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Webmasters Guide for Valleylinks web site
written by Pacific Web Sites president Alan Pattinson

Many good general webmaster tips can be found in here
This information is now outdated (2008) so should not be relied upon for accuracy.

The OLD Valleylinks Webmaster Notes

(add to this when you become The Web Master)

This information is now outdated (2008) so should not be relied upon for accuracy.

Started by Alan Pattinson, July, 2001.
Updated
Whoopee!. You are the Webmaster at Valleylinks. Well, it is a great place to be, but, believe me, it has Responsibilities.

Does that scare you?

Relax. You will learn lots, get frustrated, create some great things, get appreciated, be ignored…all at the same time!

Here are some general notes, with links to other more specific notes.
So sit back and lap it up!

1. Be Organized! There is SO MUCH info on our site, and it has been added to and added to over the YEARS, that it sometimes get disorganized! Take a good week or two at the start of your time here and go through the filing system on SAM and your own computer (MULTIMEDIA) to see what in the world is going on. Believe me, this is the biggest challenge to Valleylinks - keeping everything organized! There is about 400 pages to deal with.

2. Look at the Unfinished Jobs File if you want something to do. See \\SAM\COMMON\#1 JCP File\Web Master\Unfinished Projects.
Add to it before you complete your time here!

3. Valleylinks looks after several websites in various degrees in exchange for "other considerations". Some of the sites are:

  • cvexhibition.com
  • filmlocations.ca
  • Family History Research Group (valleylinks.net/arts/family-research/)
    Head Injury Society
  • COPS
  • Courtenay Little Theatre (vallylinks.net/clt)
  • Boys and Girls Club
  • Courtenay Recreation
  • Lush Valley
  • Comox Nautical Days
  • Women's Center
  • Crisis Center
  • WACHIAY FRIENDSHIP CENTRE
  • Emergency Resource Center
  • Cumberland Recreational Institute
  • CV Emergency Social Services
  • Santa's Workshop Society
  • Special Needs Recreation
  • there is a list of them on SAM
    \\SAM\common\#1 JCP File\Community Outreach\Databases\Old Info\agencylist141.doc
    ·
  • And what , you may ask, are the "other considerations"? If you find out, please list them here:
    Most non-profit groups:
    we support the community for the public good.  * * *ValleyLinks  Rocks!* * *
    Cvexhibition.com:
    we get publicity as a major sponsor.

4. Our Valleylinks.net home page and all other pages we have, use SSI (Server Side Includes) to put our Header and Footer automatically on every page. There is a command in the web page that tells the server to do that. There is a folder on our site called template and in it you will find

a "template" for making a new page
the "header"
the "footer"
the "middler" (used on each month's page for listing the links to the months)
the "calendar-bottom" (used on each month's page for listing the monthly and weekly meetings)

5. We got real fancy on our calendar pages, there are 3 inserts (yes, you read correct, THREE) on the calendar months after July, 2001. Pretty cool, eh!

The html coding for the "inset the header, please" is
<!--#include virtual="/template/header.shtml"-->
Go ahead and look for it when you use W_FTP to change the html files on the server. I sure hope you know what I'm talking about here...heh heh...

6. What else?
Oh, yes, almost forgot:
What is becoming the standard font for the internet and Valleylinks is Arial. It is easier to read on a monitor. Times New Roman is the standard for print on paper. So if you read this on paper, it's easy, eh? When it goes up on the net, it will be in Arial font.

7. There are lots of pages still in Valleylinks that are:
· using default for the font (so they come up as Times New Roman) and they need to be specified Arial for the page,
· using too many spaces near the top of the page so users have to scroll down to read the page (more on this later)
· using a bar line across the page with a space above and below           AARGH!

8. Take a good look at the organization of the Valleylinks Index page.
We/I went to a lot of work making it like it is, so you are not allowed to change it. No way.

9. Just kidding! If you can see a better way to present the info that we have available to the public, check out your idea with the coordinator (that's Don Irvine) and go for it.

10. If you are a DOWNLOAD FREAK, please put all your junk (yes, junk) on the D drive. We are plagued by too many programs dumped on these computers by so many people having access. According to a study done in 1998, it is very easy for people to forget that they downloaded something, especially if they have stopped using the program, and just leave it on the computer, taking up valuable space and collecting dust.
OK, it's not a REAL study, but do ya get my point, Billy?

