One of the most overlooked parts of Web publishing is maintenance. The excited rush of finally releasing your site often distracts you from the on going costs of having a website. Information goes stale, new information becomes available, new technologies emerge, old technologies phase out, word smithing is refined, standards change, laws change...the world changes. Waiting too long to update can make it a huge and expensive chore. So it's important to have a maintenance plan that keeps your site fresh and efficient without bogging down your time. Like all activities, it is a matter of implementing sustainable continuous improvement. Here's some suggestions to make easy work of Web site maintenance.
- Review small parts of your site in small groups on a regular schedule
- Meet regularly. Meeting to review parts of your site in a 30 minute weekly or bi-weekly meeting is a great strategy to keep your site fresh. You'll be less likely to get burned out or incur the additional costs of a "complete overhaul" project.
- Work on small parts. Review 5 to 10 pages per review session. This makes the sessions short and focused. And it makes the maintenance work accomplishable before your next review meeting.
- Work in small groups. Form small groups of 2 or 3 people to review specific categories of web content. Large departments might organize by subdepartment or team. Workgroups might organize by role. Small departments might review their whole site as a group. Groups mean that you retain knowledge in your department despite employee turn over. Small groups are more agile than large unwieldy committees.
- Think of business schedules. There are really good business times to audit your website. Academic support departments should consider refreshing their websites for the coming semester. Financial groups should plan updates before fiscal year and quarter deadlines. Your goal is to get your site maintenance process ahead of your business milestones. This helps your department develop a culture of improvement by incorporating web maintenance into your existing routine. And it keeps your Web site fresh.
- Site Review Worksheet. The site review worksheet is one of the best tools for reviewing your site. Change the document to meet your needs and use it as a scoring rubric for your review sessions. Assign a category to each person on your review team. Have them take notes in the document and score the elements in their category. This approach gives people an easy framework. It also creates a document that can be distributed to interested parties or used to show continuous improvement for accreditation.
- Pre-review. Review the site before the meeting. Each person on the review team can focus on a specific category or set of pages. Share your findings at the meeting and take action items for recommendations. This will keep you meetings agile and keep people from duplicating work.
- Get help. Sign up for CMS training. Ask the web pros to do a formal site review for you. Email the cms-authors mailing list to ask questions. Collaboration will take some of the burden off of you and expand your knowledge base.