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Maintain

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1. Maintain your website

The purpose of this phase is to assure day-to-day maintenance of your site, including keeping it up-to-date, and its continuous evolution (where applicable).

Description

This section describes various activities necessary once a site has been launched, including day-to-day maintenance, gathering of feedback from surveys, statistics and other means, and their analysis in order to improve the site. The section covers also those activities related to site archiving, backup, etc.

Activities

  • Manual and automatic transfer request procedures (Transfert tools)
  • Capturing and periodically analysing information about site usage (User feedback)
  • Coordination and review of new content streams
  • Maintenance of graphic and editorial standards
  • Regular site backups (off-line and on-line)
  • Site/pages archiving
  • Deletion of obsolete content or relocation of the content (redirection, archiving, notification procedure)
  • Periodic verification of links integrity (quality tools and services) and editorial quality control of site content
  • Writing of technical documentation and user manuals
  • Revision, updating, translating and publishing of the content

Continuous and regular updating

  • Regular (daily, weekly, monthly) updating of information pages using HTML editors or the CWCMS
  • Daily updating activities include removing, changing, amending and replacing specific pages, documents and hyperlinks
  • Insertion of  new pages
  • Amending layout and design
  • Creation of redirection pages
  • Modification of (internal and external) links
  • Setting-up a systematic quality control system for updates

Inputs

  • Content Management procedure
  • Feedback strategy
  • Site in production (on-line)
  • Distributed publicity materials

Outputs

Resources

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1.2. User feedback

“The customer remains invisible to most web teams and that is the single greatest reason so many websites underperform. Understanding, relating to and developing empathy for your customer is one of the greatest drivers of clarity in communication and design… get to truly know your customers and you are on the road to clarity.”

Gerry McGovern

Evaluating our sites and listening to our users is a core part of managing a website.

User feedback helps us to:

  • get to know who our users are,
  • to better understand their needs,
  • to assess what they think about our site,
  • to correct problems on our site,
  • To make deeper changes and improvements to the site.

Two obstacles frequently encountered are how to actually get feedback and how to act on it. Too often we can find ourselves ignoring feedback as we are too overwhelmed working on maintaining the site and adding new content. It is vital therefore that we find realistic and manageable ways of obtaining, analysing and acting on feedback.

Involving users from the start

Ideally of course our users are involved right from the start of designing a new site. We work with them using focus groups and usability tests to make sure their needs are taken into account as we design our sites. If there is no budget to organise formal tests you can always gather a group of users together in an informal way to ask them how they find the site and what they would like to see improved.

How to get feedback?

One of the most basic measures of a website's performance is the raw number of visitors and unique visits to the site. These and other data on visitors can be determined via the Commission's statistics tool. Statistics give us part of the feedback picture. We can measure the number of visits, how they are finding our site, the keywords they are using to get there. Web stats are an invaluable source for identifying trends in behaviour and expectations.

The effectiveness of your website can be evaluated by conducting an on-line survey using the IPM tool. A survey can reach your audience directly, however you need to be able to invest the right resources to prepare the survey, and of course to analyse and act on the results.

You can place feedback forms on your website. The feedback form on the europa.eu homepages asked two questions:

  • Did you find what you were looking for?
  • Do you have any suggestions?

On average 800-1000 users comments using this form every week.

Another option for user feedback is to organise informal focus groups. Gather a group of users in a room for a discussion on the site or organise if times allows for one-on-one sessions. Ongoing usability tests can be used to assess the performance of a site.

The visibility of your site in the search engines, the EUROPA search engine and the external ones Google, Yahoo, etc. is critical. The effectiveness of keywords used and whether the site/pages ranking is satisfactory in these engines can be determined by direct validation in the search engines. To find out more about how you to make your site more search-engine friendly, and increase the site/pages ranking in the search engines, see the page "Optimise access to content".

DG COMM conducts daily media monitoring both in Brussels and in the representations. The delegations of DG RELEX also perform media monitoring. The Commission is therefore usually aware if a particular website receives some coverage in the press (e.g. after the launch of a campaign). The results of the daily media monitoring can be accessed on the EMM Newsbrief website.

What to do with all this feedback?

Everything that is learned about the site with these evaluation activities can be used to improve the site’s content (text, graphics, organisation, usability, ...), visibility, accessibility,  etc.

Decisions will have to make of course of what feedback to act on and in what timeframe. Small tweaks and changes should be done on a regular basis, e.g. editing content, adding new links, changing a link description. Some deeper changes such as adding new functionalities could take longer and require more resources.  The web managers' role is to assess this feedback to look at the cost of implementation and to assess the impact of making the change.

The homepages of the EU website were relaunched in September 2009. We were eager to get user feedback so we placed a straightforward feedback survey on the 80 or so pages behind the homepage. We are averaging around 1000 comments and suggestions a week. So what do we do with all of this?

