Here is a list of basic site maintenance tasks any small voluntary sector group needs to undertake to maintain their website. The time and work involved will depend upon the size of the site, the amount of activity in the group and other imponderables. Some people may find they enjoy working on the site and there’s always more to do if you are that way inclined.
Let’s start with essentials and after that I’ll add a few other activities that enhance a site.
These are the things you must do to make sure your site functions in the interests of your group. They are not necessarily large amounts of work. The key is to get organised and stay on top of it. If you leave it a few weeks the amount of work may be daunting and you may forget how to do certain tasks. I shall explore each of these in more detail in later posts.
- Site maintenance is essential for your site’s security. If you have added a lot of valuable content you don’t want to lose it to hackers or if your website should crash. You need to make sure you have paid for your domain name hosting; update your cms, themes and plug-ins as new updates become available; back-up your site regularly and protect it from against spam. If set up properly, these need little maintenance beyond checking they are working properly. Many send warnings to an email address when they need attention.
- Keep your site up-to-date. There is little more damning criticism than “the site is out of date”. Christmas greetings in July is a give-away – this site is unloved. So, take time to check each page for time-limited content and bring it up to date. If you use your blog to announce future events, don’t forget to archive past events. The best way to stay up-to-date is to add new content to your blog. This need not be every day. How you do it is up to you; you might add a post every Tuesday morning or add posts at random times 2 or 3 times a week all are evidence your site is alive.
- Respond to feedback. Your site should have some means of feedback. The main message here is if you receive it respond to it! Respond comment to a comment, email to email. This is the best way to make sure the person who comments receives the reply. If the correspondence is private you may want to add it to your site in some way. If someone suggests something, thank them and tell them how you intend to respond. And then do it!
- Adding new content to the site is important if you are going to present a website with soul. Make no mistake this shows your commitment, not to the website but to your cause. So many sites seem to say “We have a cause but we don’t care about sharing it with you”. Actually if you don’t care about me the visitor I don’t care about your cause. If you don’t want me to respond positively to your cause, why do you bother with this site?
- List Management is crucial. Why is it so important? It is the only way you are going to get visitors to return to your site. They’ll come back when they receive an email about a new blog post on a topic that interests them.
- Site reviews are important and perhaps they are essential. From time to time, you need to take a look at your site, read the pages, deal with all the strange things you never knew were there. Then step back and think about whether there is more you can do to refresh its content.
- Analytics – recording them should be part of your routine maintenance as there may come a time when you want to review visitor behaviour.
- Newsletters – there are many vehicles for online newsletters. They can be done by email broadcast but blogs can also take on the role. You may have a number of clients who are not online and so need to print off a newsletter that otherwise your site distributes electronically. Words and images are the usual medium but audio and video newsletters are possibilities.
- Product development is a possibility if you have something you can sell or give away.