7 Reality Tips: The Care and Feeding of Websites
“We just launched this website 16 months ago! What do you mean you have to do more development?” says the CFO/CEO/President/Business owner to the marketing geek. I hear it all the time. It’s a common misconception that investing a lot into a website means you will only have to add new content in the future. You may think once you develop the site you won’t ever have to think about the website again. Wrong. Read on!
It’s true that if the design of your pages is robust and flexible, and you have an awesome content management system, you will have to make fewer major revisions to your site. And, the more you money and time you invest in designing a flexible design up front, the fewer changes you will need to make over the lifespan of your site. However, the bottom line is that websites are a bit like homes…They need regular maintenance. After all, your lifestyle changes, appliances and fixtures break, and advances in household products come out every day. Your home has to accommodate those inevitable changes. Your website also needs to adjust to reflect the changes in your business, rapid technology changes, and minor hiccups along the way. For example, the introduction of social plugins from Facebook have sent businesses back to their website developers to adjust their websites to accommodate feeds and like buttons. Adjusting pages to accommodate those changes required rethinking many websites. Regardless of external technology changes, business goals and priorities often change, and your website has to reflect those changes.
The fact is the average lifespan of a website is only three to (and this is pushing it) five years. If your website is more than 3 years old, and you’ve done nothing to it over those three years, chances are you need to start thinking about a major overhaul.
7 key recommendations about website development and maintenance:
- Invest as much as you can into your website design on the front end so you can:
- Build in a great content management system.
- Automate as many related marketing processes as possible.
- Build in a very flexible design that allows you to adjust along the way.
- Pick developers who you like, trust, and can work with over the course of the lifespan of your site. (Your developers will be your new BFFs, so you better respect them.)
- You will need to budget for website maintenance, enhancements, and tweaks every year over the lifespan of your site.
- You will need to revise or overhaul your site in 3-5 years.
- Think through your goals, target audience(s), and aesthetics. Be prepared to tell your developers as much about your needs as possible.
- It takes a small village to build a boffo site:
- Print designers and web designers are not interchangeable.
- Developers are not the same as web designers.
- These folks may know a bit about SEO, but are not search engine optimization experts.
- None of these aforementioned peeps are marketing experts.
A good development firm will be able to bring these skills to the table, but if your budget is limited and you can’t work with a firm with all the expertise you need, make sure the people you hire consider these factors in your website. Be sure to assign one person from your company or organization the role of project manager of the site development and someone (perhaps the same person) as the content manager who regularly updates the site. If you have a small company, or you are a one person shop, that person might be you. Plan to either carve out a significant amount of time to oversee the development, and a bit of time every week or two to maintain the site, unless you plan to outsource those activities.
7. Don’t forget that you will have to keep the content fresh and up to date, so if you don’t have a big team, you may have to either pay someone, or find time in your schedule. Websites that are not maintained are a poor reflection on your company.