Written by Content Specialist Malinda Husk
Imagine you’ve just been handed the keys to a brand-new car. You ordered a lot of custom options, so you’ve been waiting for this day for months. It almost doesn’t seem real that you finally get to drive your shiny new auto off the lot.
Fast-forward six months, nine months, a year. Have you kept your car in the garage, safe from the weather? Are you diligently keeping track of when you’ll need to have the oil changed, the tires rotated, the wiper blades replaced? Are you washing off the road grime regularly so your sweet ride continues to shine like new?
Think of your website like that car. Don’t just park it in the garage and forget about it—you’ll want to plan ahead and do some routine maintenance to keep it running like new.
Read the manual
Did you opt for a content workshop? If you did, we gave you a ton of documentation to help you with your site’s upkeep. In the content workshop materials, you’ll find everything from keys to writing for the web to the nitty-gritty of IU style. (Did you know that we don’t capitalize fall or spring? And that we don’t hyphenate email?) Review the documentation and check IU’s brand guidelines and web style guide for helpful hints on content messaging and strategy.
If IU Comm created your site for you, you can continue to get our help through a service-level agreement (SLA). Are you interested in minor routine maintenance or major content updates? We can tailor an SLA for your specific needs. Of course, if you have the resources, you can definitely choose to maintain your own site.
Look under the hood
When your site launches, you may be tempted to just ignore it for a while. After all, you’ve reviewed the content . . . multiple times. You’ve approved it. It’s done. You can sit back, breathe a sigh of relief, and get on with your 10,000 other high-priority projects, right?
Au contraire! Now is absolutely the best time to take a look at your site in IU’s web content management system (WCMS) and develop a maintenance plan. Read through each page in your site and make notes about bits of content that you know will need to be updated. For content that doesn’t change often, you might decide a review every six months is plenty; for more variable info you may need to have someone review it every few weeks.
The WCMS lets you schedule a review for each page and assign content management tasks to your team. If you get this maintenance planning out of the way up front, you won’t have to worry about remembering to go back and delete that one little bit of wording that’ll be out of date after the semester ends. The system will remind you when it’s time.
Check the tires
You’ve scheduled your review dates and assigned tasks. Everyone on your team knows they’ll need to handle content updates at a defined point in the future.
But . . . things can happen in between review periods. Maybe you have a new dean. Or a process changed, and now you need to update some instructions. Or you want to highlight an amazing grant one of your researchers just received. Having a good working knowledge of what’s on your site (and where) lets you handle these ad hoc updates easily and with less stress.
Recharge the battery
Don’t let your website die of neglect. IU’s web framework and the WCMS make it easier than ever to maintain your site, but you still have to commit to putting in the work of updating the content. If you have a page that says “Welcome, class of 2015!” you’ve effectively told your audience that your entire site is covered in cobwebs. They’ll immediately distrust anything you tell them.
It’s time to take the wheel
Keep these tips in mind as you’re admiring your shiny new website:
- Take the time now to plan for site maintenance. You’ll be glad you did.
- Refresh your content periodically—whatever “periodically” means to you.
- Before you add something new, make sure it doesn’t already exist elsewhere in the site.
- Don’t forget to update photos as necessary. Like fashion trends (hello, 80s hair!), outdated photos can convey the wrong message to your audience.
- Reexamine your needs at least once a year and decide if you need to add new pages or sections (or delete some), or if you need to change how often you’re reviewing content.