Keeping your website up to date can be a challenge – believe me, I know. I spent 16 years maintaining websites full-time. For small businesses and non-profits, websites are sometimes seen as “extra” when it comes to updates, but they’re one of the most important things to keep current, because people are more likely to check you out online before contacting you. That means your website is often their first impression, so you don’t want it to be out of date.
I’m going to show you how to set up a system that will help you maintain your website content, as well as show you where you can make changes on your website that make it easier for you (and less work so you can focus on other things).
Make It Someone’s Job
Your website content needs to be owned by someone. This person might be you or someone on your staff. Don’t give this job to the youngest person in your office and assume that because he or she is young, they are “computer savvy” and this should be second-nature. In today’s age, learning basic website upkeep is a job skill similar to using email – your office staff needs to know how to do this. It’s as simple as opening the right software and updating the text – just a step harder than updating a word processing document.
Depending on the size of your website and the amount of content on it, this job might be divied up among several people. For example, your sales person might be responsible for making sure your products and/or services are current, whereas your office manager is responsible for making sure your hours and contact information is up to date, including updates as staff change if those are posted online.
You may also choose to have one person make the changes on the website, but someone else be responsible for giving them the updates. In the example above, your sales manager might be responsible for the sales content, but your office manager goes onto the website and makes the updates. You need to determine this process based on your business and staff. I find that some people prefer to make the changes on the website themselves, whereas others are very happy to pass the needed updates on to another person.
Add Web Updates to Your Processes
You probably have someone who updates your brochure (if you have one) – who makes sure the updated brochure is posted online (whether it’s a PDF of the brochure or the content is more web-friendly)? There’s a strong possibility that no one thinks about that, and that’s a mistake. If you’re already updating another publication, the very next step is to make sure the same information is updates on your website. The easiest way to do this is to add it to your procedures. It will take a little while, but eventually updating your website will happen as the next step, just like calling the printer.
Minimize Upkeep By Maximizing Content
There are a few simple changes that you can make on your website that require fewer updates.
Dates vs. Years
When possible, state the date instead of the number of years. For example, instead of saying “ABC Inc. has been serving the community for 25 years,” change it to “ABC Inc. has been serving the community since 1992.” The same information is relayed, but you don’t need to go onto your website every year and change the number of years. This simple tactic becomes even more useful if you include bios of your staff online.
If you have a special anniversary year, put the dates on the icon – so a 25-year seal should also have 1992-2017 on it. That way you can use that seal for more than a year and your visitors know when you celebrated 25 years.
One of my favorite make-my-life-easier hacks is to keep document names the same on websites. As a webmaster, I got new versions of documents all the time, and instead of uploading “Report-final-2017.pdf” I changed the name to “Report.pdf” – then, every time the report needed to be updated, I would upload the new version, which automatically replaces the file. The reason this is really smart is that once you upload the new document, you’re done. You don’t need to go through your website an update every link – which can be tricky on a large website where documents are accessible from several locations (which can be important for usability). Whenever that happens, it never fails that one of the links wasn’t updated and goes to the wrong version, then you have two versions of the same document on your website – or you deleted the old version and one of the links goes to a 404 Not Found page. Using a new file name for each update makes keeping your website up to date complicated fast.
The exception to this is when there are several versions from specific years that need to be posted at the same time. If you have one price list each year and you only have the current one posted, keep the same file name. But if you need to have a two PDF calendars posted, then you will need to note them by year. In this case, keep a list of all of the places where this document has a link and add that to your update procedure.
Plugins and Code Embeds
If you have a calendar of events and you use a Google calendar or another tool internally, see if you can post those public events onto your website automatically. Google calendar has the ability to embed a calendar. This way, you don’t need to make the update in two places.
Annual Event Images
If you have a recurring event that you post on your website with a nice graphic on your home page, use the same image every year by creating an image (or paying a graphic designer to create it for you) without the date on it. This might not always be possible, but when it is, it makes your life easier because that image will already be uploaded onto your website, you’ll just need to post it when the time comes without needing to update the image and upload it.
Use Text Over Images
When you do have content that needs to be updated annually, put the dates in text on your website instead of in an image. Text is way easier to update, whereas images require you to go into an image editing software, make the change, then upload it and post it on your website. Not the end of the world, but when possible, have those updates made in the text itself instead.
Images With Dates
When you do need to use dates on an image, make it as easy on yourself as possible by using the same image each year with just the text change for the date. This means making the update happens as quickly as possible, plus the image size will already be correct since you used the same one last year. This also lends to consistency, which is helpful for visitors.
For other images that you make frequently, create a template. If you look at my blog title image, they’re consistent because I created a template that I update each week. I used to use a new image every week, and it took much longer to find an image, pick the font, and place it onto the image. Now it takes me a few minutes. .
Keep an Update Calendar
There are places where your website can’t have an easy hack, such as the CC date on the bottom. How many websites have you need to where that date is from last year? That makes visitors question whether the entire website is current at all. And it’s an easy one to miss for you, because it’s one of those things that you don’t pay attention to – it sorts of fades away as you look at your website.
I always have a document with a list of updates that need to be made throughout the year. This means on Jan. 2 (or your first day back in the new year) you should update the date in your footer, as well as any other date-related items that need to be changed. When your new price list comes out, that date and item should be listed, as well as everywhere it needs to be changed (such as Product page and PDF). Chances are you have certain things that occur cyclically, so take an hour or so to write those down and the places where those updates need to happen on your website. As the year goes on and new things pop up (or things that you didn’t remember), add them to the list. You or your staff are more likely to remember to make the updates, make the correct updates, and make them in all of the correct locations on your website.
To help you out, I created a free Website Update Calendar for you. This fully editable spreadsheet is better than an asprin!