In this issue:

  • Annual Website Maintenance Checklist: 10.5 Top Tasks to Tackle
  • The Lighter Side of the Web: New Year's Resolutions
  • About Web Insights

Issue 25original publication: December 31, 2003 last updated: February 12, 2004

Annual Website Maintenance Checklist

Inevitably there are a number of little, and not so little, website administrative and maintenance tasks that are hard to find time to tackle during the year. That's why we recommend performing an annual review of your site. To help get you started and get your site in shape for the New Year, here is POP's Annual Website Maintenance Checklist.

1. Review Your Domain Name Record

Don't let outdated information cause you to miss renewals and other important notices. Verify that the contact names and addresses on your domain record are correct once a year. Use these resources to review your domain record now:

  • InterNIC[http://www.internic.net/whois.html]
  • VeriSign[http://www.networksolutions.com/en_US/whois/]

2. Check Website Email Addresses

If your company has had organizational changes over the past year, and whose hasn't, you could have invalid email addresses on your site. Make a list of all the email addresses on your site and confirm that they're still active.

3. Update Your Confirmation and Automated Messages

If the automated messages from your registration, request, order and other forms have not been updated this year, it's time to review them. These messages can be powerful customer relations tools, but only if they're meeting your customers' needs. Make sure your automated messages are serving your customers—not spamming them.

If you aren't using automated messages for all of your forms, I strongly suggest adding them to your list of site upgrades for 2004. Here's some advice on what makes a good automated response:

4. Test Your Forms

In conjunction with updating your automated messages, you should test your forms to confirm that they're still functioning correctly—and to review how easy they are to use. Simply submit each as if you were a visitor on your site. Be sure to review your error messages as part of this process. You should test your forms often and immediately look into any sudden drops in the number of submissions.

5. Validate Your Links

Do your part to stop link rot, while improving your site, by making time to check your internal and external site links—especially if you've neglected this task due to more pressing demands. Here are a couple of basic tools that can help:

6. Check Your Site's Search Feature

Like most of the items on this list, checking your site's search feature should be done more than once a year. But we know it's not always possible to review all aspects of your site on an ongoing basis. That's why it's important to make sure your search is functioning effectively and that outdated content isn't showing up as part of your annual review.

If you don't have a search feature on your site, now's a good time to see if adding one would enhance your site's usability.

7. Check Your File Sizes and Download Times

If a lot of updates and additions have been made to your site, it might be time to check your site's performance. It's not unusual for page and image files to slowly creep up in size with each successive update. Re-optimizing your files so your pages load faster will make for a better user experience.

8. Review Your Stylesheets, Standards, Accessibility and Compatibility

If you want to save some serious time for your visitors—and for yourself during site maintenance—the annual review is the perfect time to revisit or set site standards covering CSS, Web Standards, Accessibility and Browser Compatibility.

Over the past two years we've seen many large and small sites embrace these ideas and abandon support for older browsers. However, many sites still have not made the switch. Regardless of the category your site falls into, now's a good time to re-evaluate your standard practices and see if you should update them.

To help you wrestle with the issues surrounding evolving your site to new standards, we offer these articles and resources:

Web Standards

Cascading Stylesheets (CSS):

  • CSS Work from meryerweb.com[http://www.meyerweb.com/eric/css/]
  • CSS Topics from A List Apart[http://alistapart.com/topics/css/]

XHTML:

  • The XHTML Way from 4 Guys from Rolla[http://www.4guysfromrolla.com/webtech/120303-1.shtml]
  • XHTML Overview from WebMonkey[http://hotwired.lycos.com/webmonkey/00/50/index2a.html]

Accessibility:

Browser Stats:

9. Update Your Time References and Copyright

About Us and other background information on your site may contain specific time references such as "for ten years". Your site may also include a historical timeline or list of accomplishments that should be updated at the start of the year.

In addition, your copyright should be updated when your content is updated. During your annual review, check to make sure this task hasn't been overlooked. Although you can simply use the date that the content was first created, it's a good idea for your copyright to reflect when content was created and when it was modified. This is not only to protect your work, but also to avoid having visitors think that your content is out of date. Below are some examples of the syntax:

Examples:

  • Content created in 2003:
    Copyright (c) 2003 POP Interactive Inc.
  • Content created in 2001 and updated in 2003:
    Copyright (c) 2001, 2003 POP Interactive Inc.
  • Content created in 2001 and updated in 2002 and 2003:
    Copyright (c) 2001-2003 POP Interactive Inc.

Learn More About Copyrights:

10. Check Your Search Engine Visibility

Over the past year, search engines have become one of the most important and cost-effective sources for attracting targeted traffic and increasing brand awareness for many sites. At the same time, many changes have taken place in how search engines return results and display paid (sponsored) listings. As a result, I urge you to check your site's visibility on the top search engines by searching for your company name, products and other appropriate keyword phrases.

If your site isn't coming up near the top of the results for these terms, you should look into the benefits of marketing your site through search engine optimization and paid placement:

10.5 Assess Your Site's Content & Features

If you want to conduct an all-encompassing annual review of your site, I'll be the first to encourage you. Reviewing all of your site's content and features, rather than just the specific items listed above, is a great way to take a big picture look at your site and identify content and features that should be added, updated or removed.

As part of your review, you should also identify areas of your site that may require better procedures or tools to streamline the maintenance process.

To get you started with the content portion of the review, here's a recent edition of Web Insights that provides tips and tools for dealing with your content:

In addition, here are two resources that should help you assess the features on your site:

  • Site Evaluation Form (PDF Download) from POP[http://popinteractive.com/downloads/EvaluationDocument.pdf]
  • Web Design Trends from webdesignpractices.com[http://www.webdesignpractices.com/]

Lighter Side of the Web: New Year's Resolutions

If you haven't had time to think about your New Year's resolutions for 2004, here's some help:

  • New Year's Resolutions O-Matic Card from Hallmark[http://tinyurl.com/34dhb]
    [Editor's Note: Strangely enough, Hallmark.com doesn't allow you to bookmark or send links to friends because of their fancy session tracking]
About Web Insights

About P-O-P Interactive

Ranked among the top Web Design firms in San Francisco, POP builds websites that enhance your competitiveness and engage your visitors. If you're in need of website development or marketing services—or know someone who is—let us know how we can help:

About Our Web Insights Articles

If you have comments or questions about this article, please email us at webinsights@popinteractive.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

Reprint and Linking Permission Information.

Copyright © 2003 POP Interactive, Inc.
Reprint and Linking Permission Information.