Every week we analyse the comments and make immediate changes when necessary (e.g. adding a links, improving a link description). Our contractor compiles a monthly evaluation report which combines user feedback plus statistics.  We have a monthly 2 hour meeting every month when we make decisions on short/medium/long term changes to site.

We plan to report on the site what exactly we are doing to act on the feedback – so giving feedback on the feedback. We are also looking into placing a short and regular pop-up survey on the site to gauge feedback and we are exploring the possibility to do regular users testing.

References

Interesting post on measuring the success of public sector websites.

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1.3. Redirections

A redirection consists in the change of a request to one web address into another web address. It is implemented in order to ensure the site consistency and prevent broken links.

Description

Redirections can be used to cater for different circumstances:

  • When an entire site is relocated;
  • When one or more individual pages are moved and/or deleted and/or changed name;
  • To provide a shorter URL.

Site relocation is the act of moving a whole site from one place to another, in other words: the base address of the site is changed. In general, such a move goes together with a complete overhaul of the site, so that most of the pages are changed or at least change name. In this case, it is impossible to map individual old pages to their corresponding new equivalents and a general redirection will be implemented at the level of the server. Access to any pages at or below the old address of the home page of the site in question is automatically redirected to the home page of the new site.

When only a limited number of pages need to be redirected and an exact mapping of the old address to the new one is necessary, the redirection should be handled at the level of the individual page.
In this case, the page (or pages) at the old address is replaced by a new page (or pages) which contains a link to the desired page at its new location. This new page also contains a standard message indicating "The File you accessed does not exist anymore".

For promotional reasons, a direct URL under "europa.eu" or "ec.europa.eu" can be allocated, which will then redirect to the site that is to be promoted. The use of promotional urls should not be abused because the proliferation of high level addresses will cause organisational difficulties for managing them and may slow down the server.

A URL may be allocated if the following conditions are met:

  • the site will exist only for a limited period of time;
  • the site is being created for a particular event;
  • the site is the subject of a major promotion campaign;
  • the subject of the site is a major programme managed by the Commission.

More information on the use of promotional urls is given in the chapter "Site types".

Redirection to shorter urls are implemented by means of a 'Flexible redirection'.

Different ways to set up a redirection

There are many ways to set up a redirection. Although they all have the same result, they are interpreted differently by search engines. The main ways are:

Among the consequences for users of site restructuring are the appearance of broken links, in particular in their "Favorites". The flexible redirection system set up by DIGIT enables users to control redirection themselves more precisely than automatic redirection. This system can only be used to redirect users from pages that do not exist. It is often used to intercept the non-existence of particular language versions of a page. It can also be used for creating new short urls that don't correspond to actual real addresses. The flexible redirection system does not work with dynamic pages.

- configured to direct the user to a new address - automatic redirection

This enables the server to systematically redirect all lower-level addresses within a site to one particular address, generally the home page of another site. It can only be set up by the Data Centre (Informatics DG) and the name of the new address must be authorised by the EUROPA team

e.g. http://www.europa.eu/section/chapitre2/      to         http://www.europa.eu/section2/

Automatic redirection cannot be used to redirect between individual pages; it only redirects a complete set of pages within a site to the homepage of another site. For individual page redirection, one must use manual redirection. Even for general redirections, the use of redirection at server level is not recommended; flexible redirection should be preferred because it allows more flexibility.

– can be implemented through javascript or html code ("meta refresh") - manual redirection

This involves inserting the following instruction in the HTML code of the page from which you want to redirect users:

<META name="robots" content="noindex, nofollow">
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="5;url=http://xxx.xx/xxx/xxx">

The "5" indicates the number of seconds before the new URL is loaded. Replace "<http://xxx.xx/xxx/xxx>" with the absolute URL of the new page.

In this case the redirection is handled by the application code.

It is not possible to set up within EUROPA a redirection from an external site to EUROPA. If a site developed and hosted outside the institutions cannot, for whatever reason, be maintained any longer, redirection will have to be set up on the external server.

How to create redirection pages?

  1. Arrange the physical transfer of the pages from the migrating site to their new location;
  2. Issue a redirection request indicating the old address to which references are received, and the new address to which these references are to be forwarded.
  1. Replace the previous content by producing a new page containing the desired redirection message plus a link to the desired page at its new address. Example of the redirection page can be found in the Library section.
  2. Proceed with the transfer to the production server of the new content, and the old page content at the new location.

How to request a redirection

Follow the procedure described on the page Web address - redirection.

Work guidelines and references

 

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1.4. Dealing with obsolete websites hosted on Europa

Mandatory requirement The "Archives" sites must be kept completely isolated from the rest of EUROPA at the following URL http://ec.europa.eu/archives.

View all IPG Rules

At some point, a website will come to the end of its life. This may be because it had a set lifespan (a campaign site, for example) or because the policy it covers is changing or ending.

Keeping the outdated website is not an option as it will prevent people finding what they are looking for. It can:

  • clog up navigation schemes
  • appear in search results – often higher than newer content
  • appear in internal site searches
  • confuse or totally mislead users
  • damage our reputation
  • cause search engine crawlers to ‘time-out’ before finding our new content.

