Unfortunately, it’s not realistic to build a website and never touch it again. Your website is going to need some maintenance moving forward, ranging from minor updates to major redesigns.
Do you remember how websites looked in the late 90s or early 2000s? What would you think if you came across a site that looked like that right now? You’d probably leave, right? Web design is still evolving, and that’s why sites only a few years old may seem outdated now. You’ll need to stay current with the expectations of customers to keep them coming back.
Let’s explore some of the common website maintenance tasks that you’ll need to take on, ranging from the most simple to the most complicated.
Product & Page Additions
As your online presence grows, you may decide to sell a few more items. Or, as time goes on, you may realize that you need a new page, like a FAQ or set of instructions for using a product. Or you may even need to remove a page and replace it with something else. These are all fairly easy tasks to take on, as long as you’re using a CMS.
If you need to make a lot of additions all at once, remember to look for a “bulk upload” option in your CMS that will allow you to get a lot of new products or pages on your site via an Excel spreadsheet. This can make any future maintenance much easier and faster than doing everything by hand!
For those of you on a self-hosted CMS, you may occasionally learn that there’s an update to the software you are using, or any additional plugins that you’ve installed. Updating your CMS can be tricky, so you may want to ask a web development company for help if you’re not sure what you’re doing. After a little downtime, your site will be back to normal, and probably sporting some new functions that help you sell more efficiently!
If you’re using a hosted CMS, the provider will take care of these updates for you, although they may still notify you (in case of downtime or potential issues). Wordpress updates are notoriously easy, even if you do them yourself, but use caution: mixing old plugins with a new database can sometimes spell trouble, so be sure you update everything regularly.
After your site is open for a little while, you may decide that you want to change your background color from gray to white, or that your logo should be centered instead of on the left side. Or you may want to change several button colors, since some A/B testing has proven that orange works better than green for you. This is fairly easy to accomplish, and usually doesn’t take much time at all.
You can edit your HTML and CSS files to adjust the way your design appears. Just keep in mind that any changes you make to your design should probably be tested first: nothing is worse than assuming that a color change will increase your ROI, only to find out that it decreases it!
If your site needs to support something that the CMS doesn’t accommodate out of the box, you’re probably going to find a plugin for it. Adding plugins can double or even triple what your site can do; on Wordpress, they’re pretty much a requirement for getting your ecommerce store to function.
A quick search will tell you whether or not you can get a plugin to do something you think your site should be able to do. We mentioned Avalara earlier for sales tax application on orders, which is one example of a plugin. Plugins also exist for everything from modifying the checkout process to collecting email addresses for newsletter signups. They can be installed fairly easily, and implemented on your website quickly (as long as you know what you’re doing).
If you’re on a hosted CMS, this may prove tricky for you. Hosted CMS platforms are sometimes offered “as is,” so if you need something they can’t accommodate, there’s no real way to add it. After all, the company that owns the CMS also owns the server. This may require a switch to a different CMS entirely.
What if I Want to Redesign My Website?
As we mentioned, even websites that are only a few years old run the risk of appearing outdated. If you think it’s time for a full redesign, hop back to chapter 5 to learn about your options. They’ll essentially be the same as the first time you picked an option for your design, although by now you may have some more ideas about how your site should look and feel.
One note of caution: many website owners who decide they want a redesign may have to change their CMS to accomplish it. If your want to move from a basic design to a far more complicated one, it may be necessary to leave a hosted CMS for a self-hosted one, or ditch Wordpress in favor of a more advanced platform. This can result in a lot of work, as we’ll explain below.
What if I Want to Move to a New CMS?
Changing your CMS is tricky, to say the least. Each CMS has a different set of requirements, stores its information differently, and handles processes in its own unique way. Because of this, it can sometimes be difficult to move from one to another, and the process may require a lot of work to be done by hand.
Sometimes, though, it’s absolutely necessary to move to a new CMS. You might outgrow the current one, desire functionality that goes beyond what you can add with plugins or custom code, or want a website design that your current platform just can’t accommodate. If that’s the case, you’ll need to prepare for the long haul.
As we mentioned earlier in this guide, moving to a different CMS will probably require you to maintain and work on both sites at the same time until you’re prepared for the big switch. You may be able to export and import some data – like product pages, user accounts, and order history – but the move will essentially be the equivalent of starting fresh. This may be great for you, if you’re tired of your current site... or it may just be annoying.
Think long and hard before deciding to change your CMS. Is it worth it? Will you really gain a lot from the process? Will it inconvenience your customers, or will the new platform give you better opportunities to serve them? Ultimately, the decision is up to you – just remember that a company like WebFX can help you with any major move like this one. There is no website task or project that you have to handle all by yourself!