Consider this; you buy a car and only do the bare minimum of maintenance to get it through the MOT. You get some advisories and decide to save your money. Your electric window sticks occasionally and you ignore it. There’s a scrape coming from the brakes, but it doesn’t seem to affect the car. Perfect, you’ve saved a lot of money.
This is great if you have a ‘throwaway car’, but if you have something a little newer then a few years later you’ll take it to a mechanic who’ll suck air through his teeth when telling you how much money you’re going to need to spend to get it road legal.
This is exactly what happens with a lot of websites, and is known as being in ‘technical debt’. Effectively you ‘owe’ your website an increasing amount of money in order to get it to a baseline.
But why is this an issue?
We’re different to many other web agencies in that we’ll happily take over and modify websites from others; in fact recently this is becoming an increasingly larger part of our business.
When clients approach us with a list of their modifications it’s pretty common that, before we can do them, we need to fix the ‘mess’ that has been left behind.
Examples that jump to mind would be WordPress, Joomla or Magento websites that haven’t been updated in a long time, projects where functionality has been ‘fudged’ in for a short term fix, or ones that have been left to stagnate.
It’s never nice to be the bearer of bad news and tell a client that their website is going to cost a lot of money just to get up to par, and even worse when it would be more cost effective to start over.
Worst case, and one that we see all of the time, is where the customer has had their website hacked because it hasn’t had security updates. They have turned a cheap routine procedure in to a long and expensive process that could potentially cost more than the website is worth, and potentially cause damage to their reputation, harm their SEO and even lose work because of it.
This is why I thought I’d share a few things that you can do to keep on top of your website in order to avoid disaster one day when it suddenly becomes unfit for purpose.
Keep it updated
If you have a website built on an off the shelf system such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Umbraco, or Magento ensure that it is always kept up to date.
Try to avoid botches
OK a lot of this is down to your web developer, but if there is often a proper way of doing something, and a cheap way, trust their advice and do it properly.
Test it frequently
The amount of websites that we see that have a broken contact form or map is phenomenal. Every month or two scan your site on both a PC and mobile phone, and look for errors. Can you make a booking? Is everything clear? Does it load fast? Even test the phone numbers, I’ve seen a few recently where they don’t work!
Keep up to date with technologies
Does your website have an SSL certificate? Does it work perfectly on mobiles? Is it optimised for search engines? Ask your web agency if there is anything you should be adding – I’m sure they’ll welcome the potential work! Keeping on top of this now means you’ll avoid a sudden shock later on.
Review the content
A website may easily last five years, but in this time your business could change drastically. Therefore, is the content up to date and relevant? I know we’re reviewing ours now as our business has evolved a lot recently.
Spruce it up
Websites go through design phases just like everything else. Is there a way of giving it a ‘lick of paint’ to prolong its life?
Websites are one of the most powerful tools we have to generate business, and are our ‘shop front’ to the world, 24-7, so it most certainly is worth looking over them from time to time and keeping them ‘serviced’.
This will not only make them work more effectively, but will prolong their life, and help prevent a or big problem or unavoidable costs in a few years.
We are Webbed Feet, we like our clients to keep their websites up to date