Ongoing website maintenance provides website owners the assurance that their site is being taken care of with preventive measures and to accommodate the changing environment around it. A series of tasks should be part of any website owners' to do list to keep your site from becoming obsolete and ineffective. We’ve listed some essentials from our arsenal of services in our maintenance plan. Cut and paste to make your own maintenance plan tailored to your needs and budget.
Vital to any successful site is fresh and relevant content. This could be in the form of blogs and news articles that you post regularly, or even content that’s accurate and up-to-date. As time goes by with any organization, details change from new staff members, changes in your address, to an evolving product or service offering. Implement a routine to review your content for any stale, messy or outdated copy and plan to add new content on a regular basis, from daily to every other month, so that the site will provide your users with accurate information about your organization. Take advantage of 3rd party services to check your site for any broken links or missing pages leading to 404 errors, and fix them before your users find them. Fresh and accurate content is also beneficial to your search engine “findability”. Google likes a lot of relevant content and bases much of its algorithm on rich information.
CMS and Functionality
The software that runs your site is likely a Content Management System and, like any software package, it will need to be updated occasionally for patches or even upgrades. This is often within the realm of the website developer. However, if you haven’t implemented a maintenance plan then security patches will certainly get overlooked and your CMS could easily become vulnerable and buggy. If you are the site owner, then take responsibility of the CMS and subscribe to the software providers' newsletter to be aware of any changes or patches, then take the action to update when necessary.
The other benefit of updating will be the availability of new features that weren’t available when the site was first built. It might be just an easier way to add news items, polling, or the ability to add responsive templates. The other good reason to update is to address the browsers that change and develop, and are widely adopted, but weren’t considered when the CMS was originally implemented.
Regularly review your site, from monthly to semi-annually, for necessary patches or potential new features to help you manage your website.
The look and feel of your site immediately says so much about your organization. So, looking dated can make your organization seem out of touch. Routinely review your site's design and review your competitor’s sites for enhancements and design trends that could benefit your website appearance. It doesn’t always mean a complete redesign but some small design tweaks can make a big impact to modernize your site's appearance. Modern content management systems separate design from content and the underlying code, so occasionally tweaking your design doesn’t mean a complete site overhaul but just a change to the templates or CSS.
An important consideration when reviewing the design is how your site works on the ever expanding list of browsers. For example, is it compatible with recent releases of Internet Explorer or Safari, or are there styling errors or features that used to work that no longer work? Also, how does it work on mobile devices? Is it completely messed up and unusable or are you using Flash where it could simply be replaced with mobile friendly HTML5?
Review your look and feel every couple of months and schedule a full redesign every 2 to 3 years.
Code and Browser Compatibility
There’s nothing more unprofessional than a site that appears broken or riddled with errors to persuade users to stay away from your site. Your site may have originally been error-free but unfortunately with new browsers this may no longer be the case. Browser testing is essential with each new release. A good tool to use to check for errors is W3C’s CSS specific validator: http://jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator/
Also, new government legislation guidelines may impact your organization and website. Consider making your site accessible with AODA compliance. Not only will your site improve its usability but you will be making your site available to a larger audience with compliance.
Performance test frequently and schedule time to optimize. Again, over time your site will slow down for a variety of reasons. There are several 3rd party web based tools to test your site load speed. A fast loading site not only helps with usability but also with SEO. Try http://www.webpagetest.org/ to test and find issues that can be resolved by your web developer. Review your code and page speed every time a new browser is released.
Google changes its algorithm often without any announcement and your keyword competition will also be diligently fine-tuning its site to be better optimized. If being highly ranked in a search engine is important, make sure you regularly review your keywords and results, and look for ways to improve your ranking. This includes understanding your Google analytics and looking for trends and activity that will generate higher quality click-through to your site. There are many resources available to help analyze and optimize your sites SEO’ness. Both Google and Bing Webmaster tools is an excellent tool. Review and tweak monthly as needed.
Servers and Web Hosting Infrastructure
Finally, your webhosting environment needs to be maintained. This is often handled by your web host but varies depending on your particular configuration. If you run your own virtual cloud server then you are responsible for management tasks, like installing operating system patches and software updates, and ensuring the automated backups are working with reliable restore points. Monitor the hosting environment weekly to monthly for performance, bandwidth and memory usage, space and antivirus. Make sure to consider a maintenance plan that includes the web hosting environment for some peace of mind.
Inorbital offers a variety of maintenance plans from simple to comprehensive. Contact us for your custom tailored support plan.
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About the Author
Tony Tullio is a veteran in the interactive business and Director/Founder at Inorbital and always looking for great web apps and useful websites. Let us know what you think about this topic by commenting or rating or connect with him via Twitter