Maintenance Vs. Redesign
It’s important to know the difference between site maintenance and a site redesign. Maintenance begins as soon as the site is launched and continues until a site is redesigned. All information collected from a site during the maintenance period should be taken into consideration for the site redesign. Redesign is typically categorized as a way of making improvements to a site through new releases. These improvements may be related to look and feel or added functionality.
When to Consider a Redesign
Negative Feedback – If you are receiving an unordinary amount of negative feedback about a specific element, then you should reconsider a redesign. These trends are easy to identify and may be brought to your attention via email or phone call. Consider only that negative feedback that has a qualitative solution (i.e., topics that have a clear solution). Feedback that is subjective in nature, such as “I don’t like the colors or pictures you have on your site” are lower on your redesign priority list, since it is virtually impossible to satisfy the design preferences of all users.
Technology Changed – Changes in technology such as AJAX may require you to consider a site redesign. It is very important that you consider the true benefit of new technology before implementing it through a redesign. There are a number of impact areas including technical support or hardware/software requirements that have to change; not to mention the impact on the user if it requires them to learn something new in order to interact with your site.
New Look and Feel – Changing the look and feel of a site is a very tempting way to display “newness.” Redesigning your site may not only include the look and feel, but changing the design or layout of your site has an impact on the information architecture and the way content is displayed. Adding new photos or graphics does not constitute a redesign.
Accessibility Issues – You may discover that the way your site is currently laid out does not comply with accessibility standards. This is a good opportunity to redesign your site and implement accessibility best practices. If you use tables for layout purposes, make sure the table is identified in that manner. Make sure all new graphics have an appropriate “alt” tag. Consider using the templates and CSS available on the WebTools website to create a standards compliant website that keeps presentation and content separate.
Conduct Practical Reviews – Establish a schedule of periodic reviews from the redesign perspective. These reviews will be a reality check and help ensure that the site is not looking outdated or the content is becoming stagnant.
Schedule Your Maintenance
Project management requires setting and committing to schedules. Since webmasters handle multiple projects and roles, it is critical to create a site maintenance schedule that is realistic and regular. Knowing how often a site should be updated depends on the site’s objective, the type of content on the site, and the available resources to help write and edit content.
Creating a maintenance schedule:
- Print out your sitemap
- Target sections of your site that may contain “high risk” content such as hyperlinks, images, etc.
- Prioritize web pages, such as the home page
- Evaluate the level of effort for maintaining those web pages
- Coordinate schedules with your content providers and other resources
- Make a calendar and place it in a highly visible area
Identify Resources to Maintain a Site
Consider those who will be responsible for content and/or technical maintenance of the site. Many times the webmaster is tasked with the responsibility of keeping up with the content of the site. In some circumstances, other resources may be available to assist with content – they may not be technical resources. In those cases, training may be necessary.
TIP: When identifying resources, map a task to a skill then to a resource.
Understand the dependencies that impact type of your content and resources involved. If you are relying on others to provide content, your schedule must reflect dependencies – this may add to your timeframe.
Someone will need to be responsible for coordinating and vetting the new content stream, maintaining the graphic and editorial standards, and assuring that the programming and linkages of all pages remain intact and functional.
Manage Your Content
The bulk of the information on your website is content. As you know, content is made up of many elements aside from words. Taking a holistic approach will help you manage and maintain your site.
Most common maintenance problem areas:
- Home Page – This is the page that makes the biggest statement about your site – always keep your content current here.
- Hyperlinks – Nothing is more frustrating then encountering a broken link. Occasionally directory structure changes may cause internal links to break. This is more of a problem with external links. Special attention is required when linking to external websites, since you have no control of their content.
- Broken Images – Occasionally, directory structure may change or a web page may be moved inadvertently, and supporting files like images or other media may become disconnected.
- Staff Directory – Sites that list staff members require special attention, due to the fact that staff members change.
- Email Addresses – Email addresses are similar in nature to hyperlinks and must be checked regularly to ensure that they are still active. Additionally, webmasters must be conscious of staff changes that may impact the listing of email addresses.
- Phone Numbers – Phone numbers or extensions have a habit of changing often and webmasters are not always aware of these changes, so use caution when listing phone numbers.
Content maintenance and content management are closely related and often times confused. In the context of this WebTools site, content maintenance refers to manually maintaining the content elements within an agency website. Content management supports workflow, lends structure to content, and facilitates reuse.
Users are the reason you built your site, so it’s important to track their comments and feedback. Not only does it give them a forum through which to participate, it provides webmasters with invaluable information that can lead to improvements to the site.
Ways to Measure Customer Satisfaction
Many agencies use online customer satisfaction surveys, focus groups, and email feedback forms to gauge customer satisfaction and expectations. Providing a brief survey following an online transaction or interaction gets immediate feedback while the experience is still fresh in a user’s mind. Some agencies have developed their own surveys, sometimes using a contractor to compile and analyze the data. Others purchase commercial satisfaction surveys that use a standard methodology across multiple websites.
Examples of Surveys
Re-Invest in Your Site
Take the feedback you get from users and re-invest in your site. Filter through information you have collected from surveys, forms, email, phone calls, etc and look for trends. The cycle of release, improve, release should be ongoing. Every iteration – even a complete redesign, should be looked at as another version and improvements are built upon from previous versions.