How to consistently deliver a quality Web experience to your customers Featured

9:36am EDT January 7, 2011

Small business owners tend to think that once their website

is built, the job is done. They rarely look at the site critically again until

it is time for an overhaul several years later.

Smart Business spoke with Steven Vicinanza, Ph.D., CEO of

cloud computing provider BlueWave Computing LLC, for some tips on how to keep

the customer Web experience crisp and fresh.

Why is website maintenance important?

When your website falls into disrepair, customers come away

with a feeling that your company is not on top of its game. Especially in

service industries, delivering a quality Web experience can mean the difference

between winning and losing business. Why take a chance? Keeping a website in

good repair is a simple matter of putting a routine maintenance program in

place.

What is the biggest issue with website maintenance?

The No. 1 issue with website maintenance is out of date

information. Forget about the fact that the last press release on the site is a

year or two old. I’m talking about the basics. A company moves to a new office,

yet the old address is still listed on the website. Pages showing discontinued

products or referencing personnel who no longer work at the company are other

common problems.

Errors like that don’t put your firm in its best light, and

when a prospect shows up for a meeting at your old office, it won’t be fun

explaining that your site has the old address. So the first step in Web

maintenance is verifying that all information is current.

I often see ‘Page Not Found’ errors. Is that a

maintenance issue, as well?

Let’s say you have a page about a discontinued product and

as part of the maintenance you remove that page. You may not realize that there

are other links around that point back to that page. So now, when visitors

click on one of those they now get a ‘Page Not Found’ error message in place of

the missing page.

Even if your site has not changed at all, you may still have

bad links. Your website may have links that point to pages on other people’s

sites. If one of those other sites changes the location of a page, image or

file that you are linking to from your page, you will have an instant bad link.

Here are some of the ways a link can be bad:

  • Links

    pointing to sites that cannot be reached (no such site)

  • Links

    pointing to valid sites but with pages that cannot be reached

  • Links

    pointing to pages that are found but never load (timeout)

  • Links

    that point to pages that are found but are restricted by security

That’s why it’s important to check out the integrity of your

site’s links on a regular basis. If your site is small, you can do this by

opening your home page and following every link to ensure they are all working

as expected. For larger sites, manually checking can be tedious and error prone

so it’s best to use some type of automated tool. Google’s free online Webmaster

Tools are a good starting point. One of those tools is a site checker that

crawls through your site to identify any broken links.

Some pages seem to take a long time to load. Why is that?

We’ve all experienced frustratingly slow websites — so you

already know what a turn-off that is for your clients and prospects. Why lose

business unnecessarily because of slowness that can be easily remedied?

There are many reasons why your site may be slow to load.

The most common include:

  • Bloated

    flash animations

  • Improperly

    scaled image files

  • Overloaded

    Web server

  • Improperly

    indexed database

  • Poorly

    designed Web application

  • Internet

    or host site network congestion

Some of these are intrinsic to your site design and static.

Others are dependent on server load, visitor traffic or network bandwidth and

change over time. Unless you are monitoring your site’s performance, you will

not be aware of these issues until it has already impacted your business. Here

at BlueWave Computing, we use specialized Web monitoring tools to measure site

responsiveness at five-minute intervals throughout the day. We can also measure

how long it takes each individual object on each page to load. That allows us

to find the bottlenecks and optimize the page load times. 

How important is security on the website?

Every site connected to the Internet is prone to malicious

attacks. Whether hackers are looking to steal data, transmit viruses to your

visitors or just share their pirated videos with the world, you want to keep

them off your server. To do that, have a qualified professional regularly

review the site’s security settings and check the Web logs to ensure only authorized

areas and data on your site are being accessed.

By instituting a routine maintenance procedure that

incorporates these items, you’ll keep your site working like new and your

clients, prospects and other visitors will come away with the best possible

impression of your site and, hence, your company.

Steven Vicinanza, Ph.D., is CEO of BlueWave Computing LLC.

For more information, visit www.bluewave-computing.com.