It’s the nature of my job that I’m usually working on building sites or rebuilding them. I’ve got half a dozen right now that need rewriting, several needing new content, one about to go live, and several more waiting to be built.
But one of the great things about a website is that it will continue to work for you even when you’re not working on it. With you or without you, your well-designed and optimized website will do its job.
You have to update your blog regularly, of course. If that’s not on your daily to-do list or part of your morning routine, then you need to hire someone for it. Apart from that, though, your website can continue to do its job for you for a while without needing any updates. You can float along the river in your canoe, enjoying the peace of the surroundings (or fending off attacks on some other front entirely, if your business is like that), and your website will serve as part of your sales force 24 hours a day.
This is the danger, really. It’s easy to miss the moment at which you should have updated your site, and then you end up with a site that badly needs updating. That’s not what you want. It can be great to shoot the rapids in business: the thrill of new product launches, the challenge of speedy growth, the excitement of the Really Big Deal –that’s fun. Finding yourself in urgent need of a redesign you didn’t budget for because your outdated website is losing you business is not fun at all.
Ideally, you can see the need for an update ahead, and plan for it. How can you tell that it’s about time for an update at your website?
- Technology has changed. I see lots of websites with badly outdated code. They left it too long. Even if yours isn’t badly outdated, you might want to take advantage of some new things that have come up since mine was built. If you have Flash components that aren’t friendly to search, you might want to update to newer, more search-friendly options. If your visitors are mostly using modern browsers (you can find out through your analytics), you might like to take advantage of some CSS3 options.
- Business has changed. I’ve kept my content updated as things changed in my business. However, some business changes require design changes. For example, the increasing importance of social media means that most businesses should now include connections to Facebook, Twitter, etc. as part of the call to action on the homepage. For another business, new services or products might require a new section of a website. If you don’t do your own content updates, you need to check your site now and then to make sure there isn’t some outdated information — old hours, a new product you should showcase, a change in staff — that needs correction.
- Fashions have changed. Let’s face it, there are fashions in web design just as in anything else. If your website looks dated, your business will look dated. Just as your office decor or your brochures have to be spiffed up every now and then to keep your company looking current and fresh, your website has to be updated now and then for the same reason.
You need a content refresh every few months. A design refresh should be on your calendar and in your budget every few years. Doing this essential maintenance will allow you to float happily along, secure in the knowledge that your website is doing its job for you.