Planning Kit for a Quality Site for Small and Medium Sized Museums

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The Quality Principles Handbook says:


This section examines the third quality principle, that «A quality Website must implement quality of service policy guidelines to ensure that the Website is maintained and updated at an appropriate level». It:

  • examines how to interpret the 'maintained' principle
  • outlines criteria for establishing whether or not a Website is maintained
  • suggests a checklist of Website characteristics to be used to ensure quality of service is delivered
  • describes a number of tests to verify that the Website is delivering quality of service.


This principle addresses the need for any Website, cultural or otherwise, to deliver quality of service. It focuses specifically on the issue of currency – the information on the Website must be up to date and maintained. This means that:

  • Website content which becomes obsolete or irrelevant after a given date should form part of the site archive after that date
  • content that needs to be kept up to date, such as the ongoing progress of a project or initiative, should be maintained
  • content should be reviewed periodically to ensure that it is still relevant and correct. Any requirement for refreshing of content should be carried out.

In addition, it is worthwhile noting that a ‘new look’, even just at front page level, can encourage new visits to an unchanged site.

Technical maintenance

Maintenance also refers to keeping the site ‘up’ and available on the Internet. This leads to a requirement for regular site backups and for the deployment of appropriate technical resources to have the site technical platform functional. Technical maintenance should be the subject of a service level policy which indicates what is required.


Many Websites, both cultural and otherwise, have ‘latest news’ and ‘upcoming events’ or ‘what’s on’ sections. These often have a high profile, for example with links directly from the front page. Such sections rapidly age, as the events or news which they describe become obsolete or pass by.

A Website which has no recent news or events, or which persists in promoting events or news which are far in the past, gives a bad impression of not being maintained.

Even if the site also contains a large amount of durable information, this may never be explored because of ‘old’ information discouraging the user. It is important that obsolete material be archived. However, it may be advisable to ‘archive’ such material, so that it remains available after its removal.

Content maintenance

Another important type of Website content purports to keep the end user up to date (for example on the progress of a project). Such content is intended to have new material added to it periodically, each new addition supplementing the older material. It is important that such material be kept up to date and maintained.

A progress report or other ‘diary’ style of content that ceases to be maintained gives a clear impression that the site is no longer of interest. Again, this may discourage the user from further investigation of the site.

Clearly, this type of content naturally comes to an end, with the project or process which it documents. When this occurs, the content should be concluded with a final section which reviews the rest and gives closure to the process. This may optionally be followed by the migration of the content to some other part of the Website.


Even for Websites with no specifically time-critical content, there is a need to maintain the site. Almost any content will, if reviewed some months after it has first been created, appear ‘dated’ and no longer fresh. This is particularly true of information such as contact details and phone numbers, personnel information, discussions of other projects and initiatives and any other content which is not truly static.

Cultural Websites often have a high proportion of truly static information. Digitised cultural items, with descriptions and labels, do not change a great deal over time. But virtual exhibitions and informal discussion information will become stale.

Any high-quality Website should have all its non-static content reviewed on a periodic basis, even if only once every few months. Such a process should be built into the management plan for the Website.


The following criteria should be met if a site is to be considered well-maintained. The degree of maintenance reflects the number of these criteria which are met; thus a site can be ‘75% maintained’ if not all the criteria are met.

Criteria for being maintained include:

  • dates of conferences, meetings, etc. used as the basis for removal
  • news and updates removed or archived when out of date
  • diary-style or progress report content kept current
  • no suddenly-stopping progress reports
  • diary-style material cleanly ended and finalised when the subject process completes
  • all content reviewed periodically and refreshed when necessary
  • occasional 'face-lifts' and new look considered
  • technical service level policy in place
  • backup procedures established and tested
  • hardware and software systems in place to ensure service availability


This section presents a checklist to evaluate the site.

Progress-report content all up to date      
No 'hanging' or unexpectedly ended progress-report content      
Ended progress-report content concluded and summarised      
Ended progress-report content migrated to new site location      
Policy of review and refreshing of all non-static Website content      
Periodic refreshing actually taking place      
'New look' or 'facelift' implemented in last six months      
New look or facelift considered / planned      
Technical service level policy established      
Backup procedures in place and tested      
Hardware and software platforms in place to ensure system remains 'up'      

Practical tests

This section suggests some simple, pragmatic tests and questions to be asked in order to assess how well your Website is maintained:

  1. Does your Website contain information which refers to specific events or news, with specific dates?
  2. If so, are all such dates in the future, or do you have some ‘old news’ on your site?
  3. Does your Website present long-term or medium-term progress reports (e.g. of a project, an artistic exercise, a theatre season, a ballet on tour, etc.)
  4. If so, is it kept fully up to date?
  5. Does your Website contain progress reports of now-completed initiatives?
  6. If so, have they been concluded and summarised?
  7. Do you have a policy for the migration or repositioning of completed progress-report initiatives? If not, have you planned one? If so, is it fully implemented?
  8. Do you have a policy of periodically reviewing and refreshing your Website content? If not, should you consider one? If so, is it fully implemented?
  9. Have you considered a new user interface or new home page in the last six months? Would this encourage its use?
  10. Does your site have a backup procedure in place?
  11. Has it been tested?
  12. Does your site have an agreed and implemented availability service level policy?
  13. Are there backup or hot-swappable or redundant hardware and software platform elements in place to ensure ongoing availability?

© Minerva Project 2005-03, last revision 2006-03-30, edited by WP5, Committee for the development of a prototype of public cultural websites.
URL: www.minervaeurope/structure/workinggroups/userneeds/prototipo/verificaqualita/principi/mantenuto_e.html