Zen and The Art of Web Site Maintenance

In Robert M. Pirsig’s 1974 novel “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, the author explores the meaning and concepts of “Quality”.

In the book, the Narrator contrasts the approach to life of his friend who refuses to learn how to maintain his own expensive new BMW motorcycle and hopes for the best, and his own philosophy towards his older motorcycle which he is mostly able to diagnose and repair himself through the use of rational problem solving skills.

Ultimately, the narrator comes to the conclusion that a high quality of life is based on a mixture of both philosophies, you have to hope for the best, but there is an inner peace that comes with knowing a little bit about the bike you ride and how to fix it.

The same holds true for your web site and having a little insight into it’s inner workings and how to maintain it yourself. Having a quality web site is a mixture, but it certainly helps to know a little bit about keeping it running smoothly to achieve that quality.

Ultimately, your web designer has a vested interest in keeping your understanding of web site design and development shrouded in mystery. Terms like Webmaster and Guru are used intentfully to create an air of mysticism. It’s not so different from your mechanic. The mysteries of taking care of your engine are intimidating, but being able to change your own oil or understand what a carburetor does help to demystify it a lot, even if you still want to have a professional do the major repair work.

The truth is that many of the magical things a good designer or developer do are automated or are pre-constructed pieces of code they paste in to solve problems or modify your site. Things like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) aren’t wildly technical mysteries, but simple to understand automated processes.

As an example, take two hotels that are both Internet Marketing clients with the same marketing firm. One has enjoyed over 14,000 site visits this year, from almost 10,000 different keywords that don’t include their hotel name in Google searches. The other has had only a handful of visits from a dozen non-hotel name keywords in the same time span. They run the same Internet Marketing program, they pay the same. What’s the difference?

The first hotel uses a Content Management System (CMS) to post their own additions and edits to their web site. The hotel manager spends less than an hour each day cutting and pasting local event information into updates for their guests at their hotel.

The second hotel has a fixed, static web site design, where most of the content is embedded in images and rarely changes.

By taking control of their own content and own web site, and being empowered to know just a little about how the systems work to generate new traffic by their own efforts, the first hotel has demystified the magical aura of Search Engine Optimization, while at the same time, reducing the costs of ‘having their oil changed’, because they can make small changes and additions and repairs to their web site themselves.

It makes for a higher quality of web site. That’s what the Zen of Web Site Maintenance is all about.

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