August 01, 1998
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio August 1998 Current Issue
August 1998 Net GainsPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

Net Gains


Web Management

Now that your site is up and running, here's how to keep it current

Web sites are now a fact of life for most companies and associations. They are used for everything from simple branding and identity to full-featured e-commerce solutions. However, no matter what the size or scope, setting up a Web site is easy compared to keeping it going - and growing.

Maintaining simple Web sites composed of static pages can usually be handled internally. Select the right person with the time and technical skills, and provide the software and hardware tools to get the job done. If you just need to keep photos current, update e-mail addresses or periodically tweak text, then this in-house approach is sensible.

Massaging dynamic, interactive Web sites is a different story. These sites have databases, calendars, newsletters, catalogs, forums and chat sections, secure online event registration and other areas that allow everything from data services to real-time transactions. When your site grows to this level, you need grown-up maintenance and support. You can accomplish this in a few ways.

Full-Time Webmaster
When you've poured good money into a medium or large Web site, budget for a full-time overseer. Larger sites that have diverse ingredients require a specialist. Your Webmaster should make the pages look good and the features perform correctly. A good Webmaster also is a proactive force in the continuing development of your site. You may have a killer site today, but unless you regularly implement new technologies, the site will rust beyond recognition, to your competition's delight. Keep your Webmaster in touch with the latest industry developments, publications and Web developer conferences.

If your Webmaster is in-house, provide good hardware and the latest versions of software to do the job. You will need to make constant purchases of software upgrades and new product releases, and be sure to buy a new computer - or upgrade your current hard drive - every nine to 12 months to keep everything running better and faster.

If you are comfortable outsourcing your site management to a third party, let them worry about what hardware, software, books and magazines, consulting services and educational workshops will keep the pumps churning. Either way, comprehensive site maintenance, management and enhancement services are expensive and indispensable.

Web-based Administration
As a user, think of how you now are able to fly through the Internet with the greatest of ease. The same technologies that enable you to communicate with a Web page - interactive forms, databases, links - are now used to create built-in Web-based administrative applications. These tools easily can handle the day-to-day upkeep of even the largest site. The site developers, however, don't want to lose the maintenance business, so they're not creating many products for you to do the job yourself.

One, Relevant (www.ensemble. com), uses cutting-edge xml technology to create complex Web sites and build pages on the fly, and a simple user-defined query builds Web pages with content drawn from live newsfeeds and other resources. Anyone can easily manage catalog items and real-time inventory in an online store, as well as gather information from site visitors. It doesn't come cheap, though: The license costs $10,000.

We use a product we developed called EZapps ( to create and update conference and event calendars, edit news, add links, work with online databases and handle secure online registration transactions.

Inexpensive, Fast, Easy and Effective
With this new approach to Web site management, all you need is a regular computer with a decent browser (Navigator or Internet Explorer) and an adequate Internet connection; no need for an in-house Webmaster armed with piles of software programs. The applications themselves are Web page templates that require text entry or simple Windows navigation to place graphics. Database maintenance operations require no programming skills whatsoever. And the operations are pre-programmed into the applications, so when you make a change, the simple click of an edit icon rebuilds the page with the updated information.

As Web-based administrative applications become more prevalent, the need for dedicated Webmaster services hopefully will diminish. Maybe then the talented Webmasters of today will be able to concentrate on developing technologies that will continue this astounding evolution that has taken the meetings industry, and the world, by storm.

Rodman Marymor, CMP, and Jeffrey Rasco, CMP, are partners in San Francisco and Austin, Texas-based HMR Associates, providing technology solutions for the meetings industry.

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