The evolution of the internet has provided an unprecedented platform for organizations of all sizes to inform, promote, and sell their capabilities, whether focused on products, services or educational content. However, once the website is up and running there is a fall off in terms of regularly maintaining all the components and content that make the site worthwhile visiting. And making your website worthwhile to visit needs to be an ongoing proactive mission.
Unfortunately often times we are jolted into learning about maintenance the hard way. For instance, if we put off home repairs for too long, instead of patching a roof we are replacing the contents of the room beneath the roof as well as the roof itself.
We can’t always avoid life’s little messes, but we can plan more mindfully around how we keep our website as up to date as possible. There are a few key areas to pay particularly close attention to, including software updates, website security, content freshness, monitoring speed and performance, and above all user experience.
To stay ahead of the curve of website maintenance requires a thoughtful approach to upgrading your website’s software components. Creating a website inventory spreadsheet, detailing all the front-end and back-end software components that your website relies on, including noting currently installed versions, is the first step in managing the website’s software layers. While some software vendors coordinate their releases according to a planned cycle, most others do so less routinely. Documenting this frequency as best as possible and planning for regular software upgrades can allow an organization to roll in the new features and/or bug fixes as they become available, maximizing the capabilities of the software while keeping the functionality as bug-free and secure as possible. With expectations set in advance, all of the stakeholders can work together to make the most of the software upgrades. To assist in this endeavor, there needs to be a way to quickly and efficiently confirm that any software updates do not have any unintended effects on a website. A new tool, WebsiteUpgradeTester.com can rescue the webmaster from hours of manually testing each and every page after any kind of software update, as well as finding uncaught problems due to incomplete testing or testing due to human errors. WebsiteUpgradeTester.com is a cloud-based, automated visual testing tool that takes screenshots of pages within your site at different device sizes, before and after your website upgrade, then digitally compares them down to the last pixel, quickly identifying any differences that may have been caused by the new software. And because it’s automated, you can test your entire site in hours, not days, weeks or even months. For more information go to www.websiteupgradetester.com.
A detailed security plan which proactively checks and monitors your website security reduces the risk of exploits against your website. As it is well documented that most successful security exploits are against known vulnerabilities, your first plan of attack should be to confirm on a regular basis that your website is not running out-of-date versions of software where the vendor has already fixed a known vulnerability. The website inventory spreadsheet detailed above containing the release information on all your software, components and plugins can serve as a reference for your periodic (ideally at least monthly) review for any security patches offered by the software vendors. To your site visitors, these types of issues are typically unseen, at least initially. If security holes persist, the risk increases to the organization that its data may be stolen, or even its website compromised to such an extent that users are unable to access it. A monitoring plan that supplements the software upgrading schedule to factor in security patch installations can help significantly reduce these risks. Be prudent though when applying security patches. While these types of patches may be more isolated in what they are fixing than other releases or service packs, they have the possibility of adversely affecting your site. To efficiently validate that there are no changes to the site’s rendering, regardless of the size of your website, you should test thoroughly by running the same functional and visual testing that you do for other upgrades to ensure a clean bill of health. In addition to reviewing the website of each of your software vendors, you can review the U.S. National Vulnerability Database and search for Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs) that you might have in your own systems. You can also purchase or subscribe to a Web Application Vulnerability Scanners tool to periodically scan your web applications to look for security vulnerabilities such as Cross-site scripting, SQL Injection, Command Injection, Path Traversal, and insecure server configuration. A list of commercial, free or open source tools is listed at https://www.owasp.org/index.php/Category:Vulnerability_Scanning_Tools.
Part of maintaining a website includes reviewing and updating the website’s content to continually engage the site’s visitors and attract new ones. A significant component of Google’s algorithm to rank websites includes heavily weighing content relevancy. Current, linked, and shared content drives SEO rankings, which in turn drives more awareness to your site. Once website pages have been added, changes to the pages are also evaluated based on size and type of changes, which again impact search results. The use of evergreen content, content that does not necessarily have a shelf life, including helpful lists, top tips, tutorials, product reviews, FAQs and videos also have the beneficial effect of continued relevance. Cyrus Sheppard takes a deeper dive into understanding content relevancy and freshness in his article, 10 Illustrations of How Fresh Content May Influence Google Rankings (Updated).
Visitor impressions of your site are paramount in their evaluation of your capabilities. Page errors, misspelled words, incorrect grammar, unintuitive design, old content, links to nowhere, you name it, do not provide a positive impression. Reviewing your website for these types of issues regularly will ensure that the user and/or visitor experience will not be distracted by any errors and can focus on the information presented. There are many website auditing, compliance, and analytic tools on the market, such as Google Analytics, New Relic, Siteimprove, Chartbeat, Adobe Analytics, and Matomo just to name a few.
In conclusion, the items above provide a guide to proactively maintain one of your organization's biggest assets, its web presence. You should make sure to concentrate your maintenance efforts in each of these five areas and to acquire the right set of tools so that your maintenance efforts can be as efficient and streamlined as possible.
Review and upgrade your website components periodically to take advantage of the latest features and resolve bugs that your site visitors or content publishers may be seeing. Use a visual testing tool to quickly and accurately ensure that the upgrades don’t negatively affect your site.
Check for and apply security patches at least quarterly to close known security holes. Use the same visual testing tools to test security patches as you do for new version releases or service packs, and use a Web Application Vulnerability Scanner to scan your site for certain types of weaknesses.
Utilize a robust Web Content Management System and implement a content strategy to ensure that your website content attracts and engages site visitors, increases SEO and sets the overall tone for your organization.
As you roll out, update or change functionality on your site, test and resolve any performance related issues to ensure fast page loads.
Monitor and adjust how users are using your site. Answer the question of what’s working for them and what’s not.
By focusing on these 5 key areas of your website maintenance, your efforts will surely become more efficient and have a greater impact on your website’s overall effectiveness. Imagine your site incorporating the latest features, enhancements and leading-edge technology to push your user’s experiences forward, while being more secure, better performing, and more effective.
WebsiteUpgradeTester.com is the only cloud-based, automated, visual testing tool designed to help you efficiently and affordably test your website upgrade. Whether it's a major version upgrade, service pack or security patch, you can quickly test your entire site, no matter how large, to uncover any lurking issues due to the upgrade.
Don't waste time manually testing your next Website upgrade. Visit WebsiteUpgradeTester.com and sign up for a free trial.
For more detailed information about best practices on upgrading your website and improving your website maintenance processes, we recommend reading The Ultimate Guide to Upgrading and Patching Your Website.
In this Ultimate Guide to Upgrading and Patching Your Website, we’ll walk you through all of the terms, concepts, ideas, and best practices around upgrading a medium to large scale website. We’ll impart our experiences of helping customers perform and test their website upgrades over the past 20 years, so that you can upgrade faster, more efficiently, more often and with better results. Read More
ESAB leveraged a new cloud-based visual testing tool designed specifically for website upgrades to automate and streamline their testing efforts. Using the tool saved an estimated three weeks of manual testing time, increased accuracy significantly, and gave the team peace of mind that there were no lurking surprises. Read More