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User numbers keep going up at apegga.org. That's
understandable enough, because the amount of information and the range
of things you can accomplish online increase all the time.
BY GEORGE LEE
Operational for more than three years, APEGGA's website
has established itself as a trusted source of information for members
and the Internet-surfing public. The user numbers keep growing and the
services offered online keep expanding.
For Barbara Jensen of the Communications and Public Affairs Department,
making sure the site's data and designs are fresh, usable and pertinent
is a full-time job. "I have to think of 35,000 members and what they
want to see on their website," says Ms Jensen, APEGGA's Web developer.
"Plus there's all the information various directors and departments
need to put on line.
"I also have to concern myself with the modems members have, their
computers, their servers, their browsers, their software, so that everyone
sees basically the same thing. You have to cater to everyone - from those
with the worst browsers to those with the best."
Much of her job is answering the questions, sorting out the problems and
responding to the criticism that come from members. Each morning, her
e-mail in-box is jam-packed. Ms Jensen is up to the challenge and responds
to every phone or e-mail message she receives.
"Lately, response to the website has been just excellent. In the
beginning, though, members were very critical and wanted more. And a lot
of them weren't using it to its fullest potential. It was just there.
Now, they're more computer savvy, and they want the information up and
ready to use, immediately."
She continues: "Some users are more savvy than others. But our ultimate
goal is to reach as wide a range of users as possible. I'd like to see
half of our membership using the website on a daily or weekly basis -
using it for all APEGGA-supported activities and information, actually
retrieving and downloading the information they need, filling out the
forms, making it quicker and easier for them, and more efficient for staff."
Ms Jensen deals with technical questions from the most simple to the most
complex. Some members need help learning how to navigate the site, even
though she's always striving to make the site as user-friendly as possible.
Or a member may need help downloading information.
The Web developer says she's there to help. "I will take them though,
step by step by step, whatever they need help with."
Her strategies, whether on the phone or on the computer, appear to be
succeeding, if site traffic is any indication. Use has increased dramatically
in the past several years.
For one month in October-November 1999, hits averaged 110,978 per week.
(A hit is simply any visit, so any number of hits could be from one user).
Compare that to one week last December: 303,072 hits, an increase of nearly
200 per cent. The growth in actual user numbers, comparing the same periods,
is also impressive, to 5,782 from 2,526.
More hits means more expectations and demands, Ms Jensen says. The key
is to keep information and links current, and improve the site with new
software and her own professional upgrading. Data entry is a job all its
own. Major reports, such as the salary survey, go on line. A selection
of PEGG stories is published on-line after each edition. Career advertising
is updated regularly. "Careers is a huge area," Ms Jensen says.
The job is never complete. In a sense, the site has to keep proving itself,
hit after hit after hit. "A website is never really done. It's always
being improved and changed and updated. I don't think all our members
realize the effort that goes into creating and constantly recreating this
site. It's a real challenge and I love my job."