The essential Web site toolkit

We review over 30 tools to weed out problems, speed up maintenance and allow you to spend more time adding content. They can also show you how to determine the popularity of your pages and fix those that are overlooked by search engines. If you own a personal site, then there are eight free tools to build your tool kit. At the high end, where dead links and poor visitor numbers can cost big money, we take the more sophisticated programs for a spin.

At the beginning of every new site is the HTML editor - or design package - plus a graphics tool such as Paint Shop Pro or PhotoShop (for a detailed review of HTML editors, see February 2000 PC World). But as anyone will tell you, these are just the first steps in publishing and maintaining a Web site.

HTML validators

HTML is a forgiving language and many mistakes will not be perceptible to visitors. However, this is not always the case. Some errors can render a page invisible in Netscape or a dog's breakfast in IE5. Finding errors on a complex page can be a time-consuming task, and this is where an HTML validator can help. Some Web site design programs have built-in HTML validators (such as HomeSite 4.5), but if you want to code by hand, edit a page or try to repair HTML generated by Front Page, then an external validator can be a lifesaver.

CSE HTML Validator

Other options

FTP software

Many people building their first Web site get so involved with design issues or learning HTML that they come to a grinding halt when it is time to publish a site (in this context, publish simply means to upload your site to a Web server and make it visible to the outside world). The problem is quite simple: the files are on the designer's computer, and they need to be uploaded onto a Web server. In most cases this will require FTP (file transfer protocol) software, although some HTML editors have their own FTP packages. The two leading programs in FTP soft-ware are WS_FTP and CuteFTP. CoffeeCup is also a robust FTP program worth considering. To determine which one suits your needs, try the demo versions which are all fully featured for the first 30 days.

CuteFTP 3.5

CoffeeCup Direct FTP 4 and FreeFTP

WS_FTP Pro 6 and WS_FTP 5 LE

Search engine tools

You have built your new site and uploaded it to the Web server. Then what happens? Nothing. In order for people to find your site, it must be registered with a search engine. It is free to register but it can be a time-consuming task. There are around 12 major directories and, while some will add your entire site (Excite!), others will only add the individual pages you submit (HotBot). This can be a time-consuming task each time you update your site or individual pages. A search engine submission tool will perform these tasks automatically and save plenty of time.

A word of caution: while there are over 1,000 search engines, many are useless or an excuse to collect your e-mail address. Never use your primary e-mail address (use a free service such as Hotmail to set up a secondary e-mail account), and restrict your site to only include significant engines in order to speed up the submission process. Also, some search engines object to the submission of too many pages in a 24-hour period, so don't go submitting 500 pages in one hit.

Submit It!

Exploit Submission Wizard 5

AddWeb Pro 3.2

WebPosition (Gold and Pro)

Link checkers

Weeding dead links from a Web site can be a time-consuming task and, no matter how careful you are, it is still possible to overlook links. This is where a methodical and thorough program can save a lot of time - and prevent repetitive strain injury.

LinkBot 5 and LinkBOT Express 3.6a

LinkAlarm

SiteChecker 3.0

LinxCop

Log analysis

Log analysis can provide a great deal of information about people visiting your site, but it is important to know its limitations. The biggest issue is the "cache", in which copies of your Web site sit on other servers. A cache could be as simple as the user's hard disk, a company cache or a cache on the ISP hosting your site or the one used by your visitors. When files are accessed from a cache they will not be recorded in the log files: your log may show 1000 visitors, but the number may have been 1500.

There are tricks for getting around this problem - the crucial thing to remember is that log analysis is powerful, but the results are more an indication of what is happening on a site, rather the complete picture.

WebTrends Log Analyzer 5.0a (Professional 4.0a and Enterprise 4.0a)FastStats 2.67SawMill 5.0.12Tools of the tradeEvery tradesperson or hobbyist has a small collection of tools that perform specialised tasks. While most of these may seem overpriced for the job they perform, there are others that are simple and, at the right time, indispensable.

Cold Fusion

DNS Workshop

URLCook

Metabot

WhoIsNot and WhoIsNot lite

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