Chapter two: maintaining your Website.

Author:Sandlin, Eileen Figure

Today's Web surfers are much more Internet-savvy than ever before. If they log on to your site and keep finding the same old content, graphics and links, they re probably not going to return again. And that can mean a lost sale or a loss of interest in the services you offer.

"It seems like right around 18 months (after launch) businesses look at their Websites and realize they're out of date," says Antoine Dubeauclard, vice president of Business Development with Media Genesis in Troy. "But a site has maximum value at launch, then quickly goes out of date--as soon as two to three months after it goes online. So you need to update your site constantly to give users a reason to come back."

The basic rule, he advises, is to set aside 20 percent of your development funds for maintenance so the site will stay fresh.

Adds John Lauer, CEO of Rootlevel, an Internet application development company in Detroit: "It may sound like a lot of work, but a small company probably should update its site every week. If you're not changing your Website regularly, then you're not making it an integral part of your business and maybe you really don't even need it."

any companies offer maintenance packages that can help you review your site regularly and offer suggestions for enhancements so your site doesn't get stale. But there are a number of cost-effective ways for you to do simple updates yourself. Tasks like updating the copyright date on Web pages is a relatively simple maintenance step that doesn't require extensive knowledge of HTML, the computer language used to create Websites. Other changes sometimes can be made on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets or in MS Word documents, then sent to the server to update the site. Still, more complex changes like altering the site's architecture require the expertise of a Web developer.

In addition to regularly changing content, you should update the look and feel of your site at least once a year. However, it's not necessary to create an entirely new site to give it fresh appeal. The average...

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