Many website owners, especially those with online stores or service site owners, think that once their site is set up, there’s little updating or store maintenance aside from inventory. This is far from the fact, even if the store was developed by scratch.

The amount of time updating or upgrading (larger changes or even new software) required for each website depends on the software, but expect to update your site every one to two years to keep up with technology and trends (on the Web, looks are important).

If you have a store or use complex site widgets, expect to update your site applications at least every six months. At minimum, you should be reviewing and assessing your site every six months.

Not upgrading your site can create problems for your users

Websites use various technologies and software to create navigation, forms, and display layout correctly. Online stores use some software or modules that allow for easy installation or customization. And service-related sites use complex programming with software modules or applications also involved in the background (e.g., server-side applications). There’s also the database software on the Web server that maintains store inventory or other user information.

The problem is, as technology advances, the applications used to develop your site become obsolete. This also means your website pages are slowly becoming obsolete. New browsers catch up with the advances in technology and sites that aren’t updated to also stay current can display incorrectly or create other errors for users. A good Web developer will try to develop a site that can account for multiple and older browsers, but only up to a point (or date). Basically, a current website needs to updated on a regular basis.

A good example is the newest advances in handheld device browsing such as cell phones and PDA’s. These devices’ screen resolution (screen size) and navigation options are limited, so ordinary browsers and websites will not display correctly. Additionally, older website technologies, such as using HTML “tables,” will also cause display issues with handhelds.

Since cell phone browsing is becoming so much more affordable and popular, website owners need to update their sites to comply with these new handheld standards.

Update your site now rather than waiting

It’s important to regularly assess and update your site every six to 12 months instead of every few years because updates can then be done incrementally. Waiting too long can mean a huge upgrade, involving greater costs.

A good example is a client I have who has an online store. Instead of updating their store software each time there was a release (or even every couple releases), they waited several years. The problem was that, by waiting to update or upgrade their store, web browsing technology had advanced past the version of their store software and their site began to experience problems with the newer browsers. Instead of doing an incremental upgrade over a few years, the customer was forced to do a major upgrade and “overhaul” of both the store software and their entire site, costing them much more than it would have if they had maintained their site incrementally over the past several years.

Updating includes site design

First impressions do count, especially on the web because it’s your marketing tool. So, don’t ignore professional design. You are how you present yourself — to your clients, prospective employees, your peers, etc.

If your site looks outdated or unprofessional, then your customers might think your business is too. If it looks incomplete, visitors might assume you run your business the same way. This is why I highly recommend professional design. Don’t assume you can do it yourself and still create a look that competes with your competitors who hired someone to do their site right.

Remember, the cost of a good website comes out the marketing budget you might have spent on expensive marketing materials.

Your website is an asset — treat it like one

A good analogy to good website maintenance would be updating vs upgrading your kitchen and baths. updating fixtures to keep them from looking “dated” doesn’t cost very much. But wait too long and you’ll end up having to update the plumbing as well as the flooring, tile, and fixtures. Treating your website like an asset will retain its value just as equally.