 

11. Once in a while some poor non-profit group will phone us up and spill their problems with their website onto you. Need help now, please! We usually accommodate them, but it is a good idea if you run it by the coordinator (Don Irvine, remember?). Bit of politics sometimes...

12. This also happens with non-profits and broken computers. Refer to the coordinator (Don.....) We spent a whole week dealing with Comox Harbour Authority people with a LOST DATA problem, even sending the hard drive to Toronto for inspection for recovery. It would have cost them $800 to $1200 for recovery, so they didn't go through with it. It was all good exercise, but took a lot of our resources and time away.

13. The youth@valleylinks part, the youth section. I never did any work on it; there was a fellow Kevin who worked on it. He had a master plan to rewrite the whole darn thing, but shortly after trying a bit, he sort of disappeared.


KEVIN CALL VALLEYLINKS.


That part of the Valleylinks site won an award a few years back, so I never figured out why it would be changed.... It is a bit of work every week or so updating the horoscopes (good place for comic relief), and other parts need work....but that's up to someone else (may be you?)

14. There are a couple of great volunteers named Brian and Ron who work keeping the calendar up to date. We usually slide press releases, newspaper clippings, and other people's calendars to them in the Volunteers Folder in the bottom of one of the filing cabinets.

15. See the bright yellow NEW, UPDATED, and 23 NEW LINKS flags on our front page? Well, they should change on a regular basis, say monthly. Keep them hopping around to different places. You could even change them any time something IS updated, or changed significantly.
I, Alan, am going to be watching the site so if you DON"T change those things by the end of August, 2001, you'll be getting a personal e-mail from me.  Heh, heh, keeping you on your toes...

Note that they are actually MORE than just the text, they need 3 or so spaces in front and back of the text so that they will stand out better, all in yellow.

While we are talking about those flags, they are better than using .gif images BECAUSE they take up a fraction of the time to load.
Here is the html for a NEW! flag:

&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;<b STYLE="background-color:FFFF00;color:FF0000;font-weight:bold">

<small><small>NEW!</small></small>&nbsp; &nbsp;</b>

 

16. Rule of thumb for Valleylinks.net:
If a link is going OUTSIDE of our site, make it open a new window.
If a link is to ANOTHER PART of our site, it can open in the same window.
You know the html tag, don't you? <target=_new> or something like that.

17. Our good man Lin has set up a WHOLE NEW search engine for searching the internals of the Valleylinks site. It's way better than the old one, which was only half working when I got here in Feb. 2001, then it stopped working altogether, then it worked half-heartedly for a while. The other half of the not working was due to my lack of Perl knowledge. Hopefully this fully functional searcher will help you get a grip on what is in Valleylinks. Thank you, Lin, it is now MUCH easier to find what is going on in Valleylinks!

18. You can put your own name up on the WWW! See www.valleylinks.net/news/
Consider yourself "in the news" as a current JCP'er and you will find us old souls listed on the News page. Put yourself and your new buddies up there. It's OK. Then you can try out the search feature with your own name! If you don't "get" what a "JCP'er" is, ask the coordinator (we all know who that is, right?).

19. Some of us get off on the weirdest things!
Eventually, though, the list of JCP's should probably go into the history page. Maybe in 2005.

20. For a general understanding of what Valleylinks policies are be sure to read "Acceptable Use Policy" at http://valleylinks.net/cvcis/accptuse.shtml

Especially note:
Use of Disclaimer.
The CVCIS Society shall insert the following disclaimer at the foot of each "ValleyLinks Page" as follows- "The content provided on these pages by the CVCIS Society and the links to other sites that include related information is supplied on the behalf of the stated Community Organizations. All information is for use on the reader's own responsibility."

21. SECRET HOT INFO: And I have also added another sentence in the footer so that our site will show up better on search engines.
The line is:

Valleylinks.net provides Comox Valley community based information and public access to computers, the internet, and local information

As a matter of interest (to some people that are also known as web promoters) by inserting that line and the line at the top of the index page:
Comox Valleylinks is a non-profit organization committed to providing free access to Comox Valley community information on-line.

