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Can you update your own web pages?

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You need your website information to always be up to date. Is this expensive, or can you do it yourself?

When your website is finished, can you change information on the pages yourself, or do you need to pay someone to do that? You need to think about this before the website is started.

(A) You can edit the HTML files:

A web designer can build a website which is easy to maintain from the beginning by using a system like active server pages (ASP) or PHP.

In ASP and PHP, if the header, style sheets, navigation bars, and footer for all pages are in separate files, then each page contains only that page's information plus links to the header etc.

Each page is then easy to edit without fear of changing the style, or accidentally messing with the header. Changes can be made to e.g. the phone number once in the header instead of on all pages separately.


Such pages can also contain code that displays other information like dates, so that your News page heading can always show the current month and year even if you haven't had time to update it for six weeks.

If you are the owner of the website, you will have FTP access (File Transfer Protocol) to your website. There are many shareware FTP programs you can use: WS_FTP, CuteFTP, etc. to copy the web pages from the server to your hard disk. Always save a backup copy of these files before you edit them.

When you do this, note the folder on the server that the files are in, so that when you copy them back, they end up in the right place. The main folder for your website may be called something like public_html or www, while the file you want to edit may be in a sub-folder of that.

You can edit many things on your webs pages without knowing any HTML (Hypertext Markup Language). Just use a plain text editor like Notepad, and don't touch the HTML codes. These are inside angle brackets (less than and greater than signs).

If you would like to start using HTML codes for paragraphs and line breaks, bold and italic, bullets or numbered lists, then look first at the coding used by your web designer. Visit www.w3.org, or get a book on HTML.

You can find shareware and low cost HTML editors on the web. These will put the HTML codes into the web page for you. Or, you could buy a high-end web design program like Dreamweaver.

Do small changes at a time and don't close your editor until the web page looks just right, just in case you need to Ctrl-Z (UnDo) some changes.

When you finish and save your changes, open the file on your hard disk with a browser. In an HTML editor there will be a function key for this. If you are using Notepad then go to your browser, File: Open: Browse: to open the file. Or use My Computer to find the file you have just edited and click on it. If the web page gets its style from another file, then the appearance may be rough but you can at least check that the words are what you intended.

Then upload the file to the correct folder on your website and check it again with your browser.

(B) Content Management Systems (CMS):

CMS is usually purchased by medium sized organizations. (Small businesses use (A) above, or (D) below, and large organizations use their own IT Department.)

There are various levels of CMS used for editing web pages on-line without downloading and uploading the HTML files, and without needing to see any HTML codes. These come at various costs.

With all CMS systems, you can type into an on-line screen or you can copy from a plain text file and paste into the CMS screen. With some, you can copy from a word document and past into a CMS program that can clean off the unwanted Word processor formatting codes.


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(C) Database systems:

Websites that run from databases come with administration screens to edit the contents of the database. These may be for product catalogues, ecommerce, news pages and notices.

These administration screens put the information in the right places on the right web pages, in pre-set styles.

CMS formatting can be also added to database systems, so that you can enter paragraph breaks etc.

(D) Pay a web designer for updates:

Most web designers charge so little for updating a web page that they have designed, especially if they use ASP or PHP, that possibly you don't need any of the above options. However, if you ask them to update a web page that someone else has designed, it may cost more.

Conclusion:

It's best to decide which method of updating your website will suit you before you get your website designed. Whatever you decide, for you website to stay competitive it needs to look up to date.


About the Author: Ken McKay is an Australian web designer. More information on web design for small business is available at platypus websites - www.platywebs.com.au


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Mar. 21, ISSUE #215
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