Updating a Live Website: What You Need to Know

     

Published: September 14, 2020

Whether you’re updating a few details such as your hours of operation or preparing to roll out a complete redesign of your website, making changes to a live site can seem daunting. From considering how much downtime is acceptable to handling things that go wrong, website maintenance is an activity that requires a plan. Here’s what you need to know about making changes to a live website.

Website Maintenance Is Essential

Before digging into the details for updating your live website, we know there are a few people out there who prefer to skip regular website maintenance to avoid the potential for problems to arise. The trouble with this approach is that your customers expect to find up-to-date and relevant information when visiting your website, and finding outdated content can hurt your credibility.

There’s also the need to keep up with current security and other technology standards so your visitors have a safe, fast, user-friendly experience. Lastly, design trends on the internet don’t change as quickly as fashion trends, but they do evolve over time. If you wait for decades between updates, visitors will be able to quickly spot a dated design and start forming negative opinions about your entire operation.

The Scope of Changes

What type of changes your website maintenance will include will determine how carefully you’ll need to plan for the rollout of those changes. While updating technology and debuting a fresh redesign will take a considerably more detailed plan, even small changes to web page text should be made carefully as minor errors can render a page unusable for your visitors. The good news is that small changes can usually be performed with no downtime, or completed quickly during times with low traffic levels for minimal disruptions for your visitors. If your plans include more than swapping a couple of photos or changing a small area of text, you’ll want to add a few important steps to the rollout.

What is a Staging Site?

When performing website maintenance, making major changes can be risky. Sometimes, even small changes can cause a cascading effect of errors that lead to a crashed website. Even with careful planning, links can become broken or pages moved around that result in a 404 page (also known as an error page or a page not found). A staging site is a copy of your website that serves as a useful tool for testing significant changes and correcting problems while the original version of your site remains live for visitors to use.

Website developers often work through several versions of a website before going live with major changes. These can include:

  • Development Website. This is a contained, secure environment where changes can be made and tested without any interaction from the outside. Development websites are also useful for companies with a complex approval process that requires input from several individuals. That way, people can be granted access and incremental changes made and approved as often as necessary until all changes and updates are accepted.

  • Quality Assessment. This is an important step for large or busy companies that cannot afford to have problems pop up on a live website. Once the initial development is complete, this step employs an organized effort to test the entire website to find any bugs or errors that may have been overlooked during the initial coding.

  • Staging Website. At this point in a website maintenance plan, all changes should be made and bugs worked out. The entire site should be ready to go live, and a final check for problems should be made.

The Pros and Cons of Staging Sites

It’s easy to see the advantages of building and testing a website that isn’t live and available to the public. First, nobody wants users to interact with a site in progress, but pulling an entire website offline for maintenance can be disruptive to your customers and your business. By leaving the original site up and running, you and your developers can take all the time and attention necessary to work out as many problems as possible before releasing it to the public.

While avoiding downtime and errors is always an important goal, using a staging site can often make website maintenance take a bit longer to complete as changes need to be tested first, then implemented live. However, these extra steps and slight delays are often preferable to the alternative. Another important consideration is that staging sites cannot always function exactly as they would once live. That means that a staging website will considerably lower the risk of errors, but they cannot guarantee that all will be eliminated, so testing of the site should be repeated once it’s live.

Website Maintenance Done Right

In most cases, making small changes to your website won’t require a complicated process and significant delays. From updating phone numbers, swapping photos, or uploading an updated menu, many modifications can be completed quickly and without additional steps. When it’s time for significant website maintenance that includes updating technology, making major changes to features, or adding and removing pages or functions, staging the rollout of a new website can help reduce the risk of errors and provide users with an ideal experience.

If you’re ready to make some changes to your website, but you’re worried about its impact on your business or your visitors, we can help! Contact us and find out how we can make website maintenance a headache-free experience.


Categories: Web Design & Development
Tags: Website Maintenance