The way that the search engines work is to look at the MetaTag Keywords in the header and see if they match up to what shows on the page itself. So if someone goes to a search engine and types in "COMOX VALLEY INFORMATION" it is highly likely that Valleylinks will come up in the top ten listings because of these little "tricks" we have used. Try it out! Do a search on your favorite search engine for that and see where we are. The change to our meta-tag keywords and insertion of the above two sentences was done in mid-June, 2001, so it usually takes a month or two for the results in the search engines to show up. It would be sooner if we resubmitted our site to the search engines, but hey, who has time to do that? Valleylinks has fairly good listings right now, even before the above changes were made. Here is a typical listing review, this one done in April 2001:

Top Results for 4 different search queries for www.valleylinks.net

     Engine      comox valley comox valley information Courtenay information Comox
aol 5 2 11 5
hotbot 6 3 17 2
yahoo NR 3 NR 5
excite 3 3 - 3
msn 10 8 18 11
lycos 16 3 - 9
directHit 3 3 1 2
altavista - - - -
AllTheWeb 8 3 7 9

**NR: Means that we were unable to determine if you were
     located on the engine due to incomplete results returned by the engine

 

22. If you are wondering about all the E-mail addresses that Valleylinks has, there must be over 15 of them. There is a list at
SAM/COMMON/#1JCP File/Profect Leader/Procedures
Please keep it up to date if you or the techs make any changes...
Proof Readers Note: If you noticed a spelling error in the above, I didn't do it! Promise!

23. The business and jobs page- this is our most frequently visited page! It really puts Valleylinks on the Map. (which Map? the Map of Important Web Pages of the World!). Do your best-est to keep it well organized. PLLEEEAASSEE!
Tips to use:
Every month or link addition remove or switch around the flags like: NEW!
Put a link pertinent to a city under the city's name e.g. consider the VictoriaJobBoard - put it under Victoria and don't just stick it in under Vancouver Island: Job Board Victoria.
ALWAYS consider the user and what will make sense to him. A little more work for you will make it SO much easier to all our users.

Since I reorganized AND updated the Business Jobs page (June 2001), a lot of compliments have come in! It is a very useful tool for job seekers.
Currently, we have a tracker on that page and it is getting an average of 14 hits a day, every day of the week. Check the tracker out yourself by looking at the very bottom of the Business page.

24. Do you believe in the ANTI-SCROLL Club? We do!
Get rid of white space, put all you can cram in to the top of the web page, so that a user will not have to scroll down again and again. Give it to them, easy, right on the first page loading!

25. When making up text for a new page, PRETEND that the reader is slow in comprehension, is an internet beginner, and just not there. Keep things simple! Make it super easy to navigate!
And don't show them this tip!

26. Be SURE to make the title of a page reflect what the page is about! It sounds simple, but there are lots of titles on our site that, well, lets just say that someone slipped up...

27. Another COOL thing our site does is GRABS SPONSORS!  Yes, right there on every header on every page, the "Your Session Sponsor" will list our sponsors. It is randomly taken from a cgi bin from about 16 sponsors.

28. The Arts page. We need more listings for Art Galleries and Music listings. ask one of your new office coworkers to do the research for you. Hopefully, ask and ye shall receive...

29. So say you got a name that's listed on our site, a long one like "British Columbia Old Time Fiddlers Association". On the internet, brevity is good. Use BC lots, without the B.C., and just can the Association (don't be tempted to abbreviate it to Ass.!) Just leave it off.
So it becomes "BC Old Time Fiddlers". See, it still gets the message across, who cares if it is an Association, Club, Group, Authority, Council, or Society? If someone is interested, they will click on the link and they can find out there.

Short is good.

30. Now it's time for your test!
So what do you do with a title like
"The Comox Valley Harbour Authority Marine History Page"?

Answer: it becomes "Comox Valley Marine History".
Can "The".
Can "Page".
Can any details not really necessary.

Got it?

31. Watch your load times! The ideal load time for a web page is of course INSTANT, but we have to figure that the typical internet user doesn't have a ADSL, Cable, or T-1 connection. Very important consideration! Whoops! Now I see all the Snazzy graphics guys getting up and leaving! Hang on, there are ways to keep load times within reason.
Always remember that we at Valleylinks have to construct pages for the "lowest common denominator" which will aim us to the 28K modem user....and that means a page of about 30K in size will take about 10 seconds to be fully readable. Actually, 8 seconds is what to aim for using a 28K modem.

WAYS TO GET PAGES TO LOAD FASTER:
· always specify the size of any images on the page; this will let the browsers save the space and go on loading the rest of the page.
· the two common image file types are .gif and .jpeg. Jpeg is real nice because you can reduce it down easily and still get good quality on a monitor screen
· Thumbnails are a great way to have several pictures on a page and keep those bytes down. DOWN BOY, DOWN!

