Planning Ahead

Stephen Yagielowicz
Here's a quick commonsense tip for webmasters: "RTFM" as they say — but don't just stop there — as there's an abundance of helpful information, tips and tricks available online for almost every major software application. And "helpful" is the word if you consult all of the available documentation before undertaking a new project, as I am quickly learning.

A case in point being the resurrection of an old friend:

Like many of you, the economy has me reevaluating my assets and liabilities and identifying areas for improvement; and as part of this process, I've been eyeing my modest domain name portfolio and some of my un- and underdeveloped properties — one of which is among my oldest domains. I've had several old-school projects there, but the backup site was in need of an upgrade to perhaps squeeze a few more sales out of it…

An anachronism in an age of tubes and haptics, the old site seems quaint in our web 2.0 world; but rather than feeling like a kid who just found a corpse in the woods and is now poking at it with a stick to see what will happen, I'm trying to see this possible evolution more in terms of a kid using a stick to stir the embers of his campfire — and renewing its blaze with a little care and some fresh fuel.

In this case, the fresh fuel was an overdue update of the site's backend software to the latest versions, allowing dramatic improvements in both form and functionality — if I can figure out how to implement some of the more advanced features.

Previously, I'd simply install a new piece of software and then bull through the inevitable problems as I attempted to bend it to my will. This time, however, I decided to visit the company's support forum before installing the software; where I spent a good part of my weekend looking through the thousands of message board threads — seeking answers to questions that I knew I would also have as I deployed this project, and recording them in a text file for later — along with a variety of useful code snippets and bookmarks.

I also found ideas: ideas, based upon the questions that other webmasters were asking; revealing configurations I hadn't thought of (or thought possible) as well as setups that I now know to avoid: I learned that some of the things I might have tried simply were not doable using this software — knowledge that spared me many hours of frustration and harsh language, I'm sure. I also discovered techniques that I'll have to learn more about.

At the end of the day, while I could have found a more entertaining way to spend a weekend, I saved myself untold hours and will have a better website as a result as well — a much better investment of my time than had I just put up the site then scrambled to find fixes for the unavoidable "alpha launch" problems.

While we all know the importance of proper business planning, investing more time and resources into infrastructural planning and optimization can help immeasurably.