Now What? The Glamour of Web Maintenance

Web maintenance and support is a critical but too often-overlooked component of web production for companies of all sizes. To illustrate that, let me tell you a little story…

My husband and I tried for many years to have a child. After a barrage of blood work and hormone shots, in February 2002, we finally saw the plus sign on the pregnancy test. We were thrilled beyond belief. We bought What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and read it cover to cover. I subscribed to babycenter.com and knew exactly when my baby was developing fingernails and was the size of an avocado. We took Lamaze classes. I researched all the things I shouldn’t eat when pregnant. We had a meticulous birth plan.

At 4:30 a.m. on October 21, 2002, I went into labor. We calmly picked up my bag, which naturally, I had packed months earlier, and went to the hospital. We didn’t follow the birth plan, especially after the Pitocin kicked in. My wonderful husband calmly told me to breathe, and I turned into the girl from The Exorcist. Fifteen hours later, Sara finally emerged into the world. It was amazing and terrifying. Upon my release, we packed up the car, with our brand new car seat, matching stroller, and diaper bag. When we got home, we put down our beautiful new baby, who was peacefully sleeping in her pink little outfit (that I had picked out months earlier, of course). We looked at her, and we looked at each other, and said, “Now what?”

This has been my experience with web production. Everyone plans and is all excited for the Big Launch, but then after it launches, it has to be supported and maintained – even after that New Baby Smell has faded.

And this is where many companies – from mom-and-pop shops to large corporations – fail.

dinner

In the old days (the 1990s), a company could launch a brochure-ware web site and, like printing a brochure, that was the end of the process. The hope was, to paraphrase Field of Dreams, if you built it, they would come.

But in the mid 2000s, companies wanted to start making money from their web sites. Even if they didn’t sell product directly from the site, they wanted to find ways to have their web site work for them. But this is like paying for a gym membership and not going. They started understanding the power of keywords. It was the dawn of social media, blogs and wikis, which quite unfortunately gave birth to pseudojournalism in which any idiot with internet access could post. Like what you’re reading now. You could no longer let your web site sit dormant or you would watch it sink like a rock to the bottom of the search engines.  You had to feed your site with customer-centric content. And yes, it wanted dinner every single night.

From this came a concept that wasn’t new, but came to the forefront – Web User Experience, a.k.a. UX. UX is often confused with UI (user interface). UI is an important part of UX, just like birth is an important part of having a baby. But it doesn’t end there.

In this site (and possibly an upcoming book), I’ll go over my history with web production and the early days of UX, mistakes I’ve made, and mistakes I’ve seen other companies make, and what I’ve learned from those mistakes.

Working titles for some chapters:

Guerillas in the M.I.S.T: My days at Maxis and the MIST (Maxis Internet SWAT Team)

Leaning In Without Bending Over: Evangelizing Web UX: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

What Is It That You Do Do?: Defining roles (and R.O.L.E.s – Return On Life Energy) on your web team.

Cleaning Up After the Tickertape Parade (and the Elephants!): Developing a strategy for web maintenance, and where the bodies are hidden.