Old websites must therefore be removed or archived.

Removing a website

If the website does not have to be accessed anymore then the easiest solution is to remove it and delete it from Europa. You may want to back up the entire website to a DVD or external storage beforehand.

Create a redirection to a page explaining that the site is no longer available. See the site relocation section on the redirections resource page.

Archiving a website

A website may have future value if it contains information of special interest for historical or legal reasons.

In this case, with the joint agreement of the DG and the EUROPA team, the website can be moved to the archive section of the European Commission site which is:

  • kept apart from the rest of EUROPA.
  • accessible only from the Commission homepage.
  • ignored by search engines (i.e. the EUROPA search and all external search engines).

After a time agreed with the content owner, the archived website will be reviewed with to see if it can be removed from the archive.

For most sites you should consider simply removing it.

Preparing your site for the archive

By definition, sites earmarked for archiving are no longer considered to be a priority and therefore get little attention. However, this step is part of the site's lifecycle and time must be spent reviewing the content.

Why?

  • The site must continue to focus on users and on the content they will be interested in accessing.
  • There is a limit (2 gigabytes) to the size of the site that can be archived.
  • Dynamic sites can't be archived. A static version must be produced and moved.

What you have to do:

  • Remove  sections that will not be of interest to users and could become outdated quickly (e.g. "how to find us", full contact lists).
  • Remove unnecessary images and documents (for example, link to Eur-Lex for legislation instead of to local copies). This will also help reduce the size of the overall site.
  • Check and correct broken links and remove orphan pages and files.
  • The user should be aware that the website they are visiting has been archived. A standard header has been created that can be added easily (see Library section). In addition, the title tag of every page should start with "[Archived content]".
  • Links to the archived site should appear on the current related policy pages so users are aware that this content exists.

Launching the procedure to archive a site

  • Send your request to COMM EUROPA management, and make sure the DG’s web rationalisation coordinator and Europa Forum representative are informed. You will need to give reasons why the site should remain online and say for how long it should remain in the archive.
  • The EUROPA management team will reviews the request. If it agrees, you should prepare your site for archiving as described above.
  • When ready, send a zip containing a static version of the content (html, css, js, pdf, jpg, …) (or send the procedure for mappings if it is required) or use the shared drive accessible to all DGs to send us the copy: \\NET1\CommonServices\File_Exchange
  • Inside the archive subsite, the path will be the same as in the root:

e.g.: http://ec.europa.eu/ipg/maintain/archiving will be archived at http://ec.europa.eu/archives/ipg/maintain/archiving

  • Create a redirection to a page explaining that the site is no longer available. See the site relocation section on the redirections resource page.
  • Once the site is archived no changes are allowed.
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1.5. Close-out

The purpose of this phase is the careful, orderly and systematic removal of a site from operational or published status to archived/offline/deleted status.

Description

This section describes the various activities and actions associated with the end of the lifecycle for a web site. These activities include communications with the site’s audience, technical actions related to suppression of the web-site itself and it’s contents, the filing of reports on the closeout, as well as the planning and follow-up of the various closeout actions.

Quality Assurance/ Evaluation criteria

  • End-of-site closeout report (save the report in the site/project management file/site for purposes of knowledge sharing)

 

Pre-requisites/Inputs

  • Decision and date to take site out of production

Resulting (possible) Outcomes/ Deliverables

  • Site archived
  • Project history, lessons learned, etc.

Work Guidelines and references

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1.7. Inventory of EUROPA websites

Mandatory requirement DGs are responsible to maintain the information about their own websites up-to-date in the application Inventory of EUROPA websites

View all IPG Rules

The inventory of EUROPA websites lists all websites managed by the European Commission and provides detailed information on any of them: the URL, the domain, the webmaster, the DG, the type of site, its audience, the theme or topic, the statistics, the technology, the number of pages, etc. It also includes DGs' future projects and communication priorities.

The project of bringing together all EUROPA websites was launched in September 2010 and its application is now wellknown as the inventory of EUROPA websites. For people outside NET1 please use the following link: http://s-comm-iss-p3.net1.cec.eu.int:8080/europa_inventory.

This inventory is an essential tool for all DGs to know what we have and will have in the coming future as well as a way to avoid duplication of content and to reflect on what could be improved.

DGs are responsible to maintain the information about their own sites up-to-date.

All webmasters and Internet editors have access to the application. If however you encounter a problem to access the interface, please contact COMM EUROPA MANAGEMENT. The inventory offers a compressive help file for newcomers.

N.B. DG COMM will not deal with any service request for sites that are not included in the inventory.

The data included in the first inventory exercise of 2010 was frozen in February 2011 to carry out a statistical analysis of EUROPA websitespdf and Annex 5pdf sets out the raw data for all 490 sites covered by this exercise. This resulted in a complete report describing the main characteristics of our websites.

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