Build a Website: Maintenance and Updating
Having a website requires time, thought, and resources in the initial planning and implementation, but creating it is only half the battle. Once you've launched the site, the real challenge lies in maintaining and updating it. Keeping your content fresh encourages people to return. Poor maintenance is a sure way of losing visitors, perhaps permanently.Maintaining Your Site
Maintenance generally means making sure that your files and file directory structures are up and running properly at all times, and all your links are functional. Since HTML documents and their related graphics components are linked in specific ways, any changes or additions that you make to existing file names or directories could alter their relationship to one another. The most common result is that links are broken and images or entire pages don't load properly. User feedback, usually via e-mail, can play a big part in flagging these types of problems so they can be resolved in a timely manner.
Maintenance for a small site may take as little as a few hours a month. On a large site, maintenance may be a full-time job. Be sure to incorporate the costs of maintenance into your budget during the planning phase so it doesn't take you by surprise. If you're planning a large, ambitious site or want to gradually add more content and functionality, working with an experienced designer and programmer from the outset will save you a lot of time later on. Starting with a well-designed site is the most effective way to prevent resource-intensive updates and maintenance. Experienced web developers average about $75 USD per hour and up. This may sound steep, but it is well worth the cost if you want to incorporate advanced features like Flash animation, forms, and search tools.Keeping Your Site Up-to-Date
Updating a site entails changing the content. This may be as simple as checking links to other sites to make sure they are current and including new links, or as complex as adding new articles, functionality and content like video and audio. The resources and cost of keeping a website current and operational depend on the size and complexity of the site and how often it requires updating.
Remember, adding new content doesn't necessarily mean scrapping the old. Some kinds of dated material like press releases, software updates, articles and newsletters can be useful and should be archived. Make sure that archived information is organized in a way that's easy to access.
Another simple way of letting users know that you've updated your site or specific pages is to add a notation. Notice how we do this at the bottom of each article on Learn the Net.Maintenance Strategies
How do you come up with an effective maintenance strategy? Start by deciding how often you need or want to update your site and how extensive those updates will be. For example, a news publisher will likely update information daily or even hourly. A retailer may update its site whenever there is new merchandise and for special sales and promotions.
Next, pay attention to what your users are doing and saying. How many people are visiting your site and where are they going? Track which pages of your site are most popular. Your web hosting service should supply you with detailed and timely traffic reports, which give you information as to the number of visits to your website, page views, where they come from, which pages they access, and a lot more.
Provide a way for users to provide feedback. A common method is via e-mail. Use that information to identify and resolve technical problems in a timely manner. Use qualitative comments about the site along with usage tracking data to guide your decisions about what content to keep, replace, or improve.
If you're pressed for time or resources, maintaining a simple database of all your pages, including a brief description of each page's content, related links and graphics files, can be very helpful. As your site grows, or if you hand over maintenance to someone else, the database will come in handy.
Last update: Jan 14, 2010