Looking at his company expenses, the young CEO picked up the phone to call the head of marketing.
— Listen, I know you’re doing a great job. But I’m wondering when we might be able to stop spending money on marketing? — asked the CEO.
— Well, when would you like to go out of business, sir? — responded the marketing manager gently.
It’s an apocryphal tale and, as usual with crisp responses like that, it’s the hypothetical manager probably thought of the snappy reply when taking a shower later that evening. But the message holds a deep lesson not just for marketing, but also for website and app maintenance.
After all, a company website is no longer a line-item or side hobby for the IT department. A website is a window into your business and its presentation can have a major impact on how people perceive the value of your product or service. If the website goes down, the company could soon follow the site into liquidation as well.
Unfortunately, maintenance for websites and apps is all-too-often an afterthought. Many managers mistakenly believe that once a Content Management Systems (CMS) – WordPress, Joomla or Drupal, for example – or app platform is running, nothing more needs to be done.
But just like cars, websites also require regular check-ups. Even the most expensive vehicle needs an oil change from time to time. Same goes for websites.
So, if you find yourself asking when you can stop maintaining a website, the only correct response is: well, when would you like to go out of business?
What Does Website Maintenance Involve?
While there is no set rule about the frequency of updates, users will notice if an app or website hasn’t changed in over six months. But by failing to make updates when they become available, but then need to go back and make them later, it turns into a much larger development.
When undertaking a normal website maintenance, the following tune-ups, tweaks and updates are considered to be the basics:
- Check for errors and broken links,
- Check for security holes,
- Install new tools, plugins and functionality,
- Update content,
- Update back-end platform and software patches,
- Backup database and content.
Depending on the complexity of your company’s website or app, more factors may require regular updates. Beware that a website update may require the site to go offline briefly as the new content is uploaded. But generally, this won’t be a problem if the site can temporarily offer a “maintenance page” with limited functionality but which allows visitors to navigate as normal.
Plugging the security holes
The first, and perhaps most important, reason to set up a regular maintenance schedule is that the world has plenty of nasty people searching for devious ways to break into a company’s systems.
Cyber-criminals used to be amateurs having a bit of fun. But that was the 80s. Today, there are entire companies that employ cyber-criminals on 40-hour contracts, complete with health insurance and holiday pay. It is a constant cat-and-mouse game between the cyber-criminals and cyber-security companies to exploit vulnerabilities in website code and to patch those vulnerabilities.
Keeping up with the software updates is important because it will include a bunch of the latest patches discovered by cyber-security teams. If no one is applying the patches, then your website will remain vulnerable. And the last thing any CEO needs is to wake up one morning to see their entire customer database has been leaked.
Why would anyone want to hack your website? Cyber-criminals probably don’t have a vendetta against your company. But they have tools that scour the internet looking for any firm using a website platform that hasn’t been updated to the latest version.
If that’s your website, it won’t help to know the criminals weren’t targeting your site personally. The damage will be done, and it likely could have been avoided with a simple update schedule.
As part of the agreement, Adchitects conduct monthly maintenance services to keep the website up-to-date. Pictured are interactive features from the ComForCare NYC website that can stay functional thanks to regular maintenance and plugin updates.
Content is king
The world is moving quickly. What’s popular today may not be popular tomorrow.
Maintaining a website isn’t just about security or improved user experience. It must involve adding information about new products, services, content, blogs and apps.
Unless a website is owned by Alphabet (Google’s parent company), appearing at the top of Google search results requires a lot of effort, ad-money and – crucially – new content. Google’s “spiders” (tools searching the internet for content relevant to people’s searches) are always looking for fresh content, so remember to give them some.
To use an analogy, if you passed a shopfront and all its goods in the window looked out of date, sun-bleached and boring, would you enter the store, or recommend it to friends?
A website the first interaction with your company for most people. First impressions count. If your website isn’t regularly updated with fresh content and displays of services or products, you might as well put up a sign that reads: “We are boring. Go elsewhere.”
Creating new content ensures your company keeps up with usability and design trends while forming your own unique visual identity. Here’s a tip: don’t let go of your website designer once the site is launched. You will need their help to conduct regular maintenance.
Part of this process is SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. Very simply, SEO allows businesses to reach a wider audience by pushing their websites to the top of search engine results. Many factors determine a website’s SEO ranking, including the recency of content, keywords, links and user experience. Keeping your content fresh will also attract new visitors and customers.
What’s the expected cost of maintenance?
There’s no way to get around it. Maintenance costs are inevitable and pretty much part of the business as a whole.
Like the CEO worrying about the marketing budget, asking about the cost of maintaining a website is a bit like asking about the length of a piece of string. The answer depends on how important the website is, what you hope to achieve with it and dozens of other factors.
Some larger companies retain a permanent design team whose sole job is to constantly update the software. But a good rule of thumb is to budget 20% of the cost of initial website or app development for maintaining the software. So, if the development costs were $100,000, you can reasonably expect to spend about $20,000 annually to maintain the app.
Overall, there are about three main approaches to website maintenance:
- Do it yourself. Best for smaller websites or businesses who don’t mind tackling technical tasks. This option trades lower costs for more time and effort;
- Pay a professional. This option introduces expertise and efficiency, for a price. However, asking the pros will allow site owners to focus on other aspects, like marketing strategies;
- You and the pros. Hiring a team to resolve the big problems, but switching to in-house maintenance for day-to-day updates can be a useful option. However, computers are complex beasts and “the basics” still require expertise. If that’s not you, it’s best not to throw away the phone number of the pros too quickly.
You can also save costs by monitoring how people are using your app over time. For example, you can eliminate some unnecessary features that most users aren’t engaging with. Making regular updates to your app can also help you maximize your ROI over time. You can constantly look for new ways to cut down your costs and acquire new users.
No one wants their website hijacked by hackers, especially fintech companies, which want to emanate security and trust. Frequent maintenance check-ups help keep the websites and their plugins vulnerability-free.
Optimization and user experience (UX)
A well-maintained website helps promote your brand, work and company mission. It will remove any out-of-date information, improve performance and track any issues. As little updates compound over time, pretty soon your visitors will be having the best possible user experience.
UX is important because even one bad user experience can be enough to convince a person to delete your app and pick an alternative, or never visit your website again. Research from Quettra suggests mobile apps lose 77% of their daily average users within the first three days after download.
These numbers show that if an app stops adding value by not failing to update its features, consumers will choose not to keep it on their phones any longer, especially if there’s a better option available. The point of regular updates is that you don’t want people to just use your app. You want them to fall in love with it.
Find the right team
How can you know if a website or app maintenance company is the right pick for your company? Here’s a few factors to consider:
- What is their average response time?
- Type of maintenance plans: is it incident based or time based?
- Can they keep and manage backups kept against loss of data?
- Do they offer in-house maintenance, or sub-contract to a third party?
- Phone or chat support (preferably a dedicated account manager).
Overall, software maintenance can either be planned and efficient or unplanned and costly. Making regular updates will help save you time and money, make your site secure as possible and offer users a pleasant experience.
If all this seems like an overwhelming process to handle on your own, don’t worry, that’s why we’re here.
Website maintenance is part of what we do professionally.