When it is Over Your Head Have a Procedure

Just do it! How many websites have been built like that? Most of them? With nearly an infinite amount of ideas to have a website, and the thousands upon thousands of webmasters out there, expecting all websites to be built the same way would be foolish.

For those of you that run a small business, and have no time for the technical details, I imagine/know many of you are pressed to say just do it. When it comes to your website though, you better know some basics.

Where Did My Webmaster Go?

In my particular case, I have clients over ten years old. I’m still here, and in a reverse effect, have outlived many of the websites I have worked on. Companies close, or the needs for the site have changed.

One thing that bugs me though, and I often hear it from new clients is, “My webmaster just disappeared.” I can only guess that many tested the waters in the past, and then simply gave up on it as a career. Hardly the oldest or most basic profession. Whatever the reason, if your webmaster leaves, you should still have some basic understanding on how your site was developed.

If you are someone that is in charge of a website, like a small business owner or director, and don’t have time for the details, here is a list of things you should at least know about your website.

Things to Know about Your Website besides the URL

  • Know when and where your domain name was registered, and how to login to the account
  • The location of your server – Your website is hosted on a server, aka computer. Do you know where that server is, and whom to contact in case your site goes down?
  • The login information for the server- Unless your site is hosted at your location, a website is typically edited by accessing your site by means of FTP, or by a control panel hosted on the server.
  • The primary language your site was developed in – Was it PHP, HTML, ASP? Was javascript, Java, CGI, or Perl used?
  • Database information – You should know if a database is required for your website. You should know its name, it’s primary purpose, and login information (username and password).
  • Does your site use a Content Management System – This is commonly referred to as CMS. A few examples would be Sharepoint, WordPress, and Joomla. If you do, you will need to know it’s login information as well, and have an administrator account for supreme access. It can’t hurt to get a basic lesson on how to¬† use it as well.
  • You need the basic procedure for everything that can be done on your site
    • Know what is used to create a new page on your site – Does your site use CMS or a static default template? What is the name of the template file?
    • Know how all form submissions are handled – Do they go to database, email, or a text file? If you have several forms, they could be doing several different things. Another question to ask is if the information is passed on to another website or company? If so, you need to know either how, who, or where you can get instructions on reestablishing that link if anything to were to go wrong.
    • Know how to administrate user properties if your site has members
    • If you have a retail site, have a basic understanding on how the store works, and know its administrative procedure – Obviously, you will need login information for that as well. Does it run its own software? What is the software package name?
    • Most importantly, know how to use your website – You should be able to walk a visitor through every part of your website.
  • Know where any website notes made by the webmaster were stored – Often a readme.txt file. Notes within code are not required to know.
  • A complete backup of the site off site – Have your webmaster burn a CD backup occasionally.

It may sound like a lot, but your website could be shot if your current webmaster leaves you. Even if you can save most of your site yourself, having a new webmaster try to figure everything out over again, on their own, could be extremely expensive.

If you are a business owner I would suggest having a binder dedicated just for your website. Within it you can store the backup CD of your website, keep your important login information, and also include the basic procedures on how to accomplish the important tasks to maintain your site.

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