[map]A Temporal Pattern from
Patterns for Personal Web Sites

Living Site

It's all too common to run across out of date Web sites. The symptoms are obvious: broken links, references to events that happened months or years ago as if they were current, the site perpetually sports an "Under Construction" sign. All are warning signs that the site's creator has abandoned it.

What the disrepair of these sites communicates to visitors is that the owner is no longer interested in the site. If a site isn't interesting to its creator, what are the chances that it will contain anything interesting or useful?

Compare this to a site which is constantly being updated. Obvious recent changes make apparent that the site's creator values it enough to devote effort to. A constantly tended site always offers its visitors something new, giving them a reason to return.

Therefore, keep your site alive through constant improvement.

How does one make a site live?

  • Add to it. Nothing draws return visitors like fresh content. The popularity of blogs is due to visitors' expectation of blog sites' constant Incremental Growth.

  • Make changes noticeable. Freshness Dates indicate new and changed content; a History Page documents the site's evolution.

  • Tend the site by changing or removing dead outbound links. Keeps inbound links live by using Unchanging Urls.

  • Don't promise changes. If you have site improvements that are ready to go, make them. If changes aren't ready, don't tantalize visitors by announcing them in advance. The Web has more than enough sites promising changes that never happened.

If you promise changes that you don't make, that unfulfilled promise indicates you're not putting the effort you should into the site. (This is why "under construction" warnings are bad, aside from their innate redundancy.)

A living site is a commitment of time and effort. If you're unable to make that commitment, tell your visitors. Let them know that the site is static or rarely updated. If the latter, give them an idea of how infrequent updates are (bimonthly, semi-annually, yearly, et cetera).

Last updated 8 July 2003
All contents ©2002-2003 Mark L. Irons