On post-launch content schedules: or, who’s taking care of the house?

Over two decades, my grandfather built two houses.

They weren’t just houses. They were homes, for he and my grandmother, built out of an unwillingness to trust contractors and the lure of a low-cost solution. And because these homes were built from scratch, an intense pride of ownership developed. My grandparents took meticulous care of each home, coming to understand every corner and quirk, quickly fixing and updating as needed.

My grandfather has since passed away, and my grandmother has since moved. But earlier this month I had a chance to drive past both houses.

The horror.

The new owners have let the lawn grow into a tangled mess. Gardens are untended. Routine tasks are ignored. Both are owned by part-time residents, and for that reason there’s simply not enough time to keep up.

So they don’t. Once beautiful, both houses are starting to look run down, and it breaks my grandmother’s heart.

Who’s Taking Care of the House?

In the Web industry, we build Web sites. But we might as well be building houses. Except, instead of populating homes with people, we’re filling them with information, application and entertainment. Words and pictures need a home on the Internet, and Web sites are the three-bedroom, two-bath ranch home they’re looking for.

Web companies exhibit pride of ownership, too. As long as we hold the deed to our site, we’re keeping up with routine upkeep. It’s easy for us – after all, the construction was all handled in-house, for the most part, so we understand the corners and rafters and concrete better than anyone else.

Then, we hand the site off.

We’ve prepared it for sale. The site is at its peak – top notch, totally updated, ready to move in. The paperwork is signed, the Realtor has been paid – we’ve reached the finish line, you’d think.

Nope. The launch of a Web site isn’t the finish line. New content will move in. Updating will happen. Upkeep will be needed.

Are you ready to handle it?

Developing a Post-Launch Content Schedule

This might seem like basic-level stuff, but it’s still important: if a you don’t keep a Web site updated post-launch, you’ve just paid a lump of money for a short-lived solution. Thankfully, there’s a simple way to combat this, and it’s as easy as having a plumber on speed dial.

Wanna know how easy it is? THIS EASY:

  • Designate someone to be in charge of content. This is your curator, editor, content wrangler; the title doesn’t matter, the presence of one set of eyes and one consistent hand does. It could be someone on your staff. It could be someone who specializes in content management. It HAS to be SOMEONE.
  • Determine what needs to be updated. What is timely? Why do people visit? What will bring them back? Meet with everyone in your company, too – you might be surprised by their answers.
  • Create a schedule for updates and frequency. This will make the process seem more controllable. What content is required on a consistent basis, and what can be labeled “as needed?” I know, I know – no one wants more deadlines. Then again, no one wants a dead Web site, either.
  • Keep the curator/editor/content wrangler accountable. Make content updates part of the job description. Allow this person time to update, and give the freedom to make editorial decisions to the best of their ability.

Four rules. One goal: to keep your Web investment updated and attractive; relevant and modern. Because there’s a lot to be said about curb appeal, but it won’t happen on its own.

(Originally posted at the Blend Interactive blog.)