Revised with new information as of January 6, 2014

Coyote Communications Technology Tip Sheet Logo

 
Maintaining Your Nonprofit, NGO or Small Government Office Web Site:
You've launched your organization's site -- now what?

 
Maintaining a Web site is just as important as building it in the first place!

I'm going to say that again:

Maintaining a Web site is just as important as building it in the first place!

Unfortunately, most organizations put much more effort into the initial design and launch of a site than they do in keeping the content fresh and keeping the site growing to best serve all staff and clients. It is imperative that your organization maintains a commitment to posting accurate, timely information online. If people who visit your site find that the information never changes, they will stop accessing it.

Maintaining a web site is never done: new information will always be waiting to be uploaded, old information will need to be updated, staff and users will provide suggestions that need to be incorporated, etc.

Even so, maintaining a Web site will be easy if you incorporate any text you already are preparing for paper newsletters, annual reports, progress reports to funders, speeches to conferences or civi groups, etc. Build the maintaining of your web site into your regular communications processes: when final text is sent to a printer for a brochure, it also gets sent to whomever maintains your web site; the day a brochure is sent via postal mail is the day the text is also uploaded on to your web site; the day after your executive director presents at a conference, upload the speech to your web site, etc. Maintaining a web site does NOT have to be extra work over what you are already doing, if you build the maintenance into your communications "system."

Also, NEVER TAKE YOUR SITE DOWN when launching a site redesign.

Let me say that again: NEVER TAKE YOUR SITE DOWN when launching a site redesign.

There are even for-profit organizations that will do this -- take their web site down and put a "hold" page that says something ridiculous like, "Pardon our dust! Our new site will go up in a few days, so be sure to check back!" NEVER NEVER do this. Just as newspapers are committed to making sure they publish on time no matter what, just as theater companies are committed to the philosophy of the "show must go on" no matter what, you should be committed to always keeping your web site operational.

Taking your web site down for several days during a transition, or ceasing to keep a web site updated while you wait for a new site to be redesigned or launched, is unprofessional and will make your organization look very bad to many potential customers and supporters. It will also deny information to supporters and potential supporters -- and they will go elsewhere, with a very bad impression of your organization.

OTHER ADVICE:

 
Responding to e-mail from the Web site

Your Web site should not be a passive thing; Web sites should generate activity, and usually do in the form of e-mail. People see something on the Web site they want to know more about, they have a question, they want to sign up for something, and they want to let you know immediately! The reply they get, or don't get, will reflect on your organization as much as the Web site itself!

Responding to e-mail from the Web site is a vital part of maintaining a successful Web site. It's a good idea to set up standards for communicating via e-mail. Here are some suggestions:

Also: old versions of your web site will be available at The Internet Wayback Machine / archive.org. You will be able to achieve at least one iteration of your web site from each year that it's been available on this resource. This is very helpful in retrieving information someone deletes off of the web site and didn't back up. It also helps you create a record of your organization's history. Do NOT let any web designer put coding into your pages so that they will NOT be archived by this resource!

Other related resources that can help you:

 

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