Top 10 Website Features #4: Website Logistics

by Mark S. Burgess, Page Mountain LLC

  1. Backup at the same frequency as changes
  2. Finding the Contact Us Button
  3. A responsive “mobile” design
  4. Website Logistics

Life’s about logistics. With the right support systems, you can do anything.
– Mark S. Burgess

guardIn the military, according to Wikipedia, a quartermaster is ”generally a relatively senior soldier who supervises, stores and distributes supplies and provisions.”

The modern science of military logistics arose from when Napoleon had mercenary troops stretched all across France for the first time who were not locals and so had no local supply source. Before that, armies were raised from the village and that’s where they went to eat dinner after a battle. The Quartermaster was born. Battles were won or lost not from the quality of the fighters and their weapons and battle movements, but on whether the fighters had breakfast, bullets and gas. Think Battle of the Bulge in World War II when Hitler’s famed tank corps outran their fuel supplies.

While not as sexy a title as “Gunner” or “Pilot”, I remember seeing a sign posted over the door in the engine room by the Mechanics of a Coast Guard Cutter:

“Let the Bastards Freeze in the Dark.”

Most people who want or have a website focus on the primary point of the site: if selling something: how to show it; if servicing customers in another way: how and what to provide.

What gets lost – missing from time schedules and budget and the site itself – are all the support systems. Here’s a Support Systems Check List:

  1. Backup – (see part I of this series)
  2. Relevant and exposed communication points (email, phone) – (see part 2 of this series)
  3. Security – the world is moving to having all sites serve from a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) which requires an identifying certificate for each site to lock hackers out. You’re using it when the site address starts with “https://” But more than that, what about HIPPA compliance for medical information or PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance for storing credit card numbers.
  4. Terms of Use – here’s you chance to tell about the infrastructure of your site, to set expectation levels for what your site will or will not provide
  5. Privacy Commitment – if you collect email addresses or other personal information – even if only in a contact form, be explicit about what you will do with it.
  6. Statistics – give yourself a window to see how your site performs. For a site that sells, the true measure is your sales, but you have a chance to chip away at what famed ad exec said about advertising: “I know 50% of it doesn’t work, I just don’t know which 50%.”
  7. Code updates – especially in today’s world of sites built with complexe CMSs and constant hacking, the systems and software that run your site change, some daily.
  8. Photography and Artwork Copyrights – make sure your own work is marked and that you know where your other content came from. Yes, people actually patrol and make a living suing for unauthorized use.
  9. Artwork Originals – the graphics were shrunk and resolutions downsized and transformed from original vector art to a simple JPG to make your site fast. Don’t lose the originals in case you need to make changes.
  10. Supply line of content – if your site grows stale, the search engine robots notice and stop visiting and certainly your customers do. Figure out who, what, how and when content will be updated
  11. Logins and Passwords – legend are the stories of times a site needs updating and no one knows the passwords to the server, the control panel, the contact email, the backup files. Find a way to document your site infrastructure, don’t rely on your memory or that of staff that may or may not be with you.
  12. Renewal Notice Tracking – You don’t own your domain, you rent it, so make sure you know when it needs renewal. Did you use plugins or feeds with annual licenses?
  13. Content Age Monitoring – this is part of your supply line management mentioned above in #10. You can automate update notices and who should do the work. Just use a calendar reminder if nothing else.
  14. Connected Services – who is keeping an eye on the twitter feed to note when they change their methods or the software you use or the subscription you bought changes. Don’t make your users your most reliable indicator
  15. Accessibility – does it play on a mobile device? (see Part #3 of this series); can those with impaired vision or using special access devices order your products; read your press release? Here’s a good place to start finding out how your site rates.
    I know. Sexy, right?

But leave out consideration for those items and you guarantee problems – from cost overruns to legal liability to – [fast intake of breath] – nobody uses the site!

In some ways, the old way of publishing had a distinct advantage over today: when you published a book, the book itself was done – immutable, fixed. You worried about getting onto shelves and whether anyone would read it (that hasn’t changed), but the checks and cross checks all had to be completed before the printing and binding and – then – you could stop worrying. You collected errors and omissions, improvements and changes for the 2nd edition, if there was to be one.

Today, websites are living things.

I used to be in the swimming pool business. A new pool customer had seen the heartache of his neighbors in maintaining their pools: chemicals, sweepers, filters….algae. He decided to avoid all that yuck and brought in a tanker truck loaded with pure distilled water to fill it. Overnight, the water, starving of minerals, leached them out of the plaster turning it into a moonscape. We had to scrape it out and start over.

Pools maintain a balance just like a body does – just like a website! The code ages, the traffic changes, new hacks appear, new laws create new liabilities. Don’t just “publish” a website and walk away.