In a few words, website maintenance is the work needed to keep your website working at its best, meeting the user experience (UX) of your audience, and projecting a beautiful and professional image of your business, blog, or organization. That’s not exactly a clear explanation, so let’s use an example to help.
Think of your website as a store building. When your site launches, you have a brand new freshly painted building, with bright, shiny promotional signs that advertise your business to passers-by. Maybe you even have one of those electronic display signs to attract attention. It looks great. Very likely in just a little while, the newness will become mundane and it will become a common-place building indistinguishable from those around it.
Obviously, if you never looked at your store again, that would be an issue. Aside from the fact that you should probably update it every once-in-a-while, your paint will become faded and cracked, a promotional sign may come loose and hang awkwardly, or that electronic display sign may encounter a glitch — as computer-operated equipment are prone to do — and become garbled. Eventually, the lack of attention to your store may warn people away due to the neglect.
Your website is not a lot different from this example. Over a period of time, they can begin to show imperfections and behave strangely, thereby reducing their effectiveness to promote your blog, business, or organization. Sometimes, other services upon which your website depends to function can change and cause operational problems. These changes accumulate over time and can cause your website that looked great when first launched to appear rundown and inoperable. Website maintenance means staying on top of these changes and keeping everything in good working order.
Continuing with our store example, these are things that are not covered under Website Maintenance. Doing a remodel of the store, or a complete new paint job and adding new promotional signs. While it is probably a good idea to remodel and update the look of your store every so often so as to keep a fresh, vibrant look so that people notice you are an on-going concern. When the look of your store becomes stale, it gives the impression of inactivity and does not attract attention as it once did.
Keeping your store updated and adding new displays, per our example, is considered content creation. There is more information about content creation in the blog. Website Maintenance is about making sure what IS in the store looking good and working well.
So, you ask, “Why does my site need to be maintained?” It’s not like it’s my store building, affected by the sun and weather. The files are not fading! Why should some website files change over time and need to be maintained?
Okay, that is kind of correct. Your website is not actually fading or becoming weathered like your store. But it’s not a static object on display in a museum, either. There are a few ways that bugs, mistakes, and changes accumulate in your website files. One is that the web is constantly changing (which is unpreventable), or you may have made changes while adding to your website in such a way that brought new complications. And, there are other reasons — programs upon which your website depends may have changed and need to be updated, which can necessitate other changes, updates, and corrections, (which is inescapable).
Unless your site is built using entirely static files, the platform your website is built on itself will eventually require updating. For security reasons, you should always try to be on the latest version of whatever software your website uses. Developers will find security issues and patch them in updates, but this work will only benefit you if you regularly update. And of course, there are usually new features you can take advantage of by updating. If you let your site go forever without updating the underlying platform, eventually you’ll run into issues with your hosting platform no longer supporting the version of software you’re running.
Updates themselves can cause maintenance issues as well. Something about your site may be built in a way that works on an old version of your site’s software, but needs to be fixed in order to work on the new version. Ignoring these issues or holding off on updating to avoid the cost of fixing them is a risky plan and will create a snowball effect. Eventually, something will force you to address these maintenance concerns, they’ll have to be tackled all at once, which is inevitably more expensive.
Another cause of maintenance issues is that your site relies on external services for some of its functionality. Think like google maps, or some plugin that needs to pull data from a server you don’t own or control. Lots of functionality works like this, and it’s perfectly fine and normal.
But sometimes those external services will change how they require data to be requested, or what data they send back in return. And what that means is that, if left alone long enough, sometimes parts of your website can break without any changes on your end.
Mostly this comes back to the first issue: your website needs to be updated. These services try to put out warnings in advance of them changing in order to avoid issues like these. If you’re using an actively developed tool to access these external services, that tool probably will have an update ready before it becomes an issue. But if the code you’re using is something you or your developers created themselves, the responsibility to proactively update it to avoid errors falls on you.
This is the simplest and most common cause of website maintenance issues. If you’re using your website actively, you’re going to be adding a lot of content. And some of that content will inevitably be a little… wonky. It’s fine, it happens, but it’s important to do regular sweeps to check for content irregularities that are eroding your user experience. Common content issues can include:
The amount of text added to an element is much larger than the design intended.
These are quirks that should have been caught in the content creation stage but inevitably slipped through. If you don’t ever allow time to go back and fix them, they just pile up like any other maintenance issue.
Lack of maintenance can turn a great site into a frustrating one. Just like anything else intended for regular use, they need time and attention to stay in good, working order. A well-maintained site, on the other hand, communicates that you care about the details, your organization, and the user experience of your audience.
If you have a site that you’re struggling to maintain, or maybe want to start fresh with a new site and get it right this time, We can help! Contact us and find out how we can help with your site maintenance issues today.
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