The World Wide Web is expanding and its value is increasing as a method for locating and delivering information. This creates a significant engineering challenge. Locating applicable information requires that indexing information be incorporated into Web page development. Once an applicable page has been located, essential information may not be present, resulting in user frustration and a failure of the Web application to meet its purpose. This is a revision of the 1999 accumulation of Web site management “recommended practices.”
This revision is based on IEEE Std 2001-1999, extending it based on recommendations since it was developed, addressing “site-wide” issues as well as “managed” Web sites (as opposed to just Intranet and Extranet sites). These can serve to improve the effectiveness of Web pages for users, Web page developers, and the value of the Web in corporate and organizational applications. This recommended practice is focused on managed Web sites, Intranet (within an organization), and Extranet (between a group of collaborating organizations).
Other projects are being evaluated by the Internet Best Practices working group (IBPwg) within the IEEE Computer Society. See http://dx.doi.org/10.1041/standard/2001 for current details. Web page engineering often is done with little consideration for the immediate or ongoing implications of Web site design or implementation. Some sites reflect “state of the art” delivery that can only be accessed with the most recent tools. This may be inconsistent with the business objectives for that site. Some sites will languish beyond their applicable life, occupying valuable resources (particularly as these are incorporated into organizational indexes, and delivered as prospective “query returns” by indexing and search services). Poor Web page engineering results in lost productivity and user frustration, and can result in legal liabilities.
There is no clear prediction of when the World Wide Web or a specific site will be obsolete. There is a legitimate engineering concern that this lifespan may be significantly underestimated or disregarded entirely in many Web site designs. Vendor products—past and future versions, format preferences, or selection of implementation languages—may require future re-engineering as vendors and products fade. Corporate Web sites may not need to live beyond the life of the corporation, however, public sector and other institutional sites may well span centuries.
A significant portion of the content of these sites may not require updating, except in cases of shortsighted design. The Magna Carta and the works of Shakespeare are examples of fairly stable content. The recommended practices and requirements set forth in this recommended practice are aimed to reduce the risks associated with Web page investments. Further revision of this recommended practice is expected, partially to reflect changes in the Web environment, but also to reflect increased understanding of “recommended practices” in Web page engineering. There is a popular awareness of “Web years,” characterized by rapid advances in the platform technology for clients and servers.
There is a potentially expensive, misinformed conclusion that might be drawn from this, which is that Web pages (and more directly, information content and services delivery) either are, or should, move forward at this same rate. Some of today’s Web pages will warrant long-term retention, and within the context of business operations (which is the core of managed sites), re-engineering of last year’s Web pages is an investment that requires justification. The value of Web-based operations is the delivery of the right information and services to the right persons at the right time with the least amount of effort.
Success in Web-based operations is based more on engineering design in response to an understanding of the target-user community and information, than it is on the rapidly evolving technology for Web platforms.