No matter how you slice it, museum websites are complex technological systems. Today’s website platforms offer amazing capabilities such as easy content updating, ecommerce, searching and filtering, and so much more. All of these features are made possible through platforms that work off of massive codebases.
For example, the Chrome browser alone contains well over 5 million lines of code. I have no idea how many lines of code are in the WordPress codebase, but I’d bet it has more than the Encyclopedia Britannica has words ━ not to mention the codebases of all the underlying databases, web server software, and the multitude of plugins utilized in a typical museum website.
On top of this mountain of code sits each website’s own individual configurations, structures, architecture, and content library. Websites are a labyrinth of intermingled code. With so many moving parts, it is astounding to me that websites are as stable and dependable as they are!
Nevertheless, with so much technology under the hood, and so much individual customization, a museum website does require regular maintenance, updates, and ongoing support.
Support is an Invisible Ingredient of a Successful Website
Any website can be evaluated externally. You can critique its information design, read its content, and enjoy its appearance. What can’t be seen from the outside is the level of service and support going on behind the scenes.
When I talk to new potential museum clients, most of our conversation involves the specifics of their project, our approach to prototyping, and determining the level of fit between our focus on Flexible frameworks and our approach to Low Code/ No Code development. That’s a lot to cover in a one hour conversation. Nevertheless, I always make sure to leave time to discuss our long-term support and service model.
When a museum begins the long process of planning for a website redesign, there is so much to contemplate that thinking past the project itself doesn’t often get on the agenda. But in many ways, once a site is done, that’s when the real work begins.
No matter how well designed a site may be, from time to time museum staff are going to need help managing it. Without solid support, much of the hard work that goes into a project may end up being wasted.
Levels of Website Support
The most basic level of WordPress support is keeping its plugins and the WordPress core updated. The WordPress codebases, as well as all the plugins, are always updating, improving, and patching themselves, and so releases come quite frequently. If you let your WordPress version get out of date, or if you leave plugins unupdated, you will eventually have a crisis. Keeping all your plugins up-to-date will keep your site secure, and its underlying performance and capabilities will actually improve over time.
That said, even the most professionally supported platforms and plugins can sometimes be released with bugs or conflicts. And so having a professional developer perform these updates is much safer than simply updating your plugins on the fly.
When we perform monthly proactive maintenance for our clients, we take the extra time to perform them on a staging or local version of the site before updating the production version. This allows us to ensure that there are no conflicts or adverse effects from any new updates.
But there are many other aspects to supporting a website beyond updating plugins.
“Cuberis is responsive and creative when it comes to finding solutions that work in our budget—and ongoing maintenance is an important part of the overall health and quality of our site.”
Director of Communications
Montgomery Museum of Fine Art
In addition to all the technology that runs a website, the site’s hosting environment also requires support. As a website grows, its hosting configurations may need to adapt. Between backups, a growing content and image library, and spikes in overall traffic, there are times when some clean up may be necessary to keep the site running smoothly. Occasionally, a developer needs to interface with the hosting provider to make technical adjustments to ensure the ongoing security and optimal performance of a site.
While Cuberis works with many different hosting providers, our go-to recommendation is WP Engine. As a specialized WordPress hosting provider, their technical support extends beyond maintaining server hardware and their network. They will, in a pinch, provide support to your particular website. They might examine your plugins or configurations if a sudden disruption occurs—and unlike your developer’s support, they are available 24×7 365 days a year.
Additionally, websites often maintain connections with other marketing platforms, and so a developer may need to provide technical support for adding tracking scripts for third party marketing platforms such as Google Analytics and Tag Manager, or to help configure special landing pages for some of these specialized platform integrations.
As a part of our support program, Cuberis creates video documentation of each site’s customizations (as well as overview videos for orienting clients to WordPress and some of our default frameworks). These are a tremendous resource, especially when a museum onboards new staff members who will help maintain site content. But sometimes a client needs a helping hand, and real time ongoing support is needed.
And so all active Cuberis clients have access to our team for any support they need. Direct access to our support services often saves clients from wasting time trying to puzzle out a content issue by jumping on a quick ten minute video screen share with us.
And, because our framework is so flexible, we may be able to quickly add new elements or features to help smooth out site content maintenance on the fly—adapting your site to its ever changing and growing needs.
“The Cuberis team represents among the highest levels of customer service we have experienced on our NCMA website project. Information was accurate, responses to queries were turned around very fast. Answers were clear and where necessary detailed enough for us to make adjustments quickly.”
Web Content Coordinator
North Carolina Museum of Art
In addition to general ongoing support, a website sometimes needs a more major upgrade. Whether that’s adding a store, introducing a membership system, adding new content features, or producing special exhibition pages, websites grow and change over time.
Our flexible framework makes expanding the capabilities of sites a relatively simple process. This flexibility and support keeps our clients from having to live with static sites for years at a time, and then scrap and rebuild.
One final aspect of support is simply providing specialized strategic advice. Clients often wonder whether or not their website can offer some new feature or another. In most cases the answer is yes, websites are capable of providing all manner of capabilities. But before answering yes, or how much such a feature might cost, there may be alternative approaches, or easier solutions than what is initially asked for.
Having access to an experienced partner who has been serving clients with similar needs provides extremely valuable insight and guidance that help museums maximize their budgets as they continue to expand their missions online.
Support is a key ingredient for the long-term successful operation of a museum website. And it’s why Cuberis focuses just as much attention on support as we do the design and development of our sites.
“Updates to the WordPress platform and its third-party plugins continually present threats to the security and stability of our website. Vizcaya relies on Cuberis to troubleshoot updates before they cause problems. This extends to integrations with our complex cloud-based systems that drive visitor ticketing. Cuberis also keeps our site up to date in accordance with web standards so it is always accessible and fast. They are unique in their experience and willingness to support museum websites in all facets.”
Director of Technology and Digital Initiatives
Vizcaya Museum And Gardens