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The cost of screwing up your Web site and how to avoid it

Dec 05, 20053 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Quality control and a revisit to WebAgain

While researching an ASP-based product for this newsletter, I went into a demo of the product and found a presentation I didn’t expect. The user interface was unsophisticated and didn’t actually work. In short, the screen shots I’d seen and the application I tried were totally different.

I called up the company (which had the usual awful interactive telephone system that seems to be designed to make you want to go and call someone else) and luckily got hold of a very pleasant guy who seemed to have a clue.

Mr. Pleasant was surprised that things weren’t working but was able to go straight to the offending page and confirm that, yes, it really was completely screwed up and that he had no idea what was going on. Later on, he sent me a link to a working demo. He was very happy and matter of fact about the whole thing, which wasn’t quite what I expected.

But what I found really interesting was the fact that this snafu had happened at all – even more so that the company wasn’t aware of the problem!

Some years ago in this newsletter (actually, in 2000 – “Nailing down your Web content” – where has the time gone?) I discussed a product that I still think is great: WebAgain from Lockstep Systems.

WebAgain is cunning: It automatically detects when your Web site is hacked and automatically reposts your original content sending you an e-mail notification. Working with any Web site on any platform (Unix, Linux and Windows) WebAgain can also archive multiple revisions of your Web content and a single installation can protect multiple Web sites.

As well as enabling you to short-circuit hacking attempts, WebAgain can help to prevent your own staff from screwing things up and making it easy to unscrew screwed up content because changes have to be consciously implemented.

But what this really points out is the need for quality control. If you are using your Web server to sell or provide service, you have no good excuse when your Web content gets messed up – you will simply lose business through carelessness.

At the heart of proofing yourself against such disastrous situations, you really need to implement a workflow system. While there are content management systems that will take you a long way down the path of workflow, the reality is that no CMS can do everything for every organization. So the result is that you will have to look at your overall content management process and build in procedures for quality control that ensure that the CMS mediated workflow isn’t being undone by careless Web site changes.

With a tool like WebAgain you can make it so that all Web content updates are not only put into production in a controlled manner, you can also ensure that you have more or less instant roll back.

If you haven’t considered the issue of quality control for Web content and how to avoid snafus as happened to the hapless company I mentioned, you need to jump on it because as each day passes your online content and presence becomes more valuable and the cost of screwing it up gets greater and greater.


Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

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