7 Tips to Improve Webmaster Productivity

Rapid application and web site development.  Increasing demand for web standards. New standards and technologies appear, grow, and morph together within shorter and shorter cycles.  Webmasters must be more productive than ever. 

These seven tips will help you become a more productive webmaster:

  1. The right tools
  2. The right environment
  3. Patterns
  4. Study
  5. Web communities
  6. Good work habits
  7. A life

1. Use the right tools

Webmasters can find plenty of excellent tools now to:

  • design and develop faster
  • meet standards
  • reduce redundant tasks
  • automate repetitive tasks 

The old saying, “Use the right tool for the right job”, remains true today.  Invest time today in finding yourself the right tools for the jobs you do.

You have more choices than ever before.

The net houses a myriad of web developer software.  Some of the best web development applications and tools are free or open-source.  Yes, many excellent web design applications still cost, yet can be worth paying for. 

Don’t skimp. 

Come up with creative ways to buy the software you need.  When I started freelancing, my first client bought me Dreamweaver Ultradev and Fireworks (2 then 3 - back in the stone age of web design).  I simply built the purchase into the up-front costs of the project, and convinced the client of the need.  If you are a professional web designer, build the costs of new software into your next job

A technical discussion of methodologies for choosing the right software:


2. Create the right environment

Create custom environments on your computer and in your office which are designed to streamline and enhance your work quality and productivity. 

Optimize your computer desktop

Use a large screen or even two screens.

I currently have Dell’s 24-inch wide-screen (Dell 2407WFP) at a 1920X1200 resolution.


I also have a separate smaller screen to put IRC and and chat windows on, so I can keep my workspace uncluttered. 

Dell UltraSharp 2407WFP CNET Review


Create custom screen layouts to match your current tasks.

Make use of tools which automatically open the set of software you use while developing and to automatically move them to a screen layout which you find productive.

For example, here is my “Screen cast Tutorials” layout. 


Note I have my web browser visible, which is what I am giving the tutorial on.  The browser automatically moves into position and is set to a 1024X768 pixel width and height.  Camtasia Studio, my screen casting software, moves in and takes up the rest of the right side of my screen.  Then I have a little room below my web browser on the left, so I keep a document open to take notes while I create the tutorial.  

In my next posts I’ll cover the software tools to make this happen. 

Zen-up Your Office

Have everything you need to do your work, within your reach.

This includes any reference books, your phone (if you need one), your drinks (water and coffee are so good),  your stereo volume or remote, PDA or iPhone, credit cards for web purchases, headset; basically anything you might use in a typical day. 

Having a proper chair and computing environment are of utmost importance.  You will work better and feel better, with less fatigued at the end of the day. 

See Stanford University’s Environmental Health and Safety web site, specifically their Proper Ergonomic Setup of your Computer Workstation page:




If you are able, it is nice to add a pleasant atmosphere to your office

A major boost to my own productivity and creativity came after I "Zen-up-d" my office

I did the following:

  • Got rid of all extra clutter
  • Added a nice table-top water fountain (for less than $25 bucks)

Amazon.com: HoMedics WFL-ROCK EnviraScape Illuminated Rock Garden Relaxation Fountain: Health & Personal Care

  • Began burning scented candles
  • Began playing nice relaxing music, or really hard (depending on the day)
  • Splurged with my Christmas money and got myself a massage chair for about $100 bucks

Amazon.com: HoMedics SBM-300 Therapist Select Shiatsu Plus Massaging Cushion: Health & Personal Care

I did have an office fish tank once to help lower my blood pressure, but the fish kept dying, which really stressed me out.

3. Discover and document patterns

Accumulate a list of best practices for the different work you do.  As you discover a better way to do something, write it down in a trusted place.  Make sure you can retrieve the information by subject, task, or keyword.

If you need to do the same thing again and again, write down a checklist.

Try to follow procedures as you work.  They don’t have to be the “best” at first.  Follow set patterns so you can tweak and improve them over time.

Re-use and improve the same code

Use mature and well tested frameworks and code libraries.  I started using object oriented programming, code libraries and classes, early as web developer.  As I tested, gained experienced with, and improved my code collection from project to project, I was able to build solid, well-featured web sites, fast.  My code library became pretty valuable and contributed much to my building a successful interactive agency.

Following design patterns helped me solve challenges and make design decisions quickly.

Today, there are several mature frameworks which focus on building web sites and web applications. 

Doing lots of web sites with similar features?  Use a well-developed, full-featured, modular, and open-source CMS with a mature API.  This will get you off the treadmill of struggling to add new features to your own code-driven web sites.  Follow best practices when tweaking the CMS.  Create modules to add custom behavior.  Don’t mess with the core.  This will save you lots of time when upgrading sites.

See Drupal.

4. Never stop learning

The web developer career is one which requires constant learning and change.  We have to study and re-study to keep up.  Read web developer books, articles, white-papers, and whatever else you can get.  Listen to pod casts.   Sitepoint.com is one an excellent resource, with books, kits, and training videos.  I expect web developers who work for me to spend at least an hour each week (on paid time) to read a developer book, browse a developer forum, or watch a tutorial.  I believe an hour of learning can save up to five hours in coding.    

I refer to these four books regularly during work (especially the first two) :

Amazon.com: Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition: Books: Steve Krug

Amazon.com: The CSS Anthology: 101 Essential Tips, Tricks & Hacks: Books: Rachel Andrew

Amazon.com: The PHP Anthology: Object Oriented PHP Solution, Volume 1: Books: Harry Fuecks

Amazon.com: The PHP Anthology, Volume II: Applications: Books: Harry Fuecks

5. Join a web community

Becoming an active part of a web development community will improve your productivity for years to come.  The benefits include:

  • Solving problems quickly with the help of others
  • Keeping up-to-date in our field
  • Becoming inspired
  • Finding tips and tricks which we might not have thought of
  • Helping others (and feeling good)

6. Improve your work habits

  • If you are able, regularly turn off your phone. 
  • Know when to not check email. 
  • Find your own work rhythm. 
  • Do certain types of tasks during parts of the day which fit your energy levels. 
  • Make use of keyboard shortcuts.

Become a master at project management. Hire a great project manager if you can. 

Read the book:

Amazon.com: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity: Books: David Allen

7. Get a life

  • Learn when to stop working.
  • Develop other interests outside your work and field.
  • Read books on a variety of subjects.  History is pretty cool.
  • Turn the computer off!
  • Turn off that PDA/iPhone too.
  • Focus on your friends and family. People last.  Web sites only live on at Archive.org.   
  • Forget about your mission at work for awhile and explore and develop your ultimate purpose in life.
  • Sleep.
  • Socialize.

Share or Comment via Twitter