[thelist] web site maintenance woes (rant)

Chris Mason masonc at masonc.com
Tue Jul 23 16:42:01 CDT 2002

Hi All,

There seems to be a lot of interest in this topic so I am going to try
to put together a complete answer that will help everyone decide if my
solution is right for others.

First, let me tell how we do it. We use a customized copy of eZPublish
from http://developer.ez.no. This a php/mysql completely open source
application that you can download for free and customize at will. We
have a great deal of experience with this application and can make it
work in a number of scenarios. A comparative commercial product would be
in the tens of thousands with licensing fees per user.

The application is huge, and provides the client with the features shown
at the bottom of the email.

This solution is so much better than using html, try using Dreamweaver
to maintain a site of a thousand articles and ten users, a nightmare if
you have to upgrade the site. For instance, if the article lead-in has
150x150 pixel images, and the art director decides it would be better to
have 250x250, it's one setting in eZPublish to change it site wide.

Being an opensource project, you have the source code and can change as
needed. We found users had trouble remembering the tags, so I wrote a
javascript toolbar for use in the article edit page, and release it to
the public. Users like it a lot.

I wrote the GPG encryption code so the Ecommerce module could send
purchase invoicing securely to the site owner rather than using
automated processing.

The company that writes it is very dedicated to producing top quality
code and the coders are very talented. The code is beautiful and uses
Object Oriented PHP.

Managing qualty:
eZpublish allows for an editor group to control what appears on the
site. Also, the admin gets an email when a new article is entered.
Training is important also. As far as the look of an article, that is
enforced by the CMS to the most part.

As a web developer, I hate making changes to text, and requiring all
text to go through a "techy" kills the sponteniety of the organization.
For a Non-profit group, a sales operation, or anywhere you want the
intelligent users to be able to get their information to the public (or
other workers) without having to go through IT, this is a wonderful

We use the solution mainly for customers that want to be involved in
their oen sites and have a lot of updates. One such site is www.edge.ai
- a legal trianing company that wanted to be able to publish articles
for clients in a protected area, and public articles to attract
They can create user groups that segregate users according to the access
they have paid for, they sell their publications on the site, and they
manage all the articles themselves.
We have shown them the new features available and they are employing use
to upgrade the codebase to make these new features available to them.
They also asked for customizations not in the code so we earned revenue
writing custom code, much of which they agreed to release to the

The implications for us as web developers is we get to work on more
interesting and lucrative projects.

Also, as we provide the hosting, customers don't lowball the hosting
fees as it is a complex application and cannot be hosted on low end

In the case of www.anguillaguide.com we own the site and use it as an
attractor for our www.mycaribbean.com site, which you will realize is
the same site. So is www.anguillaart.com and www.net.ai .

We needed to have a lot of content that could be easily maintained and
now we have several authors, none of which would have done anything if
we were using HTML. These autors are not technically literate. In the
next few weeks we are adding a section for the National Trust and their
staff will be maintaing it and adding information.

The software is not perfect, I can list some weaknesses, but it is
constantly being improved and has come a long way since our first site
with it.

If anyone wants our help setting up a server to host with eZPublish, or
wants a hosted solution, let me know and I will be glad to help.


eZPublish features:

Artice management
	Use start and end dates for publishing
	XML storage of articles
	simple tag language
	Custom tags allow you to describe your own code as a tag
	Self continaed XML parser written in PHP
	WYSIWYG client (not free) using XMLRPC
	Content and Code Separation through templating allows designers to work
independent of content writers
	Public can be allowed to submit articles
	Frontpages allow presenting mixure of articles from different

Ecommerce module
	Complete until checkout - attach your own checkout code or use example
Form Module allows admin to add forms
Links module for links management allows public to submit their own
links including images
Intranet modules - contact, calendar, todos, email
Ad banner rotation and management - allows HTML banners
Image management - upload, catalogue and ize management with captions
and photographer credits
Media management such as Flash, MP3 and Video
Built in statistics
User management with group permissions
Multiple designs can be applied on a category basis
URL translation allows real words to be directed to pages
File management, files can be attached to articles or offered as
seperate module
Search module
Caching provides speed
Security enforced through rewrite rule
No FTP access needed for clients

On Tue, 2002-07-23 at 16:45, Rebecca Milot-Bradford wrote:
> >  Get them copies of DreamWeaver (or FrontPage if you
> >  prefer), teach yout coworkers how to make basic text
> >  edits. [snip...]
> >
> >  Also, if you're doing a lot of tedious maintenance, it
> >  might be advantageous to throw some stuff into
> >  databases.
> A few people have suggested various content management/spread out the
> updates ideas. And I'm looking into implementing some of the suggestions as
> quickly as possible. But how do you do any kind of quality control if people
> from other departments are making updates? Or maybe that is a stupid
> question, I don't have any experience with content management software, so
> for all I know, this is addressed.
> But updating the content is a very small piece of the overall work of
> maintenance. There's also all the stuff like search engine positioning,
> log/traffic analysis, link checking, tech support for the users, tweaking
> site architecture, maintaining any databases the site uses, updating forms,
> servicing sponsor agreements, creating ads, etc.
> Right now the site I manage contains 2,629 files (only about 1300 of which
> are web pages, the rest are scripts, images, etc). Of course, that doesn't
> include all of the content that resides in databases. I cringe every time
> someone asks me to add a whole new collection of material to the site,
> because I feel overwhelmed trying to keep up with the existing site. I would
> like to figure out what is the cost of maintaining the content on the site,
> so that I can go back to management and say "hey, is putting this material
> on the web site really a cost-effective thing to do? And if you want to go
> ahead and do it, you'll need to allocate $x in the budget."
> Well, ideally what I would like to do is figure out an effective way to
> explain that the web site doesn't have to hold every document the
> organization has produced in the past 25 years. And that every single
> committee we have probably shouldn't spend all of their time figuring out
> more things that could possibly be on the web site. I dunno, maybe I'm just
> not good at business speak, but I can't seem to get the point across.
> Thanks for letting me rant!
> Becky
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