Category Archives: Practical Web Design Tips

Why Should I Bother With Website Maintenance?

webmaintenance

It’s become a trend.

No longer content to bill you for the design of your website, web designers are now offering you ‘maintenance packages‘. This can seem strange and unnecessary when you’ve never had to maintain a site before, especially for the non tech savvy. Surely this is just another way to part you from your hard-earned cash! And besides, how intensive can it be? Surely you could handle your own without any difficulties.

With this email we’re going to take a quick look at what maintaining a website entails and who the best people to do so are.

Security Threats and Potential Hacking

Probably the most critical reason for keeping your website up to date is to prevent security issues like hacking. No matter what type of website you’re running chances are it has a few parts that need ‘updates’ each month or so. For WordPress (one of the largest website and content management systems around today) these components come in the form of themes (for your website’s appearance) and plugins (extra functionality for your website). Developers update these to stay in line with current security protocols and fix any loopholes they discover in the previous month.

Leaving this undone means that any exploits in the code can potentially be found by the less savory people on the internet and used to gain access to your site. From there they can lock you out (!), alter your content, or steal customer data.

The process of staying up to date is simple but cannot be ignored.

Performance Managing

Increasingly, the speed of your site will determine how many people stay on it once they visit. Each website now requires regular maintenance to keep the content running as smoothly and quickly as possible. Normally this entails clearing out the cache, removing any superfluous data, and repairing any site databases. Websites can also be monitored for any ‘performance’ bottlenecks such as an image file being too large, which can then be corrected by the designer.

Content Updates

These can include updating your About page to make more sense for potential customers or to bring it in line with where your business is currently. It can also mean making sure contact details are accurate, as are service details, FAQ pages, Footer Text, Logos- Basically any part of your website that has content can be updated. The reason this is important is clear; you don’t want to serve your clients out of date information.

Updating this usually involves changing the wording and images on each page, though it can also mean adding new pages as requested. This is also simple to do depending on the framework used for your website, though it can help to be shown the step by step process if you’re uncertain.

Adding New Articles / Products

If your website has either articles (also known as blog posts) or product lines then it can be helpful to have someone update these on a regular schedule. Often people will write the articles themselves though it can be requested that the web designer do it dependent on their skills, and then the web designer will format it for the site and post it to an agreed schedule. Products can be added, removed, stock managed, and edited if there are any changes.

Preventing Spam Comments

Can your customers comment on your website or articles? If so, you’re going to want to go through these comments every couple of weeks to weed out any spam that managed to get through and clear your comment cache. It’s also a good idea to respond to these comments as some customers and clients will use such forms to ask for assistance. A web designer can address simple technical problems if desired and forward any messages that require your attention.

Keep Design Current

Even if you keep your content up to date and your website running at peak efficiency, sometimes you just want a design change. Maybe your company’s branding has changed slightly; not enough to warrant a full site redesign but enough that you need some colors re-aligned to match the new style. Maybe your logo has been updated and you need your website to reflect that. Perhaps it’s fashionable in your industry to have a certain color combination and this changes each season. These are all things your web designer can help you with, usually for less than hiring them for that specific job would entail.

Who Should Handle the Work?

That depends on your level of comfort.

If you are tech-savvy yourself and have a good idea of what needs done, then there’s nothing stopping you handling these routine tasks yourself if your time and budget require it! However, if you don’t have the time to undertake these tasks frequently, or feel like you don’t want to get too bogged down in making your site ‘work’, it might be time to call in a specialist.

There are benefits to having the person that created your website handle these details; They already know the site inside out and have spent time getting to know you and your business. Further, by purchasing an inexpensive monthly maintenance package you can often get basic design tasks done as part of your agreement.

An alternative is to look into hiring a virtual assistant to handle the day to day details. After the initial time getting to know each other and managing expectations this can be one of the best solutions, especially if you don’t mind being charged per hour. Some even offer basic design services, though as with any hire you’re going to want to check out their portfolio first.

Want Help Right Now?

As a web designer and in addition to my normal services I also offer maintenance packages. Normally I’ll discuss these after working on a website for a client, but if you already have a website and just want the day to day details handled I’m more than happy to help out. Check out my services and rates.

This post was originally sent to my subscriber list (where they get more regular updates full of fantastic information like this) – Subscribe now for the most current updates!

Practical Graphics Tip #1: Easiest way to save time in Photoshop

Have you ever shown a client a design or layout (perhaps for an illustration or website) near the end of a project and had them ask to see a version with one or two elements changed?

Was this after hours of work polishing and perfecting each part, and did you have to re-do most of it to compensate?

If so, I’m probably preaching to the converted. If you’ve already discovered the benefits of using layers then this tip isn’t for you (stop reading!).

Still here? Excellent, we’re about to make your life a whole lot easier.

“Using layers within your projects can give you back hours of time normally swallowed by tweaks and changes.”

Design; The Time-Intensive Way

When we hear about people taking days or hours to re-design and accomodate slight tweaks from clients digitally, I wouldn’t be surprised if we thought their process looked something like this:

After reviewing the project brief (in this example, its a website) they gather as much information as possible about their requirements, becoming confident that they understand the client’s needs. They then hurry off and spend a lot of time getting the layout right, making button appearances and polishing the design – gaining client approval all the way. There may be different variations of the same file showing the buttons in hover or click states as well as the main file showing everything laid out perfectly in place.

The client asks for a slightly different layout. Our poor freelancer rushes off to re-make the main file, moving things around, re-doing parts and polishing it again until it looks ‘right’. It’s presented again, maybe another change is needed, the cycle repeats. This time with a more resentful freelancer.

On the sunnier side…

I can’t give you the magical telepathic ability to see straight into the minds of your clients and produce the project 100% correctly the first time. Using this simple technique I can, however, make alterations less painful (if no less annoying). Wouldn’t it be much nicer to take an hour (at the very most, simple tweaks usually take far less time) instead of a day?

You could be doing something more useful than re-shuffling a design; reading, learning something new, playing video-games, spending time with your family… maybe even (getting a little crazy here) working on a project meaningful to you.

5 Steps to Freedom

Having discovered we love extra time the following steps will show you a really simple way to save some.

1 – Open your project in Photoshop (or your graphics program). From looking at it, decide what the different elements of the design are and make a mental note of them.

2 – Heading down to the layers section, create a new layer for each of the different elements you’ve just identified.

3 – Name your layers! On its own this will save roughly five minutes (depending on the amount of layers) each time you need to make a change. Say what’s on that layer in one or two words.

4 – Cut each of your elements from the main layer, then paste them in place on their own layer. If you happen to have a background to your design, you can patch it up after everything’s been taken off of it.

5 – With your newly split project you can re-design, tweak, and play at your leisure.

Conclusion

Having everything on its own layer makes it easy to tweak layouts, colours, and effects without the need to edit everything else. It also means that you can create alternate layouts within the same file and compare them without constantly moving everything.

Very simple. Terribly appealing.