It is exciting to see the first users start visiting your brand-spankin’-new website or digital product. (No, we’re not talking about beta users or test accounts filled with “lorem ipsum” copy 😉). We are talking about actual users. These are users who visit your website looking for value, be it in the form of products, information, or entertainment.

Creating a digital product is, in some ways, akin to bringing a child into the world. What do you do once the child has arrived — abandon them and let them grow on their own? Of course not. Similarly, digital products need nurturing and ongoing care in order to grow and mature. Here are some post-launch ways to care for your new website or digital product:

1. Put Together a Support Plan

When you are a new parent, you’re asked to choose a pediatrician before leaving the hospital with your infant. That’s because once you return home, there are no nurses to hover around and assist you. You’re on your own, and your child is vulnerable — and you want to be prepared in case of any “hiccups.”

Similarly, with a digital product or website, it is extremely important to have an on-call expert who can help with any and all eventualities. Think of it as buying insurance against potential problems that may arise, in order to minimize or eliminate the impact of down times and/or errors to your business. At PRI, we’re big proponents of creating detailed disaster recovery plans that not only cover every contingency, but also bring together stakeholders with clear definitions of responsibilities and escalation procedures in the event that something goes wrong.

(It is also essential to conduct mock disaster recovery drills to ensure that your plan actually works.)

Investment: Allocate a budget of 10% of your digital product development costs towards annual maintenance. This covers critical support, ongoing maintenance, and minor enhancements.

2. Data-Driven Design and Development

You may be thinking of your child as excelling at just about everything — academics, sports, and other extracurricular activities — but how can you be sure of it? To ensure they’re hitting certain milestones, you’ll want to be able to measure their performance.

The same theory applies to your website, too. HubSpot advocates for Growth Driven Design, or GDD. Instead of the traditional website-building model in which you invest a fortune up front and then sit back and hope that users and eyeballs flock your website, GDD is all about making small investments, then measuring results, and then constantly making changes to the website as it grows.

Our approach to digital product development is similar. After launch, we’ll work with you to determine key performance indicators (KPIs), and then track those religiously. Between reviewing your analytics and tracking your KPIs, you’ll end up with a treasure trove of data to inform your future product decisions. Use this information to discover user paths: Where do users scroll or click? Where are they getting stuck? Do they ever give up on your website? Answers to these questions should dictate your growth plans.

Investment: Dedicate a bucket of hours each month to reviewing your analytics in detail, which will help you reach data-driven conclusions about how to grow.

3. Stay Technically Current

There are certain habits you cultivate with your children, such as brushing your teeth twice a day, eating healthy foods, and getting enough exercise. These behaviors are important to develop early on so that they stick with you throughout your life.

All content management system (CMS) builders continuously improve and secure their CMS platforms. With extensible open-source CMS platforms such as Drupal and WordPress, there are thousands of third-party plugins which developers have built to enhance and improve functionality and performance. You’ll want to keep your website absolutely in shape with the latest updates from both CMS vendors and third-party plugin developers. You never know which security flaw is lurking right around the corner, and you don’t want to be caught in a situation where your business-critical website or digital product is brought down with a security breach.

Investment: We recommend allocating 10% of your initial development outlay to staying technically current.

4. Plan For Future

As your child grows, you start seeing what their strengths and weaknesses are. You see their passions develop. You guide your child to fulfill their potential and choose their path in life, which makes them happy and encourages them to keep improving.

Likewise, you should have a plan for your website’s future. Where do you see the website one, two, or five years down the line? Taking into consideration the fifty-thousand-foot view will help make your daily decisions easier and will build focus on how and where you plan to grow your website.

You need a robust roadmap that lays out how your website or digital product will grow in the future. You also need to keep a constant eye on your competition to make sure you’re always a step ahead.

Investment: Every website or digital product has a normal life cycle of about five years, and will require an overhaul around that time frame.

In conclusion, a website or a digital product is a living entity which needs to be constantly nurtured in order to grow. Without a proper ongoing investment into your website, you are not going to be able to realize its fullest potential.