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Carrot Patches


The importance of continuous web maintenance

Karen K. Burns


Often the importance and benefit of regular website reviews and updates are not that well understood and bigger changes with long intervals between them are preferred in website management.

As an allegory, let us imagine, that we have a beautiful garden, where all year round we must complete various activities in order to maintain its condition: springtime is spent sowing seeds and prepping soil, summer on weeding and mowing the lawn and autumn on harvesting activities. A garden is never ‘ready’ – there is always something to do. Now, if we leave our carrots unweeded for a few weeks then they will soon no longer be visible amongst them. When we complete this activity and finally rid the veg patch of unwanted plant-pests the job will be done, but our carrots will never be able to catch up with the ones that are growing on the plot that has been regularly maintained.

Often there is this idea of the website being a finite ‘thing’ that is complete once launched. Ongoing support and maintenance may seem like an unnecessary expense. This sort of attitude perhaps stems from two things: firstly, we are used to printed media, which indeed are complete after having come out of the print and will remain in use until the information on them needs to be renewed. With photo- and videography this finiteness has also been programmed into the mediums themselves. Secondly, when a longer gap has been left between changes to the website then due to the dramatic contrast between the old and the new versions it may seem as if ‘actual work’ has been done and the money has been spent well. Another thing here may be that, for NGO’s or public bodies, budget for such changes is in fact only made available every couple of years instead of smaller amounts on a regular basis. Let’s be fair – the same amount of cash would be spent anyway, whether maintaining your website regularly or after longer intervals – but the benefit of regular maintenance is aligned to the allegory above – the site will never look unkempt. In this respect the web is a unique medium – it will never be ‘ready’ and marketers ought to exploit this trait to its full advantage.

Paper vs digital

One of the main problems a lot of our new customers are mentioning is their estrangement from their web developers and the resulting paralyzed online presence. With an ongoing maintenance and support arrangement this would never be an issue. In an ideal world every company would have an ongoing maintenance and strategy programme for their website as part of their marketing or IT strategy. This is especially relevant for websites that hold a lot of data or those that have huge visitor numbers and should be a task for the partnering digital agency. In order for the customers to have a reason to return to your site it must be updated regularly with relevant content, services or company news items. In addition to this, regularly updating the layout and functionality of your site are just as important – just like Google, where new functionalities are added incrementally (that make you go ‘ooh! What a cool new tool, I’ll start using it right away’!) rather than in large batches that would just confuse the user. All the activities mentioned above are especially relevant when considering the new types of marketing and online presence strategies – namely inbound marketing – modelled on modern consumer behaviour.

Next post will discuss inbound and outbound marketing in more detail – check back on Friday 🙂

Photo sources: here and here.