airt insights

January 9, 2013

Website Maintenance: So Who Needs It?

Once your company's website is up and running it's only natural to think, well, that's that for now. The idea that it somehow needs to be maintained seems odd. After all, it doesn't have moving parts like a car, does it? Actually, today's dynamic websites do indeed have a few moving parts. But the problem isn't the "car" per se. It's the road—this thing called the internet, which not only keeps moving, but also changes the traffic signals frequently.

The aim of website maintenance is to keep your site on the road, unimpeded and unharmed. The critical maintenance tasks go beyond updating text, images, or media. They involve keeping your website secure, functioning smoothly, in compliance with current World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards for performance and accessibility, and rendering accurately in all widely used web browsers (which also often change). The endgame is to ensure equal access for all, irrespective of a user's technology or proficiency, to all the content on your website, and to optimize every visitor's user experience. This includes the experience of the estimated 30% to 40% of internet users worldwide who are to some degree sight-, hearing-, or motor-impaired.

Website Maintenance Plan Types

airt group offers two basic types of web maintenance plans. The plan type you choose depends on how frequently and how quickly your site requires attention.

Pay as you go plans

These plans have no recurring costs, but rather are paid for in advance in 6-, 12-, or 20-hour increments. Any time we spend on maintenance tasks for your website is charged against the prepaid amount until the time runs out—similar to punch-card systems. When all prepaid time is used up, we provide a line-by-line accounting, so you'll know how much time was spent on every issue. There are no restrictions on the timespan in which the hours must be used. These plans are apt for websites that require maintenance on a sporadic basis and that are not mission critical to the organization. Updates are completed within 72 hours of the time received, except on weekends and holidays. Same-day rush service can be provided for an additional charge of 50% (time-and-a-half). Rush updates received after 3:00PM PST are scheduled for the next business morning.

Monthly plans

These plans are for sites that need dedicated support and immediate response to problems, given that considerable revenue or member equity may be at stake when the website is down. These recurring plans are billed monthly until cancelled. Any time not used within the current monthly billing period rolls over to the next month; however, all unused time expires at the end of the 12-month billing cycle. If maintenance work within the period exceeds prepaid time, additional time is billed at the prepaid rate. Updates are completed within 24 hours of the time received and rush updates are made within 4 hours for an additional charge of 50% (time-and-a-half). Updates received after 3:00PM PST are addressed overnight.

Our support team completes all requested updates as soon as possible and schedules each one on a first-in first-out basis. For both plan types, the time it takes to complete an update is rounded to the nearest 15-minute increment.

Web Maintenance Services Covered

Our website maintenance services include:

  1. Keeping the site current through updates to the content management system (CMS) software, and related components or plugins, as new releases become available.
  2. Full site and database backup on a regular basis.
  3. Cross-browser compatibility testing after all edits, changes, and updates.
  4. Routine link checking, especially of outbound links (since target URLs are subject to change).
  5. Conversion, uploading, coding, and insertion of multimedia files.
  6. Adding, editing, removing, and installing scripts, programs, or software to the existing website when such coding does not fundamentally change the overall site design.
  7. Telephone support, guidance, and consulting.
  8. Meetings regarding site maintenance.
  9. Monitoring the health and overall functionality of the site.
  10. Monthly reporting of website traffic, visitor analysis, and traffic source breakdown (proper coding must be in place for us to provide this service, or it can be installed under this agreement).
  11. Minor changes to the layout, structure, navigation, or styling of webpages.
  12. Adding, editing, or removing text, charts, or tables.
  13. Sizing, cropping, or adding images.

Services Not Covered

Website maintenance excludes tasks involving new content creation, site design, site development, or online marketing, rather than maintenance of existing content and architecture. Sometimes the line betwen maintenance and new development gets fuzzy. For example, any good site design should allow you to add more pages to an existing section. That should be covered under maintenance. However, adding an entirely new section to the site is a different story, as it requires new development. Unless otherwise specified in an agreement, activities excluded from maintenance agreements include:

  1. Purchase, creation, or digital retouching of photographs or illustrations.
  2. Redesign of specific webpages, new webpage types or website sections, or the website as a whole.
  3. Elaborate database changes or redesign.
  4. Custom script programming (Java, JavaScript, AJAX).
  5. Major CMS redesign or reconfiguration such as inclusion of blogs, shopping carts, or web forums.
  6. Third-party fees such as for hosting service, domain name registration, or eCommerce-related services such as credit card processing, shopping cart purchase or rental, or SSL certificate costs.
  7. Search engine marketing such as creating or changing meta-tags, alt-tags, title tags, keyword meta-tags, h-tags, link text, or description elements.

So How Much Site Maintenance Do You Need?

The truth is that many company websites don't need a lot of maintenance. But it's frivolous to ignore maintenance altogether, especially if your site was built in any of the contemporary content management systems such as WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal, ModX, TextPattern, or ExpressionEngine. A little timely maintenance here and there can save you a lot of grief down the road. What's more, well-maintained websites perform better in the most popular search engines, which give bonus points to sites that are kept up to date and in compliance with W3C standards.

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