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How to Get Your Website Ready for the New Year


January 1st is quickly approaching, and your website is due for some regular maintenance so it can keep serving you well through the new year. What are some of the things you need to do to get ready for the new year?

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most common practices you should consider doing during your site’s annual maintenance.

Change the Copyright Date

Perhaps the simplest and yet most often forgotten step when preparing a site for the new year is changing the copyright year at the bottom of the site.

While in some countries copyright is inherent and not dependent on the date listed on the page, having an updated date can provide several benefits that aren’t directly associated with copyright law or protection of intellectual property.

For one, your visitors will often notice the copyright date, and whether or not it has been updated. If you visit a site in 2015 that has a copyright year of 2010, this can be seen as a red flag that the content is either outdated or unreliable.

If your site operates as part of a business, this is especially crucial as an outdated date gives the impression that the business doesn’t pay enough attention to detail, and may go elsewhere for the product or service they need.

Bring Your Site up to W3C Standards Compliance

While most people know that you should keep your site updated, especially in a world where security is such a big issue, not everyone takes into account that the standards by which the body of their site is written can change over time.

For example, you can update WordPress and any plugins you have installed, but is the rest of your site written in a way that is compliant with the latest Web standards?

The Internet doesn’t have a single official set of standards for content that all sites must adhere to, but the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has compiled a set of Web standards in order to create a consensus on current, recommended practices for Web developers to use.

Making your site W3C standards compliant has the benefit of improving your site’s general search engine friendliness and ensures that users with common updated browsers will see your content in the way you intended it to be seen.

W3C provides several tools you can use to check your site for compliance with its standards. These tools are not 100% accurate, but they can assist in discovering any issues.

Search engines like Google do not require W3C compliance in order for your site to be listed, but it can certainly help, especially when ranking comes into consideration.

These standards can change, especially as new technologies and versions of common codebases evolve. It’s a good practice to check your site after any major update or during routine maintenance.

Replace Obsolete Solutions

Are you still running a Flash content slider at the top of your front page? Flash was at one point the most widely used way to add rich, interactive content to the Web. It has since been largely rendered obsolete with the widespread adoption of HTML5.

HTML5 introduced support for embedded video and audio, as well as other important elements that pretty much replaced the need for Flash elements on a page.

Some holdouts still exist on the Web, but your site shouldn’t be one of them.

Archive Outdated Content

As years go by, your site’s content may continue to grow. An article or post that is timely and relevant one year might be outdated the next.

You can keep this content relevant by either updating it with the latest information, creating new content and linking that to the old, or archiving it.

Take a look at your site’s analytics and find out just how popular some of your older posts are. In many cases, you will discover that some of your oldest posts are still performing quite well, and you can use this opportunity to update it to better serve your visitors.

Update Your Site’s Design and Mobile User Experience

The new year is a great opportunity to give your site a new look. Design trends change very quickly, and a website designed in 2005 will look very different from one made in 2014.

Consider how mobile friendly your site is. If it isn’t, it should be. Mobile traffic is quickly growing and by some accounts even outpacing that of traditional desktop browsers. Mobile browsers make up 8% of the total Web traffic, and mobile apps (which often contain browser portals of their own) make up a surprising 52% of total Web traffic.

Tablets in particular are a giant driving force in e-commerce right now. According to the Guardian, 36% of UK’s online sales are now completed from a smartphone or tablet. 82% of these transactions were completed on a tablet.

Take a look at modern sites, and determine if yours would be better served by a more modern layout. You can find out more about modern layout design in this blog post from Treehouse.

If a new theme is in order, RocketTheme has a whole collection of modern, responsive templates, themes, and styles to choose from for Joomla, WordPress, Magento, and phpBB.

Examine Your Site’s Traffic and Strategize for the New Year

As time goes on, your site needs to evolve. David Goode, one of RocketTheme’s forum moderators recommends, “Some sites grow over time, and they can get off track from their original goal. Have a full review of why the site exists, and whether or not it still meet those goals.”

Often, this means taking a step back and evaluating your current content strategy and whether or not it’s time for a change of direction.

For many small, static sites, this might include giving it an updated look and flow that better matches a modern user experience.

For larger, content-driven sites, this could be a process of evaluating and updating how your content is written and presented, and whether or not the topics you are covering are best suited to your goals.

Spend some time going over your site’s traffic reports, and find out what your audience is most interested in. Discover what worked, and what didn’t, and refine your strategy from there.

With a little effort, your site will be ready and able to handle anything the new year has in store for it.

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