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Adding Muscle to Your Site

So now I've just made matters worse for my subject small business owner. Instead of just needing a Web site and someone to update it, now that Web site has to be created with a database, and he needs someone more advanced than your average HTML developer. Believe me—the power and flexibility far outweigh the initial complexity. With the site drawing on the database for its content, we can easily develop a Web-based Admin tool that will allow me to perform, among other things, three basic functions: the ability to ADD, EDIT, and DELETE. No matter what type of business you are in, content is content. On a macro level, the three basic things that you will need to do at some point in time is either add new content, edit existing content, or delete content you no longer wish to have up on your site.

Don't think that anyone who enters your URL will be able to change the information on your Web site. This is not the case as long as you do one of two things. (I recommend both.) The first thing you may want to consider is to keep the Admin application at a different URL than your main public address where your target audience will be accessing your site. If your main URL is http://www.yourcompany.com, I recommend that the Admin tool be placed at http://www.yourcomapny.com/admin, or something even more obscure that only you and the people you trust know the correct location.

The second thing is to password-protect the access to your Admin application. This means that for anyone trying to get into the administration features of the Admin application, the user has to enter a unique user name and password that were originally given permissions by the site's developer. This information is stored in the database. When the user enters in the user name and password, the system checks the database records for an exact match. If either the user name or password is off by one letter or number, the system will not let that user into the Admin tool.

Be careful when granting access to users. Set someone as the global administrator—someone who has access to everything, and has the authority to change and remove anyone from the system. One other point to consider when developing the table structure for your database is to grant limited use to different people, possibly by department or area of expertise. For instance, the Admin tool can be set up so that Joe Smith's password grants him access only to update content related to his areas on the Web site, but not allowing him any access to make any changes to someone else's area. This is a common way to give limited authority to many people without having to worry about each of them changing someone else's area.

Once the user name and password are validated, the person should be brought to a page in which they can begin to make changes. Again, options should be available to add, edit, and delete the content (be it text, images, or documents) that resides in the database. Depending on how you build the structure from the beginning makes a huge difference in how easy or how hard it is to maneuver around. My personal recommendation is to allow the administrator in the Admin tool, especially if he is not programming-savvy, to navigate around the site in the normal fashion and be allowed to select whichever section he wants to update. Once he selects the particular section to update, he is presented with our golden three option: Add new content to that section, edit the existing content currently on the site, or delete that existing content. If the user chooses to add content, the administrator would be brought to a page where the various sections or structures for that given page are broken up into fields (blank ones for now) in which the user can simply copy and paste the new information. The different fields might be set up (depending on the template structure and attributes assigned to various elements of the page) to include a field for the Main Title of that section, a field for any subtitle or writer's information, a field for the main body copy of that section, and a field or two for any possible links or images that need to relate to the copy.

Once all of the information is entered (either by directly entering in the new info or by copying and pasting), all the administrator needs to do is click the "update" button. This will write this new information to the database, and will then be live for the next visitor to the Web site to see. The same aspects hold true for editing existing content or deleting existing content. When the editing option is selected, the administrator would be presented with the same field structure, only now the information that currently exists for that section is filled into the appropriate fields. The administrator can go in and simply make the necessary modifications as needed. These changes may be as simple as fixing a typo, changing a date for an event, or putting the right price for an item (especially if the sale is over and it's back to the regular price). Whatever the reason for modifying the existing content, a few clicks of the mouse is all it takes. Deleting specific content or entire sections can be as easy as selecting the appropriate section and clicking the "delete" button. If an event is over, you don't want to leave it up on your Web site too much longer. Again, people want timely information. Nothing looks worse on a site than seeing that the site hasn't been updated since 1992. It gives the appearance that the company doesn't care enough to pay any attention to the site.

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