Like a little child, your site needs loads of TLC for it to stay healthy and be productive.
Your website is a living document, with a full and exciting life arc. It's born, has a constructive existence full of changes and then goes on to the next astral plane. Hmmm...maybe a bit too woo-woo with this analogy....
Anyway, as a living document, your site needs good inputs to work well and provide the information visitors are looking for. It requires time and attention—and frequently some patience!—on a periodic basis to stay on track. But, thankfully, most website mamas and papas gain skills over time, so it gets easier and feels more natural.
Feed, Clothe, Shelter
Yup, these are the fundamental requirements. They're in that base tier of Maslow's Hierarchy. They apply to your sweet online wunderkind, too. (If your site reaches Self-Actualization, the Robots are taking over and the rest of this post probably doesn't matter anymore. 🤣)
So, to flourish, your website needs high-quality inputs. What are the things that go into nourishing and nurturing your webfant? Here are some ideas:
Scripts and code
And love...can't forget about the love.
🍼 What good stuff do you feed your website?
As for "clothing and shelter", well, that refers to having the proper hardware and environment for your website. Robust infrastructure, reputable hosting and current security measures are all critical in protecting your site.
And you definitely want to keep this babe safe and healthy, especially if you're handling any personally identifying information (PII) or conducting any kind of e-commerce.
🛡️ How do you protect your site?
Bathe & Diaper Change
How can you change the stinking nappy on a non-physical bunch of 0s and 1s that isn't even sporting Pampers? What I mean by this is that you have to actively clean things up once in a while. Don't let your site be a forever wasteland of cybercrap. (There is no magic powder or ointment for this!)
Leaving junk on your site is terrible practice for so many reasons. For example, here are some biggies:
Customers can get incorrect product details. Like old prices that you're still advertising—are you still liable for honoring bad pricing that's posted? Or false product specifications that cause confusion or missed sales opportunities....
You lose track of what content you have. Your site starts having lots of messy orphaned pages. This can result in your domain becoming unwieldy over time.
Search engines are still crawling and indexing this stuff. It doesn't lend to your business's professionalism or credibility if wrong info can still surface on web searches.
You'll look stupid or inept. I mean, if you can't keep your online house in order, what's going on behind the scenes? Would you want to do business with someone who doesn't present him/herself well?
💡 Can you think of other reasons why you should detox your website?
Here are some ideas for how to make your web-baby sparkle:
Clear the cache. This is like gunk that mucks up your gears. Cached data can sometimes make your site behave badly, i.e., some functionality won't work properly or the site performance will be off or it'll load s..l..o..w..l..y....
Actively manage content. Periodically audit content and delete obsolete stuff, making sure to remove links on your site that point to that outgoing item. Any time you add a new version of something—like a datasheet—consider deleting prior versions. You get the idea.
Replace outdated page copy. If the date/time/venue for a posted event changes, you better update it on your site! If the campaign you ran last month is over, you better get it off the homepage! Catch this drift?
Archive old press releases, events, posts, articles, etc. Often anything more than a year old isn't too useful. You can still have these available for folks, but maybe have them roll off the landing page so they aren't front and center.
Uninstall plugins/widgets that are no longer needed. These are just dead weight. Worse actually because they can open your site up to security risks and just bog it down so it doesn't load efficiently.
Opt for less content. Honestly, if you can't commit to maintaining what's on your site—just don't put it out there. Only post what you're sure you can handle reviewing on the regular. This is one of those "less is more" scenarios: Less content equals less to update, less to have become stale or erroneous, less to break.
Use static content in lieu of dynamic content. Post content that doesn't change often and that you're unlikely to have to touch for ages. The basics are frequently in this category—think address, phone number, management team, company profile, and so on.
Simplify your site. Think about ways to reduce the number of pages, streamline how content is organized on pages and how you have the navigation structured. Perhaps there are places you can use videos, images, bulleted/numbered lists or automated feeds instead of large blocks of text.
Leverage processes and workflows. No need to reinvent the wheel each time! Develop (and document) a routine that suits your site and resources. A framework facilitates things and helps ensure you don't forget about your site's needs or miss any vital aspects.
Build a team. Sharing the responsibility of upkeep reduces the burden for each person, provides back-up coverage and ensures continuity as team members come and go. It also allows members to play their strengths—your wordsy colleagues can handle the copy and the tech talent can deal with infrastructure, for example.
🧹 Can you think of other ways to clean things up?
Play, Grow, Learn
Your baby is going to go from being a newborn to an infant to a regular old "baby" to a pre-toddler. Like a human child, your site needs to play and explore and experiment to learn and grow. Are you still with me?
We don't operate in a vacuum. So not only is your website aging, the environment in which it exists is evolving. You have to make sure your web-kiddo is with the tide.
The rate of scientific and technological advancement is staggering. But this is an exciting opportunity to help your site morph into its next-gen self. Along the way—like progressing from bassinet to crib—your website will probably go from one platform to another. Like your child going from bottle to spoon-feeding—your site will take on new bells and whistles and discard the ones that no longer serve it.
There's a lot of trial and error in discovering and evaluating new technologies and how they might be useful. Pay attention to trends in software, hardware and user experience. Keep your eye on the prize, though: adding benefit for your users. Don't adopt the newest and greatest for the sake of doing so—do it because you have to or because it adds real value to your business and/or site visitors.
⭐ What are your favorite website upgrades and enhancements?
Like a kid, your website should be monitored. This means regular check-ups as well as the moment-to-moment watching. Doing so will help you become a domain expert, which makes everything easier and more efficient. It also increases the likelihood that you'll discover snafus earlier, when they're less severe or have caused less damage.
In the event that an issue does arise, you need to take action! If it's a booboo, bandage it and give it a lollipop (aka fix the prob yourself). If it's a catastrophic illness, see the doctor (aka seek professional help). If security is the concern, hire a fence and alarm system expert. You have to be on this like the she-wolf or he-bear you know you are.
💂♂️ What are you doing to watch over your site?
The Toddler Years & Beyond
Ok, so maybe this isn't the perfect metaphor. But it works...up to a point...right?
You'll eventually need to upgrade or replace your website entirely as technologies, trends and standards change. (Hopefully, when your child is no longer useful, you won't replace it with a newer model. 😜)
However, while you have a website—no matter if it's website 1.0, 2.0 or whatever.0—you will need to care for it. It, and your business, cannot thrive indefinitely if you don't tend to your primary web presence.
💗 How do you show your website love?
Remember, though: Be kind and forgiving to yourself and your site. There are always growing pains and occasional aches and pains. Some things won't work or don't make sense for your site, business or team. But as you move forward, beyond the overwhelm, your baby will do its thing just fine. And your team will build skills, expertise and confidence. So it's all good.
And don't forget—you don't have to rear this webbaby solo. There's no need to grapple around in the dark. I'm here for you! You can reach out any time you need re-enforcement.
It Takes a Village
Unless you're a hermit or part of a remote, secluded tribe or something, your baby (website) has needed your parental supervision.
📣 Chime in. Share....
How do you keep your site going? What are your best practices? What are your "Whys" for being strict with maintenance? Do you have tools, tips, tricks, routines, processes, etc. that can help others that are still in Website Parenting 101?