intensive task. If the email list is long you can use a mailing list service to automate the task for users to add and update their own subscriptions to your newsletter mailings. Distribution is simplified because the list owner can distribute a newsletter to the entire list in one step. Several mailing list services also offer newsletter templates and design suggestions. Caution: donít sign a long-term agreement until you have tried the service. They vary greatly in cost, ease of use and the quality of the finished product. Here are a few services:

1. www.constantcontact.com  Used by several affiliate newsletter publishers I know. Cost on a monthly basis depending on the size of your mailing list. Includes many newsletter templates.

2.  www.iContact.com  A low-cost newsletter service with templates and pricing based on the numbers of emails that are sent out.

3. http://www.campaignmonitor.com/pricing 

4. http://mashable.com/2007/08/10/email-newsletters 

5. http://www.internetmailmanager.com

Web Site design software

Nice looking but simple web sites can be prepared and posted using a variety of free or low cost web design software (e.g. $50-$100 in value). More complex web sites will require more advanced software tools, and more time and effort to learn and administer. Some of the very expensive professional web site design software (e.g. ColdFusion) will generate proprietary code that can only be changed by someone using the special software. The web site design software should also be checked for compatibility with the web site hosting service since they can be different. Standard HTML is the most simplified method of preparing the web site and recommended for all but the most advanced programmers and users.

Web site software suggestions and comparisons

  1. Front Page 2003. Many of us amateur web authors got our start using Microsoft Front Page and still continue to use it. Front Page is no longer being sold by Microsoft, although you can still find copies for sale at around $150. What happened to Front Page? http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/frontpage/default.aspx  note: I do not recommend the new Microsoft web tool.
  2. WebPlus http://www.serif.com/webplus/webplus10/  $40
  3. Read more comparisons of web authoring software: http://webdesign.about.com/od/htmleditors/HTML_Editors_Web_Page_Authoring_Tools.htm
  4. http://webdesign.about.com/od/windowshtmleditors/tp/best_windows_html_editors.htm

I know this list isn't perfect and some geeks will have their own ideas and favorites - but this is at least a place to start.

Good luck.

Mt


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