Self-Maintained Websites – Part 1

Part 1: Are you a good candidate?

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More and more I hear the term ‘self-maintained website’ come up in conversations with small business owners. Certainly I can understand the appeal of the concept: doesn’t it sound easy to look after your own website? It is important to note, however, that self-maintained sites are not suitable for everyone.

A self-maintained website refers to a website that has been built with tools that allow a person who has no computer programming skills to make website updates.

Business owners may explore this approach for a couple of reasons:

  • Owners would like to avoid the hassles of having to involve a third party to make minor website changes.
  • Owners would like to avoid ongoing costs for website updates.

The drawbacks of a self-maintained website

Certainly self-maintained sites can be advantageous. However, I have also seen the opposite situation, where people have opted for a self-maintained site, and it has done them more harm than good.

For example, a website owner may have attempted to design their own website, and the design does not turn out well and ends up creating a negative impression of their company. The website may fail to meet technical requirements like cross-browser compatibility, accessibility and search engine optimization. And the business owner may not even be aware that anything is amiss.

Suitable candidates for self-maintained websites

If you are considering a self-maintained website, test your suitability by asking yourself these three questions:

  1. Do you have time to maintain your website? (Really)
    Although advertisements may say that a given tool is ‘easy’, you still have to spend time to learn the tool, and figure out what it does and doesn’t do. You may find that the tool is not so easy to use after all, and that you end up lost, spending hours trying to figure the tool out.
    Most of the business owners I speak with are very busy, and have many other worries that command their attention. You need to consider what the best use of your time is.
  2. Are you comfortable with technology?
    Most self-maintain tools tout the fact that they offer an intuitive user interface that makes computer programming skills unnecessary. The tools usually provide some form of a WYSIWYG text editing tool, which displays a web page as it will appear on a browser window. You can apply basic formatting, e.g. font size, etc., by pointing and clicking on buttons.
    So if you are comfortable using Microsoft Word, then you can likely manage the website updates. However, if you have only limited experience using computer technology, then a self-maintain site may be too much for you, WYSIWYG or no WYSIWYG.
  3. What type of changes do you expect to do?
    Most self-maintain tools support ‘lightweight’ website changes, for example, adding or changing screen texts. If this is what you expect to do, then a self-maintain tool could be a good fit.
    However, if you want to do more extensive changes, for example, like adding new pages, changing around the navigation or doing search engine optimization on your site, then the self-maintain tools may not help you so well. Depending on the tools, you may have to bring in a designer or programmer to make the changes for you anyway.

Websites have become a must-have promotional tool for all types of organizations. It is important that you come up with a maintenance strategy for your site that works well for you.

Do you think you are a good candidate for a self-maintained site? If so, stay tuned for the next blog post. I will write about tools for self-maintained sites.

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