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After we deliver a complete web design solution to clients, they might ask us to continue working for them for a few hours a week as a webmaster. While this job can be quite bumpy at times, its difficulty can be minimized with the help of different webmaster tools available on the Internet. If you are involved with such a client, this article is out here to help you speed up your workflow.
Before we start reviewing the tools let’s make sure everybody knows what a webmaster does and what his/her assignments and skill set are. A webmaster (also known as website administrator) is usually responsible for maintaining web pages. The duties of a webmaster include web server and hardware maintenance, software updates, answering user comments, examining the user traffic and even designing the website.
Image by Ashley Baxter.
Huge websites usually have more than one webmaster employed, as the heavy workload can’t be managed by one person alone. And while some of us do it as freelance or part-time job for different clients, there are people earning their living as webmasters. It might sound like something easy, but it is a job like any other – with guidelines to follow, strict rules, strict schedules and challenges to overcome.
Now to move on to the tools, in any given order we start with Uptime Robot, a great powerful tool that lets you know whenever your site is down. A webmaster isn’t expected to be online 24/7, therefore tools like this are incredibly valuable to alert you when your site has gone down.
Uptime Robot has two major advantages over their competition. One of them is the fact that it is free, no subscription needed. And the saying “there is a reason why it is free” couldn’t be farther from the truth in this case. The second is the fact that it sends alerts any way you want. You can set it up to send you an e-mail, a tweet or a message through an RSS feed, but wouldn’t you prefer to ask it to send you an SMS? This is my personal favorite and I always choose it. With Uptime Robot being able to check up to 50 websites every 5 minutes on each account, it is clear there are not many better tools for checking server uptime.
The tech giant couldn’t miss the opportunity to offer something for webmasters, as they seem to want to cover every industry possible. Although the service is widely used all over the world, it is still one of the less popular tools Google developed and continues develop.
The requirement of using this tool is only having a Google account. The robots provide lots of detailed information about the followed websites from Google’s point of view, which is exactly what you want when you want to figure out how to raise your Google rank.
You will get information about everything including search queries, referrals linking to your site, keywords by which you website is found and accessed on Google, +1 metrics, list of crawl errors, malware diagnostics, site performance stats and many, many others. I couldn’t see a reason for you not trying Google Webmaster Tools.
Another great tool Google released some years ago is the Keyword Tool. It depends quite a lot on what you want to focus on. If you are an administrator of a blog, then the keyword tool is a must-use.
If you run a company’s website, then you will probably also want to use this tool. It allows you to find valuable keywords and phrases which you should target for SEO purposes and gives you estimated traffic numbers and other data. The tool has been developed with Google AdWords in mind, but it works successfully everywhere.
As mentioned above, many webmasters work together at the same workplace and tackle the same problems. It is only at small websites that a web master is alone. So if collaboration is a key component of your day-to-day work, Teambox is a key tool to be used.
The tool can be used for free (there are also premium plans available), it allows you to create tasks, share them with other people, create a page with Wikipedia styles to share knowledge, upload files, communicate with the others and many more – all in one single place.
Although the title sounds like anything but a web master collaboration tool, it actually does quite a lot. It is a user friendly and useful tool which allows you to create to-do lists. You can access them from nearly anywhere on your laptop, desktop or smartphone.
If you go further into the application, it is much more than just a simple to-do list creator. It is an environment with different features including levels of priorities, multiple lists, keyboard shortcuts, tagging, reminders and more.
If you thought I overlooked tools for mind mapping, you are far from the truth. Freemind is a great tool for allowing you to represent your ideas and thoughts and give them an easy-to-understand form. Moreover, the tool can be used for free.
Mind mapping is a recently discovered way of putting ideas and thoughts into other forms in order to share them with other individuals. If you think that mind mapping is not used by webmasters, you might want to think twice. Sometimes a problem they encounter requires serious brainstorming to get to the root of the issue, this is where something like Freemind comes in handy.
The tool is developed by Yahoo! and has a lot to do with the more technical side of the job. What this tool does is quite simple, but effective: it reduces the size of the images you use on your web pages.
This tool is also highly recommended because it uses some optimization techniques that reduce the image size without damaging the picture quality.
If you use WordPress, there is a plugin available from Smush.it that makes everything happen automatically.
As you can see, being a webmaster can be a challenging job. There are quite a lot of tasks which a webmaster needs to keep track of and using tools like these will improve any webmaster’s workflow.
Until next time, are there tools I overlooked? Do you use some of the tools above and if you do, which one do you think is the most effective?
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Christian Vasile is an enthuziastic Romanian web designer currently living in Denmark. He is passionate for the industry and writes about design, usability, coding and freelancing and is a regular publisher here at 1WD. You can follow him on Twitter at @christianvasile or visit his web portfolio by clicking on the link above.