A lot goes into developing a website. There is planning, wireframing, designing, testing, optimizing, validating, and numerous other challenges – and that’s just to create a mostly blank canvas! You’ll still need content to fill out your new digital digs.
But, assuming everything went according to plan and the site goes live without a hitch, you now have a new responsibility: managing your site.
The web moves fast. Standards change, design trends shift, and best practices evolve. Web 2.0 is already over a decade old, so another major transformation is probably not far off. Plus, most content isn’t evergreen, it needs to be updated, refreshed, and added to constantly.
Here are 10 things you need to do to effective manage your website:
- Oversee the Style Guide – Hopefully, in the initial phase of development you sat down and came up with an overarching set of standards to guide all your decisions down the road. Consistency improves communication and makes navigation easier. Every page should adhere fairly strictly to your style guide, and the guide itself should be reviewed and updated on a recurrent basis.
- Set an Annual Maintenance Budget – Plan on devoting at least 50 percent of what it cost to build your site to ongoing expenses. This number is a just a rule of thumb. Sites with more constant updates will obviously be more expensive to maintain, but if you build a big, beautiful website and then fail to support its growth you risk letting your initial investment slowly but surely go to waste.
- Monitor Load Times – It’s an oft repeated refrain, but attention spans are short these days. Don’t keep people waiting. Plus, slow loading times will negatively affect your SEO efforts. Use tools like GTMetrix or Google Pagespeed Insights to track and optimize your site performance.
- Stay Responsive – Today’s websites need to look good on a variety of platforms. Responsive web design has thankfully made the tools to adapt your site automatically to fit just about any screen size, but they still need constant oversight. Every update or new page added needs to be checked to make sure it works well on desktop and mobile, and perhaps even on wearable devices if you are extra forward thinking.
- Plan for Regular Redesigns – As mentioned earlier, best practices on the web are something of a moving target. Today’s cutting edge, highly secure, and smoothly running website is tomorrow’s clunker. Templates go stale, services stop being supported, and new ones gain prominence. At least once a year consider a refresh, if not a major overhaul.
- Weed Out Linkrot – Your site doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Even if you aren’t linking heavily to other sites, you’ll still have plenty of internal links. Over time some of those links will start pointing to incorrect places, or no place at all, leading to a dreaded 404 page not found error. Broken links hurt usability, lower your place in search engine results, and simply look bad and unprofessional. There are a number of online tools that will scour your site for dead ends, including some free ones.
- Create New Content – From the user’s perspective, this is what it’s all about. They are coming to your site for more than just to ogle your design choices or remark on how fluid your navigation scheme is. They want content that is relevant and enticing. That means images, videos, articles, links, promotions, and tools that will inform, entertain, and assist them. Monitor your traffic and A/B test to make sure you’re giving them just that.
- Promote – Use your social media channels to direct visitors to your site, build a following, and engage your audience in a mutually beneficial dialogue. Optimize for higher rankings on search engines. Consider using pay-per-click platforms like Google Adwords to increase traffic. And don’t forget that humble old email is still a powerful direct marketing tool for websites.
- Stay Secure – A spate of breaches, leaks, hacks, and other web security disasters rocked the world the past few years. Don’t let your site be the next victim. Update your security practices regularly and stringently enforce them. Require complex passwords (and two-factor authorization when available), lock down administrative access, use a firewall, and monitor your traffic for suspicious activity.
- Backup – Even the best laid plans can go awry. Seemingly secure sites can be compromised. Well-built data centers can experience failures. Unplanned outages are an unfortunate reality. Backup your data regularly, check the integrity of those backups, and store them in separate, redundant, locations.