Lessons learned: Web hosting

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Give it up

Redesigning a Web site can be accomplished on a shoestring. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative managed to cut the costs of its Web operations in half by culling outdated material and using a hosted content management application.

But a successful transition requires planning, said John Stubbs, director of online strategy and operations at USTR. His team learned a few lessons in the process.

8'The first thing you need to do is get the political team behind the project,' Stubbs said. 'The Web site is not an IT issue, it is a PR issue,' and the public affairs and legal affairs offices need to be aware and involved. Because a Web site is a public interface, the advantages of using a redesign to refocus the agency's image should be made clear to everyone involved.

8Look for low-hanging fruit where cost savings can be achieved to help free up money for the project. Savings can come from outdated contracts and services that can be terminated or changed, and software that can be updated to more cost-effective platforms. Make these savings part of the planning process.

8Allow plenty of time for the grunt work of evaluating and integrating the old content into the new site. 'The data transfer process is 10 times worse than you can ever plan for,' Stubbs said. 'The process is painful and necessary and there is no way to do it quickly.' The USTR tried to automate this process with spiders to crawl and evaluate pages, but 'these things never really worked.'

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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