Should more than one person maintain my site?

As your website grows, there may be a point where you decide that it has become too much work for one person to maintain. The obvious choice is to delegate responsibility for specific sections to separate individuals. Or, you hired a website design firm to get your site up and running but want to maintain parts of it yourself, while leaving the "heavy duty" programming to the "experts".

While this may sound like a good idea on the surface, like any project it takes some pre-planning and "rule following". The main thing to keep in mind is the possibility of inadvertently overwriting the work someone else just got done creating. This is more complicated than it may seem, since a Web page is made up of several components which may or may not be shared with other pages on the site. 

As an example, let’s say that you are updating a page which we will call "widget.htm". You decide that you would like to add a picture to the page. So you add the picture, which has a filename of "widget.jpg", to your page and save your work. 

Here is the problem: that picture does not exist only on that page. It is a graphic in a directory which we will call "images", and the picture does not technically reside on that page, but is simply linked to that page from the "images" directory. Unbeknownst to you, there was another graphic in that directory with the same filename. That picture was linked to several other pages within the site.  Without realizing it, by adding that one picture, you have changed all those other pictures to the one you just added.   Another, more common, mistake is to have the entire website located on your hard drive so you can work on it offline. Another person also has the site saved to their machine. You each have certain pages that you are responsible for. So, you make your updates and upload the entire site. The next day, your co-worker makes changes to their pages and uploads the entire site. What has happened is that your changes did not exist on your co-worker’s machine, and all of your updates were overwritten by the older files on your co-worker’s machine. 

These are just examples of many of the pitfalls of dividing responsibility for website maintenance. If it makes sense to have more than one person working on your site, it is very important to pre-plan the process and ensure that everyone involved knows exactly what files are safe to change, and which ones are "off-limits". Communication is a MUST. If it is necessary to update files which may affect more than the pages you are responsible for, it is imperative that you notify everyone involved so that new files do not inadvertently become overwritten by older files. It can be done... but the process can become much more complicated than it may appear.

June 1, 2001

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