32. I did a study (YES THIS ONE IS FOR REAL) on who visits Valleylinks. Results are compiled with about a thousand visitors in the first part of 2001:

BROWSERS

MSIE 5.x 1154 72%
Netscape 4.x 264 16%
MSIE 4.x 156 9%
Netscape comp 9 0%
Netscape 3.x 6 0%
MSIE 3.x 5 0%
Netscape 5.x     0%
Opera x.x 1 0%
MSIE 2.x 1 0%

 

Operating Systems

Win 98 788 49%
Win 95 663 41%
Mac 64 3%
Win NT 41 2%
Win 2000 23 1%
Linux 17 1%

 

Resolution

800x600 1045 66%
1024x768 355 22%
640x480 115 7%
1152x864 21 1%
1280x1024     12 0%
1600x1200 3 0%

Conclusions: Most common visitors are using Windows 95 or 98, with a Internet Explorer browser resolution of 800 x 600. When composing web pages, aim at these people, but don't forget the others!

 

33. Here's a list of the job descriptions for us JCP'ers. It SHOULD be located elsewhere (like under the Project Leader's files, but here is a backup for ya:    \\SAM\COMMON\1 Current JCP\AlanSam\Old JCP names.doc

34. There is a list of our keywords used which is common to all pages, since it is included in the common header at the top of every page. Not the best of situations, as keywords should reflect what is on each page. But life isn't perfect, so see what was on before and what the newer version is at:    \\SAM\common\#1 JCP File\Web Master\Hints & Tips\

35. Anytime a name, address, or email is asked for from a user of our site, our Privacy statement should be made available as a hyperlink. Whoops! I can't find one. This is a job for someone, make a page up and link to it from our "About Valleylinks" page.

36. When putting in a date, please add the YEAR in the date. There are some files from 1998 still in our system (as of 6/2001); if the original web master had used the Year, it would be easier to delete or upgrade the file. Like, is that file from January 1998 or 2000? Who knows?

37. When making a new page that replaces old, get rid of the old!  As soon as it is determined that the new one works and is acceptable. remember as you are glowing in your feeling of self-worth, that it ain't over yet until those old files are d-e-l-e-t-e-d-!   No sentimentality allowed here!

38. Be sure to use a DESCRIPTIVE TITLE on every page you upload! It makes it far easier to search for, both internally and externally on the search engines.

Put a "Last updated" at the bottom of every page. Please!

39. Any page that has lots of information, put on an Index! It helps a user find exactly what they are looking for, but, more importantly, it shows what is on the page (sort of a review or quick look). This page is a good example of how NOT to do it! NO INDEX!!!

40. Writing text: Please avoid using too many words, keep the content short and sweet. And concise.

EG: Which is better:
This is the Latest Satellite Photo Page     -OR-       Current Satellite Photo
In the above example, the words "This is the" and "Page" are completely unnecessary!

Our common ways to write B.C. are BC or "British Columbia"

41. Our very own Internal Search Engine does not recognize titles, text in images, ALT text in images, or text in the headers or footers, so, to provide for proper internal searching, be sure to include the general concept of the page ON THE PAGE.
This is usually done in the <H1> HEADING TEXT GOES HERE</H1> (or H2) It sounds like common sense, but sometimes one can be fooled by an image being the heading. (e.g. the old Cybercamps page). Don't be fooled!

42. Using FrontPage: i.e., Use Caution!
Make the whole page have a default font of Arial, or sans-serif by inserting the following at the "body" in the html:
<BODY STYLE="FONT-FAMILY: ARIAL, SANS-SERIF">

Templates:
Header, Middler, and Footer:
DO NOT use FrontPage to edit these, use Notepad because FrontPage will add in <title>, </title>, </Header>, </Body>, </html>, etc.
Whereas in this situation they are NOT WANTED!!
One way around this is to copy and paste the area between <BODY> and </BODY> from FrontPage into Notepad, THEN use the Notepad version to upload.

More notes on our Header: it contains Meta keywords, Meta description, but NO title.
It is OK to put in <TITLE></TITLE> with nothing between the tags, which will allow the other title given in the header of any page to show. In other words, by putting in the above, it says "no title to add from this source" which is the header.shtml. Confusing?! If your name is WebMaster, it shouldn't be... :)

43.  To be continued....
This is an ongoing work of art -- or work of work, depends on your attitude. Attitude is everything!


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Alan Pattinson, Internet Consultant
1484 Dogwood Avenue
Comox, British Columbia,
V9M 2Z5 Canada
Phone: 250-339-2687
Monday - Friday 9 AM - 4 PM
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