A website is built with code. Whether it’s the code that’s used to display your content on your web page, the code that’s used to make it all look great or the code that hooks it all up to your content management system (CMS), regular maintenance is good for any website, small or large.
Keeping the code easy to work with is vital in the ‘evolution vs revolution’ approach to building a website.
My world-famous ‘wall’ analogy
Imagine you build a wall. You now need to build it a little bit higher. So you could put a new layer of bricks on top and it’s now higher and still pretty strong. The problem is, once you do that a few times its weakness starts to become apparent. To build the wall any higher, the whole wall needs to be knocked down and built from the ground up.
The way to solve this is to take a few bricks out of the existing wall and build the new layer into rather than on top of the existing wall. Much stronger. That wall can get higher and higher and you know it’ll be as strong as can be.
To mix my metaphors slightly, to make one step forward you often have to first take one step backwards, then two steps forward.
Maintenance is not just useful when you need to add some functionality on your site. As time passes things change and your website will usually benefit from taking advantage of these changes.
As time passes web browsers can do all sorts of cool new things. Some are not all that useful but others can make browsing your website easier and faster.
When the CMS software your site is built with is updated, it’s not just control panel cosmetics and security issues that are released – new improved ways of doing things are also introduced. Coding these in will often make it quicker for you to update your website’s content. Or things that were ‘hacked’ in might suddenly become easier to pull off.
Now this is a pretty blockbuster example, but it demonstrates a point: think back to 2007 when Apple released the first iPhone. Everything changed. Suddenly it was possible to ‘surf’ the web from your phone. Sure, it was possible before that, but how often did you do it? The web browser on my Nokia was terrible…
With the iPhone came a switch in the way we thought about a website. Fixed-width designs were no longer an option and we embraced designs that respond to the size of the browser window, so that using a website on your phone’s dinky screen was easy. We also started thinking about designing for touch screen devices and a whole host of other things!
If technology changes, your website will normally benefit from keeping up.
Trends come and go, but a well designed website will usually stand the test of time. Having said that, while your site might still be easy to use, it can start to look pretty dated fairly quickly.
Design trends usually bring with them all sorts of problems. But sometimes, as the design community overcomes those problems, new and better ways of presenting something are discovered.
Making regular design tweaks stops your site getting tired-looking and keep it useable.
Tools of the trade
The tools we used to build a website change over time. Here’s a quick list of some of the things that have become easier over the past year or two:
- Setting up a new website project
- Writing and maintaining code
- Getting changes up onto your live site
- Managing all the components that make up a website
This has removed a lot of the faff from what I do, freeing me up to spend more time on my client’s websites. But setting up the tooling to make all these efficiencies can take some time. Adding tried and tested tools steadily over time means that your website is always in a good position when work is to be carried out.
Ask your web designer if they have any maintenance plans that mean they keep your site’s software up to date. It could also be worth arranging a retainer so that they can work with you a little bit each month to add new features or make tweaks to the design, making your site better and better as time goes by. The last thing you want to do is knock the wall down and start again…!