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Meet Your Webmaster--Your New Best Friend

Mary Blackmon June 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

If you’re like me, you have a fabulous Web designer. This person helped you design your site and execute your team’s creative vision, as well as provided it with a personal or professional style that you enjoy. However, maybe you have not realized how critical and invaluable a Webmaster, or Web site programmer, could and would be to your business. Consider a Web designer a doctor and a Webmaster a surgeon, and believe me—most likely, you will find yourself needing a specialist at a moment’s notice!

My Webmaster has to “operate” on our site all of the time due to maintenance and upgrading. The inner workings and functionality of a site can be quite complicated and heavy on the programming side, which is not a designer’s specialty. As a designer can make your site work in a top-notch manner, a Webmaster is essential in removing the stress from your shoulders, understanding the complicated intrinsic coding of the site and helping you manage one of the most important aspects of your business today.

So what is so important and necessary about having a Webmaster? Let me count just some of the ways.

Collect information online

You must keep track of who is logging on to your site in order to determine the types of people who potentially are interested in your services. This also helps to identify what types of treatments you may need to incorporate in order to better serve your booming clientele. Collecting e-mail addresses is essential for further communication, and offering surveys is a key way to discover the thoughts, desires and even critiques of your clients. Forms often can be designed by a Web designer, but a Webmaster can create a “submit” button, collect the data and enter it into a database so that you can receive the information easily, sort it and actually use it. 

Communicate with your audience via e-newsletters

It is true that a designer is responsible for creating the .html coding, implementing the content, devising the look and feel, and customizing the template for the actual e-newsletters. However, a Webmaster is responsible for getting the names of “opt-ins”—people who have checked a box indicating that they agree to receive further communication from your company—into the appropriate electronic format, cleaning them up and uploading them onto the Internet for e-newsletters. Providing this box is required in order to adhere to governmental spam regulation policies.

These names also are stored in a database and should become the list of recipients who will receive your e-newsletters or e-mail blasts. This means that the Webmaster is paying close attention to the nitty-gritty details, such as whether the e-mail address contains a “@.” Then, the Webmaster places the names into the appropriate format and uploads them to your e-mail vendor for the blasts. Without this detailed effort, they may not be correct, causing excessive bounce-backs (a 3% bounce-back rate is considered normal).

A Webmaster also reads through all of an e-mail vendor’s technical information—which often is extremely detailed and dull—in order to understand how to code the Web site links in your e-newsletters to ensure that the links are counted properly. The Webmaster also would be responsible for dealing with the bounce-backs and determining which ones were bogus addresses and unsubscribes. Please note that spam policies require that you offer an easy way to unsubscribe to any e-mail you send. You can be penalized, and even blackballed, from your e-mail vendor if you don’t remove in a timely manner the names of the people who request this.

Sell your products online

A designer could help you install an easy-to-use shopping cart software, but the monitoring of it often will be left up to you and your spa’s team. Do you really have this kind of extra time? A Webmaster can monitor it closely and become a great asset when there are problems with clients, especially when dealing with financial transactions. These issues require instant assistance and can be time-consuming while investigating them. The Webmaster can take those extra steps and work with your merchant provider to reconcile them properly and communicate with clients. Although a Web designer could assist in the implementation and design, the most efficient way to handle a shopping cart is to have one spa employee manage the day-to-day sales efforts, as well as update products and descriptions. Have the Webmaster be on call for when problems arise with purchases, and monitor the shopping cart software biweekly in order to ensure that it is reconciling properly with the merchant account. The Webmaster also can upgrade the software when necessary.

Perform Web site maintenance

All Web sites require maintenance, and a Webmaster can help by taking these duties off of your plate. Someone has to perform backup functions on a consistent basis to ensure that your data will not be lost, work with the Internet service provider when the site goes down and provide monthly usage statistics, including referral URLs that show which other sites are bringing you traffic. This is typically the Webmaster—the “go-to” person when anything seems to be causing errors on your site. A Web designer may help with broken banners and links, but a Webmaster may be needed for more technical issues. A Webmaster also can produce e-mail announcements, network your computers, and help streamline the internal e-mail process for all employees and management.

Create flash elements for fresh, customized content

Most Web designers do flash, or moving graphics, but sometimes you may want to post changing data within it or allow users to type information into form fields, such as their ZIP codes and e-mail addresses. This requires a Webmaster’s help because programming will be needed.

Update site specials, your spa menu and more

Keep it simple! If you have a frequently changing roster of specials, for instance, it is efficient to have a Webmaster create Web forms, enabling spa employees to simply enter the changing data. It will be saved in a database in case you need to look it up, and the Web pages can be pushed to the site simply by clicking a submit button. This saves you from having to learn .html or using FTP every time you need to change something. A simple, customized management page can be created in order to make changes in one place, and have everything completed perfectly and easily.

Celebrate your Webmaster

Frankly, my Webmaster takes care of the technical things that my spa team and I don’t know how to do, nor would we really want to do. Without her, we’d be a lot more stressed, have less time to do what we love and not have the site that we have today. So find yourself a good Webmaster, and celebrate them. You soon will understand why and will join me in saying, “Cheers to our site’s new best friend!”

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