Case study: the implementation phase

On this page: Details of how I implemented this site from my design, as a set of defined stages.


For this site, as for any that I develop, I started off with a small prototype based on the page templates I designed, and just incorporating the top level pages for each section, plus the site search, frameset and menu etc. This allowed me to set up the physical structure I wanted, and test the usability of the design and navigation/access model I had chosen. Once I was happy with this, the prototype was populated with more content - both static pages of various kinds (like this one), and the information applications (the terracotta rabbit, the virtual pasture diary, and some test apps. that haven't made it into production.)

(In a client project for all but the smallest site, this would be followed by a proper pilot, where real users could test real information on the site, but for my site, where I am both client and developer, I felt this was neither necessary nor possible.)

For these activities, all the files were held on my local PC, though I do have a proper web server so I can test effectively. It's never good practice to develop a site on the final, production (live) server - not because anyone can poke about in your embryonic site and sneer at your efforts, but because you run the risk of messing up your live site with untested code.


Like Tony Blair and his famous and oft-repeated quote on education, one of the most important things about developing a site is "testing, testing, testing". I had to test the site extensively - for sense, grammar and spelling, usability, proper linking, valid code, consistency, and the proper operation of the information applications. Some of this can be done automatically using the tools of the trade (e.g. link checking for validity, but not that the link goes where it says it does!), but most is a matter of systematically plodding through every page in the browser and looking carefully at what's displayed. No doubt there are some things I have missed, since this is the nature of humanity, but I'm pretty sure I've done better than some of the illiterate and/or unusable sites out there. You can look at my browser comparison page to see how important it is to test a site in different browsers.

Transfer to production

Once the site was sufficiently populated (I won't say finished, because a good site is never finished, and I just had to decide when there was enough content to publish), it was time to show it to the world. I'd already looked at a number of hosting companies who offered NT/IIS hosting, and signed up to the one I felt had a reasonably professional image, and offered the services and support I needed.

Then, it was just a matter of transferring the files to my web space, and setting up all the necessary configurations. And yes - testing thoroughly again to make sure nothing was missed. Once this was finished, I could remove the password protection from the test version and voilà. In the end, there turned out to be a problem with the search caused by web server configuration, and I quietly launched the site and asked people to check it for me, while I was sorting out the search. In the end, I had to use a third party solution, AtomZ - which goes to show, you can never tell what will work until the very end. Be prepared for disappointments, and you won't be too let down!


Although my site was available to the world as soon as the transfer and setup were finished, it wasn't likely to be tripped over by the people I wanted to contact. So, my next efforts were directed to publicising the site. I started with an announcement on the (now gone) Internet Publishing forum at CompuServe. I emailed as many webmasters as possible telling them I had linked to their sites, and asking if they would consider a reciprocal link (most either didn't bother to reply or said no - oh well!). Then on to search engine / web directory registration: mixed results here - but if you are specific enough, I usually turn up somewhere. The final item was to add the URL for my site to my letterhead, signature line in emails etc. - every little helps! I draw the line at signage on the car, though (I'd have to wash it occasionally then).