I hate to be the one to break it to you, but your website will never be done. And that’s good.
Don’t think of website maintenance like other business tasks like drafting an email, writing a report, or creating a proposal. It has a beginning, but it has no end.
That may sound daunting (or depressing!), but it’s not so bad if you change the way you approach it.
Today’s post spells out how to keep up with your website maintenance, and what you should work on to make your site better over time.
Keep Up with the Times
Web technology is always changing: software changes, computers get faster, color rendering is more accurate. You’ll want your website design to reflect this.
People’s consumption habits change, too. Right now, sharing images is big. Internet speeds have increased in the past five years, so video is booming, too. If your site doesn’t use these two things, you may feel like you’re getting left behind.
The way to keep ahead of these changes is to stop thinking about your website like a once-and-done project. Instead, think of it like a garden you tend. Over time, to keep it at its best, you do updates, make changes and add sections.
To make this easy, put website maintenance into your schedule. One day a week, carve out time to work on your website.
What should you work on? First, make time to do basic upkeep, then make improvements.
Tend to the Basics First
The first thing to take care of is basic maintenance. Most sites run on some kind of software, and keeping this software updated is important for site speed and security.
- Check for software updates. In WordPress, you’ll see a notification in your Dashboard. Do a complete site backup just to be sure, then click the update button.
- Update any plugins. Check to see which ones need updating, then click to get them up to speed.
- Fix broken links. In WordPress, a plugin like Broken Link Checker will let you know if there’s a link that’s not working anywhere on your site. Fix these to improve your user experience.
- Throw out the trash. If you have a blog, you might have some comment spam waiting. Throw this out as part of your maintenance tasks.
Once you’ve taken care of the basics, you can work on improvements.
Test to Improve
Testing your site for usability may sound like something only companies with big budgets can do. But if you keep it simple, you can gather useful information about how users perceive your site, and what you can do to improve it.
This is a task you can put on your calendar for every six months or so. The information you gather will give you plenty to work on: you can spread the tasks out over time so they’re not overwhelming.
According to Steve Krug in Don’t Make Me Think, site testing is accessible to all of us if we use this technique:
- Sit someone down in front of your site who isn’t intimately involved in its maintenance. Ideally, this will be someone who represents the type of visitor you’d like to attract to your business, but who hasn’t spent time on your site. You want someone with “fresh eyes” to do this test.
- Ask them to navigate through your pages and speak aloud what they’re thinking. Stand behind them and take notes. Steve recommends filming them from behind so you can see their screen and what they’re seeing as they comment. You can also use screen capture software like Camtasia or ScreenFlow for this task.
- Note what they say as they navigate through your site. For example “I clicked on your About page, but I don’t see a photo of you. I wish I knew what you looked like.” Or, “I went to your Services page, but I don’t know where to go from here, or what to do next.”
Having someone do an informal tour of your site like this and talk about what they’re seeing is a great way to expose weaknesses you might not see. You’ll know what needs improving, and you can add that to your maintenance tasks.
Triage Your Results
Try not to get overwhelmed by all the to-dos that result from this testing. Instead, take the results and prioritize them so you can work on the areas that will have the most impact on improving your site visitors’ experience first.
When you run out of tasks, you’ll know it’s time for another test.
Turn That Ball and Chain into a Shovel
Embrace your ongoing commitment to your website. That’s not really a ball and chain around your ankle — it’s a shovel in your hand that’s poised to dig into your site improvements!