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Content Management Updates

Content management systems

Why worry about a content update management?

Proper content update management is essential to the success of your website. An out-of-date website is worse than no website at all. Of course, keeping old information on your homepage is a waste of the time you spent developing the site as well as the money you're spending on hosting it. But a more serious problem with failing to update and check your site is that it can lose you customers. Not only that, but it can lose you a lot of money. In 2001, camera manufacturer Kodak mistakenly priced a digital camera at £100 on its British website. The price should have been £329. Legal experts judged that the automatic confirmation email from Kodak constituted a legally binding contract, and the company was forced to honor the orders that had been made. Kodak lost more than £2 million.


What content should be updated?

The kind of content to be updated depends on what kind of business you run. A shop should have up-to-date details of opening hours. A transport service should have details of timetables. If you sell products through your site, you should keep checking that the prices are correct - remember Kodak's experience. Even if your site has no ordering system, the pages showcasing your products should still be kept up to date. If customers ask for a product at your store and are told that you haven't stocked it for months, this will damage the credibility of your business.

You should also be putting news on the homepage, particularly good news. For example, imagine that your company wins the Small Business Award in your area for the month of May. During the month of May, you should have full details of the story on your site's homepage, to maximize the good publicity. During the months of June and July, the homepage could contain a small box with a shorter version of the story and a link to the full version. That way, people who have missed the news will be able to read about it if they choose, but you avoid having old news on the homepage.

How can I update content easily?

A smaller company might be able to manage content updates by hand, using a file transfer system to update the homepage whenever necessary. This means that a member of staff has to be responsible for the site's content updates. Other staff need to be aware that they should keep the content update person informed of any changes. This kind of content update management is possible if your site consists of only a few pages and doesn't need too many changes.

However, a bigger company with a bigger, more dynamic website will need to do things differently. This usually means that you should have a web database and software to generate pages from the database content. If you run a large passenger transport service, there are several ways in which you can keep your site up to date. Some bus or train companies store timetables for each route as a PDF (Portable Document Format) or as HTML. You search the site for the route and read the timetable. Other companies provide a search facility, where an online form allows you to type in where you are going from, where you are going to and the date. The form submits a query to the database, which returns details of services for that journey on that day. A search facility requires more sophisticated programming, but customers like the chance to get details of their own journey without having to plow through other material.

What else do I need to know about content update management?

There are a lot of badly updated websites out there. Many customers have had bad experiences because of inaccurate websites, from wasted journeys to attempts to purchase non-existent products. For this reason, trust levels are low and potential customers won't necessarily believe that all the information on your site is accurate. This is frustrating if you have gone to a lot of trouble to keep it updated, but there are ways of building trust in your site. The simplest way is to put dates on your site. Instead of "Opening Hours", put "Opening Hours December 2005- January 2006". This reassures customers that your information is fresh and time-specific. However, when you include dates, it is even more important to keep your site regularly updated. If the dates on your site are a few months old, visitors may assume that the whole site is out of date.

Good design and navigability also builds trust, and remember to keep your contact details in a prominent place on the site. That way, if customers don't believe your information is accurate, at least they can contact you easily to confirm it.

You should also be aware that good content management doesn't mean jettisoning all old content in favor of the new. Old content has its place on a website - in the archive. If you produce a weekly newsletter, for example, you can keep back copies of the newsletter for reference in the archive section. The same goes for press releases. Many content management systems offer an archiving feature.