The Perils of Inadequate Website Maintenance
Do you manage or in some way oversee a website? If you do, you are in the right place to learn about why maintenance might be better than replacing your existing site.
As a web development shop, our focus has been to design and create compelling websites that are easy to manage. In 2022 we have seen a shift away from building new sites towards maintaining the site you have; no doubt part of the evolution of our ecosystem post-pandemic.
This is also a reflection of the fact that the web these days is evolving in ways that do not specifically relate to consumer and B2B focused websites. Web 3.0 and Social Media sites may be pushing the boundaries of what is possible, but for the most part websites are the same as they were five years ago, just better optimized, faster and more compliant of established industry standards like Accessibility and Responsiveness.
It is a fact that if your site is slow, or appears broken, you will get fewer leads, referrals and opportunities to shine. Some stats:
- Multiple studies have shown that users make a determination of whether they like a site in less than a second; and they will leave if they do not like or trust your site.
- Per Cloudflare, as your site slows down due to out of date code or site elements, your conversion rate drops as well: A site loading in 2.4 seconds saw a 1.9% conversion rate; the same site loading in 5.7 seconds saw conversions drop to 0.6% conversion.
- With purchases and conversions from Mobile devices growing upwards of 29% year over year, it has never been more important that your site be mobile optimized and working seamlessly. Today, mobile devices represent 63% of all retail web visits.
- Never mind the fact that unhappy users are much more likely to share their experience with others online.
As a result, our team thought we would share some of what we see, and provide recommendations related to these observations.
- Managing your website is not the same thing as maintaining your website.
- Managing your site includes updating your content, adding new and better SEO tags, and regularly reviewing the site to be sure that the customer experience has been fully optimized to accomplish their goals, as well as yours.
- Maintaining your website includes updating the core of the CMS, updating your plugins, server code, as well as addressing functional or compatibility issues based on your defined user base.
- It’s not always good news: like your car there will come a time when you need to upgrade, replace or fix parts of the site.
- Whether it is because somebody is trying to compromise your site, or changes in your hosting, it is important to anticipate maintenance and budget for it. You would be shocked how often we see companies and organizations spend $100K or more on a site that has zero budgeted for maintenance in year 2.
- A well-planned site is easy to maintain; a constantly evolving site is growing in complexity every day.
- Modern content management systems include build-your-own page systems, like the Gutenberg blocks in WordPress, or paragraph types in Drupal. By properly planning the site, you can ensure that you have the blocks you need, and can avoid the sprawl of new blocks constantly being added. We recently updated a client site that had nearly 200 content blocks when it really only needed 30; but every time an update was made to the site they created new blocks.
- Free plugins save time in development but add to the maintenance and security nightmare.
- Your Content Management System requires regular patches and updates, but so too do your plugins and other functional components of the site. These often conflict; it is never as easy as simply clicking the ‘Update’ button and walking away, everything needs to be verified and when one upgrade breaks something else, you have to track that item down and address it. Clearly the more plugins you have the bigger this effort will be.
So what can you do?
- Budget and plan on annual website maintenance. You can reach out to us here for a free website review and assessment including Accessibility and other potential issues.
- When choosing your new website partner, make sure that they offer support and maintenance options. Some companies build bad websites and refuse to maintain them. If your vendor does not offer maintenance, that is often a bad reflection of how they are going to build the site.
- Make sure your vendor tells you in advance what maintenance your site will need, how many hours of work, and the cost per hour. While some emergency website patches can’t be predicted, most everything else can be.
- If you are having difficulty loading content easily and quickly, you might just need a software update, not a new site. We can tell you what’s holding up your content loading. We’ll need to log into your site and look around, but it shouldn’t take long to figure out what the problem is.
- In some cases, the folks who know how the website works move on and new people are left to figure out how it works. We can write a user manual for you, and provide training to your new website team.