A Day in the Life of a Web Architect

blurryhandsby Mark S. Burgess, Page Mountain LLC

Taking a break at the midpoint on my series, Top 10 Website Features I thought I’d keep track and write about a day in the life of a website architect here at Page Mountain LLC, staff of one.

I usually hit the desk, coffee in hand, between 6am and 7am and as I walk in, I check the monitor that shows the night’s server activity – memory used, load experienced. That usually tells me right away if I’ll spend more of the morning on server maintenance.

  • Next up, it’s reading email – usually a count of around 150 since last evening:
  • Browse email newsletters (5-15 seconds each)
  • Review system status messages
  • Reply to customer comments since yesterday (some like to write late at night)
  • Fix a form issue on a comment for a site – reply to commentor
  • Check domain name expirations listed in a notice
  • Respond to LinkedIn request to connect
  • Respond to Facebook request to connect
  • Investigate a tech support notice from server management and get it into the calendar in case it impacts site operations

Then it’s a raft of “checks” – everything is a project management in this world so an independent web architect’s life is a lot about follow up:

  • Check the bank balances
  • Check threat level and performance through content delivery network of sites from overnight
  • Scroll back through a specialized log script I wrote looking for attack signatures
  • Map out an abusive addresses that tried to break into a site or sites
  • Open up QuickBooks and then Quicken and download transactions for company and personal accounts – review, categorize transactions
  • Check in with the site maintenance tools and update 36 plugins on 34 web sites and 4 sites in development
  • Review the uptime and backup reports

Then I get out my black perfect bound book…I’m on Volume XXXVII since I started them in the early 80’s and update the task list for the week. I take notes, doodle, write phone numbers and other fleeting items in there all through the week. Makes for marvelous, uncrashable data retrieval.

Next up is to resolve an issue with a Baja web site located on GoDaddy. Double check the code, look at the stats. Use the login the customer gave me to check their account and find there’s an issue only they can resolve.

On this particular day, I have a customer executive team conference call every week at 9am. If I get a break I run down for more coffee just before the call.

My uncrashable notebook...on this day, a diagram for the architecture of an ecommerce site with a membership component. The black dots in the list are tasks completed this week.

My uncrashable notebook…on this day, a diagram for the architecture of an ecommerce site with a membership component.  The black dots in the list are tasks completed this week.

Once off the concall, it’s time to update and send invoices with work statements from my project system where I record my time. Someday I’ll investigate tying the project system directly to the hourly reporting available in Quickbooks. While accounting is on the table, I review accounts receivable and spend a few minutes meditating on when I think payment will actually be forthcoming.

Then, I get out the notes and start development work on a site.

When I notice it’s getting close to lunch time – no, I didn’t make it down for that second cup of my brother-in-law’s extraordinary coffee (check Zumbarcofee.com,) I take a peak at email and send a tweet about a news article I thought was interesting.

Then: Lunch. I try to be disciplined about taking a break so I don’t find myself at 2pm, hungry and more tired than I should be – having not looked out the window on the recommended 20 minutes cycles.

After lunch, I take what is some days my only time out of the house to check the mailbox and then it’s a quick check of email and back on the development work – having come up with a solution while ruminating with the Golf Channel and some celery and peanut butter at lunch. And, I get to spend a little time on a logo I’m developing for a client that goes with the rebranding work I’ve done for them.

It gets to be around 4pm and I start my follow ups to catch any issues before people start leaving their offices; follow up on proposals I’ve sent and do a little digging to see what meetings I should target for finding new work. It’s about now I consider going for a workout in the gym across the way, but more often than not get pulled back into something.

…life is a lot about follow up

I follow up on the Baja site to confirm GoDaddy is now serving it properly. Then update accounting with payments that came in the mail. I check on some marketing leads from a conference the previous week; delete spam registrations from customer sites; share some SanDiegoStory articles from over the weekend to LinkedIn (which bounces to Twitter which bounces them to my Facebook news feed.)

I go back to the development work until my wife taps me on the shoulder about 7 or 7:30pm – unless I’ve promised to make dinner and then I set an alarm to send me to the kitchen about 6:30pm.

On this particular day, there wasn’t much marketing done which wasn’t good. You can see the hole that a meeting out of the office would create, but they are necessary to bring in the work – and when I’m not fully booked that time goes to marketing. On a productive day, I get 3-5 hours of productive billable time in if I’m fully booked with project work; the rest consumed with hosting maintenance that gets paid for separately; projects I’m invested in like sandiegostory.com and just the minutiae it takes to run a small business.

I really like what I do though it would be nice if web architects had a tradition of billing like doctors, lawyers or some consulting engineers I know. However, I meet a lot of interesting people; learn a lot about different businesses and get to apply the broad range of experience I have in technology, marketing and management.