Do you own a small business website or a website for a small nonprofit organization or cause?

I have and still do.

After years of frustration and wasting time with the way we edited our website, we decided on the following guidelines to help with editing our websites. I think anyone running a website might find the advice below useful.

In the past, we have edited our websites anytime we thought something needed to be changed. There was no planning and no process that was followed. Two staff members and one administrator had access to the websites and each of them could go and change the text, rearrange the content whenever they thought something needed to change, without informing the rest of the team. That sounds stupid, but that’s what we did.

This led to a lot of time being wasted and people undoing work that was done by others a few weeks earlier.

In order to, 1) Avoid mistakes, 2) Avoid wasting time making changes that weren’t necessary, 3) Promote consistency and quality content on our websites, our leadership decided to make the following changes.

1) Review and edit websites only twice per year. We review our websites and make major necessary edits only twice per year unless there is any emergency. We make sure we are happy with the content and design on our website and then we stick to it. If any errors are found, minor edits can be made.

2) Only one editor has access to one each website. E.g. Danielle serves as the editor for the SD website while Stephanie serves as the editor for our ABI website. If Danielle doesn’t know how to do something, she may log in and let Stephanie show her how to do it. She is not allowed to add other users as we used to do in the past and have too many cooks in the kitchen. We have a site administrator who may come in if there is a need that the editor cannot handle. He also obviously has administrative access to the site.

3) Website committee. All website edits must be preapproved by website committee. No staff member would edit non-blog content on a website without submitting the proposed edit for approval by the website committee that as of now is made up of Ken, Ellen, Danielle, and Stephanie. Proposals may be made through text or email. Editing includes changing or modifying images, adding, removing, or rearranging contents on the menus or the navigation bar. It also includes changing slider images and any text on the website.

3) Treat a website as a completed brochure or book. We realized that we’d been changing too many things on our SD and ABI sites. This meant we didn’t remain focused, as we should have been. We decided that moving forward, we wanted to remain focused on the few things we wanted to achieve and communicate only those on our website. As such, we would have no need to make frequent changes to our pages. We are going to view each website as a completed book. We write it, make sure we like it, and get other people’s opinions, and then we finalize it. When everything is completed, the book is published. And we resist the urge to change it frequently. Anytime we edit a website is like writing the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th edition of the book. If you’ve published a book before, it requires not only that the author writes the material but that several editors review it and make sure it is presented without errors. People who edit books frequently come up with new editions every 2-3 years, not anytime they want. That’s what we want to see moving forward. The assigned team member will make the edits when the committee has approved it. Doing this will help us avoid the perfection trap, the urge to keep tinkering with a website that isn’t broken, trying to make it better. While we value excellence, we will put our best site up and wait at least six months before making any changes to it so that we can focus on what really matters.

4) Limit the number of web pages. On any of our websites, one can either write content on a page or a post. Posts give people the ability to write a comment. We want to use only pages for information that doesn’t require interaction with our audience. We wanted our website to be tidy, have no more than 25 pages with information that tells our audience who we are, what we offer, how they could help, and answers their basic questions. It needed to be concise, have correct grammar, yet answer all their questions. Updates and optional lessons would be written as blog posts.

5) No restriction on blog posts. New blog posts may be written and posted at any time by the editor for each site without permission from the website committee.

6) Don’t put a link to a blog post on a page. Pages are official and blog posts are casual.

7) No duplicate content. Nothing should appear twice on the website. For example, the only place with the phone number and addresses should be the contact page. All other pages that need that information should have a link to the contact page. We wouldn’t duplicate information, even in a Q&A page as we have in the past. Instead, we would link to the page that has the answer. The editor may use anchor tag HTML code to link to a specific place on a page, removing the need to scroll to that location.

8) What can be edited without approval? If you see a grammatical error, a broken link (not going where it should), an address that has changed, etc. you should immediately get the team member with access to the site to correct it. However, the team member should take a picture with their iPhone and send to the website committee to show how they’ve modified the site. It’s still possible that what they thought was a mistake was really not a mistake and the committee might catch it.