Small problems left alone turn into big problems, and big problems are often best solved by breaking them down into small problems. While possibly not a cosmic truth, this sometimes applies to the digital challenges facing nonprofit teams as they manage an effective online presence with limited time, ability, and energy.
While not always the case, this sometimes applies to the digital challenges many nonprofit organizations face in struggling to manage an effective online presence with limited time and resources.
Rather than approaching website maintenance as an intensive journey down the perilous path of code and digital design, small and simple tasks can keep your website running smoothly without breaking a sweat. Here are five monthly maintenance tasks you can take care of in the time it takes you to drink a cup of coffee.
Task #1: Test All Your Conversion and Contact Points
Websites are tools to be used by your audience to receive information, give information, and get in touch with you. The first task you should tackle is to go through your site as a user would and ensure that all your calls to action still work, all your contact methods are active and correct, and any actions that users can take on your site are properly set up. If people can't use your website easily, none of the other steps you take to optimize it will matter.
The technology powering your contact form could need an update; the blog post you put out last week could have misformatted the contact email link; your embedded donation campaign landing page could have expired before you've replaced it. It pays, sometimes in literal donations, to make sure that your website accomplishes its goals.
As you navigate through your website, you will also get a deeper understanding of the user experience. Try using the site as a donor, as a program participant, a volunteer, and so on. Take notes of gaps in the user journey, opportunities for content optimization, and hidden strengths you weren't aware of while working on the back end of the website.
Task #2: Update Your Plug-ins and Tech
Maintaining a website is similar to making Kool-Aid in a river — no matter how well you mix the sugar, the current keeps on moving. With the rate of advancements in web technology and standards increasing through time, there will never be a "perfectly built" website that will last until computers become obsolete. Depending on the platforms that your website uses, there may be more or less change, but change there will be.
It is standard to handle updates using manual processes, rather than automatic updates. While some minor updates may contain low-risk changes like bug fixes, more major updates can contain new features, reset settings, or set new processes that change core functionality.
Make a backup before you attempt any tech updates and check afterward to see what is new and how things function post-update. If things don't look correct, revert to your backup and make sure that your website is ready, or consult the experts.
Platforms like WordPress are plug-in- and integration-heavy, which means that you are more likely to have more frequent updates, both major and minor. Platforms like Squarespace or Wix often update in the background and only advertise large feature updates, which means that most of your focus will be on the integrations going into the website.
Either way, updates are an important part of web development. They not only provide new features and bug fixes but also keep your site secure. Old technology has had more time to deteriorate and give opportunities for malicious actors to gain access to your site and information.
Task #3: Update Old Content
Much like your website's technology changes, your organization and its goals are not static either. It's easy to find yourself accumulating outdated information as new campaigns, programs, and staff are added without the proper removal of the old.
Do you have landing pages still publicly accessible from last year's event causing confusion with this year's version? Is a contact email tied to a staff member no longer with the organization? Is your old logo hiding deep in the details of a blog?
All of these situations are easy to find yourself in but also easy to rectify. By making this a small housekeeping task broken up over time, you can keep your site fresh for longer before you need a full content audit.
Task #4: View Your Analytics, Take Notes
Your analytics information can do more than sit quietly in the digital dark until a web consultant asks you for account access. The data stored in these tools can help to give an objective, data-based ground to the subjective task of content creation and web design. Are most of your website users visiting the same page? Are they moving through the site or staying on the same page they entered on? Are there large spikes or dips in your usual traffic? These questions and more can be answered with your analytics dashboard.
Figuring out exactly what to spend your digital effort on can be difficult, and knowing how to interpret your digital data can give you the leg up to stay efficient. If you can see how your latest blog post drove traffic to your event landing page, you can give more detailed direction to your content writers. If your latest newsletter email had a lower-than-usual open rate, you can compare subject lines to more successful mailings.
Take notes on what you see in your analytics tools, even if you don't quite know how you will use the knowledge yet. The most useful kind of information doesn't provide an answer but helps you formulate better questions.
Task #5: Know What's Going On Outside
With all the responsibilities on the average nonprofit's plate, it's hard to justify adding "web developer" and "tech guru" to the mix. However, it is easier than ever to keep an eye on changes that may affect you in the tech industry. When Apple releases new privacy updates that make it easier to unsubscribe from emails or to block tracking codes, it helps to know that change is coming and understand what it is likely to mean for your email metrics. If a larger corporation is acquiring your donation platform, you don't want to be surprised when a feature you depend on is deprecated.
It will take time to get a good idea of what is important to pay attention to and what is noise; however, the impact will be invaluable. Not only will you be prepared for changes in your digital landscape, but you'll also have an advanced view of new opportunities for your organization.
Keeping Up to Date
While these pieces are important to keep up to date, it's understandable that many organizations simply do not have the time or resources to handle these tasks internally. If you are looking to outsource web management, updates, and technical support, check out TechSoup's web services.
- Check out the recording of TechSoup Courses' Website Wellness Report.
- See a webinar on How to Develop a Nonprofit Website Strategy for the Road Ahead.
- Review the Top User Experience Mistakes and How to Avoid Them on Your Website.
- Learn 5 Ways to Maximize Your Website Content in Less than an Hour.
Top photo: Shutterstock