Building (and Maintaining) an Elegant Website

This is not your typical ‘how to make a pretty website’ blog. I’m not going to talk about usability, visitor journeys, or responsive design, or offer tips and tricks on how to convert more visitors.

This blog is all about you and your team. The ones who need to maintain that elegant, user-focused website with fresh, relevant content once it’s live. It’s just as important that whoever is in charge of that has the same simple, streamlined experience your website visitors do, so that keeping the site updated is a breeze, not a hassle. A bit of planning during development can make a world of difference after.

Fresh Content Impacts Search Rankings
In today’s Google-driven world, maintaining your website and its content is critical to getting and keeping great search rankings. As the king of SEO Neil Patel tells us, “All things being equal, Google will place a higher priority on sites that update their content frequently. If Google recognizes that your site isn’t being updated recently, it will hurt the rankings of all the pages on your site.”

But if your Content Management System (be it WordPress or something else) is clunky, hard to use, and just flat out makes for a frustrating experience, your team won’t keep that content fresh. Nor will you add images and videos – other big factors that draw Google’s attention – or take the time to adhere to any of the other SEO best practices.

Maintaining Your Website without Knowing Code
The key to consistently maintaining your website is to start before it’s even built. Take time out from reviewing designs and selecting the perfect images to have a heart-to-heart with the developer about the post-launch party. Some things to cover include:

  • What areas of the site you plan to update regularly
  • What kinds of content you want to be able to use – such as text, images, video, audio, photo galleries, or animations
  • How much time you plan to dedicate to website maintenance each month
  • Whether or not training is included in the development scope – and if it is, what does ‘training’ look like?

If there are plans to include more advanced features in the site, such as events calendars, webinars, tables/charts, or ‘gated’ areas like landing pages and member-only spaces, it’s important to impress upon the developer the need to keep those elements easy to update within the content editor, so nobody has to be able to edit code to make them happen.

A few other development considerations to ask about:

  • If there is a blog or events feed on the home page (or anywhere else), will those auto-populate based on certain criteria or will it need to be updated manually?
  • Will there be an image optimization plugin in place so images don’t need to be prepped or resized before uploading to the site?
  • If there are forms on the site, will someone without any coding experience be able to add, edit, or remove fields, or create new forms as needed?
  • If you want to grow your social engagement by sharing site content, will there be a plug-in that can auto-publish to the company networks?
  • If there are plans to add new pages down the road, will your team be able to duplicate existing ones to work from, or will they have to start from scratch each time?

As of September 2018, there were more than 240 million active websites in the world, and at least 4.4 billion indexed pages on Google. If you’re not keeping your company’s site updated, it will quickly fall farther and farther down the ranks, which means fewer and fewer people will find it. But if the CMS is as elegant as the website your visitors see, your team will actually look forward to keeping it fresh, instead of groaning in agony every time they log in.