content strategy

Exit Music for a Website: Decommissioning

Where we ate, poor apostrophe use and all.

We’ve all seen it – a website that is woefully out-of-date as a result of something significant happening. Business closure, acquisition, loss of funding for a particular initiative. Websites have a peculiar tendency to stick around in a way that other media don’t have to worry about after the curtain has closed. Normally in the world of website creation and management, we focus on the beginning of website’s lifecycle: LAUNCH.

If we are lucky, and a solid content strategy is in place, we enjoy the benefits of a robust governance plan throughout a website’s productive life.

But, rarely is the focus on the final part of the lifecycle: decommissioning.
Richard Ingram wrote about this very phenomenon in a fabulous post on his blog titled “Decommissioning a doomed website.” He carefully outlines the major steps that a website owner should take when decommissioning is imminent: announce, downsize, single page, redirect.

Decommissioning: The Final Course

Recently, on a trip to my home state of Iowa, I encountered this issue first-hand. Here are the highlights:

  1. Friends recommended a chef-run restaurant
  2. I called restaurant to inquire about a reservation [got the answering machine]
  3. I visited the website [everything seemed normal]
  4. Wife and I pull up to it, greeted by a sign taped to the door: “Closed for business.”

What were we to do? We went to the regional sub shop instead [also delicious]. We asked the help there about the restaurant. They said, “Oh yeah, the chef got a Head Chef gig down in Des Moines at some fancy place.”


Business Not as Usual: An Opportunity

In a geeky fashion, I immediately remarked to my wife that there were several missed opportunities on this website from a business perspective. While the chef was no longer the owner of the restaurant where he wielded knives and pots, he did stand to benefit from any additional traffic to his new place of employ.

To assist in this matter, the chef could have:

  • Used the closure to announce his new position/chefdom
  • Placed a redirect to a page on his new employer’s site
  • Offered a discount at the new place to people that mention his old restaurant
  • Informed past diners of the continuation of some favorite dishes in a new place

There are dozens of places to make this type of announcement. Facebook pages, Twitter, Yelp [in this case], etc. However, the single most significant place to make such an important announcement remains the website. [It is still the top Google search result.]

I can’t be alone in my dining preferences as a visitor to my home state. Certainly others would have heeded the call of this fine chef to make the trek to his new kitchen in the state’s capitol city.

When customers are loyal, they are loyal to more than just a thing. They are loyal to a presence, a talent, a personality. It goes a long way. I only wish that I had stepped into this place sooner, to tell the chef that a change in business, from an online perspective, is not a loss, but an opportunity.