Making Websites Last

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December 12, 2013 by Amy Ryall

Is it possible to make a website last when it has been created for a specific project? Max Templer one of our Public Humanities MA students, raises some important questions and issues to think about when considering online legacy.

Increasingly websites are a required element of funding for academic projects and these websites are required to not just be made but to last, offering a ‘legacy’ for what would otherwise be short term projects. Unfortunately whilst many of these websites last in a technical sense, e.g. they’re still accessible, they don’t last in a meaningful way, they become dormant and few people visit them. This presents the problem of how to preserve these websites and their research if they have not been captured in a more sustainable format.

Websites are fundamentally different from the print form which academics have traditionally worked with and therefore offer some very different challenges to it. Whilst websites let you update and change their content as and when new information comes to light (which is a lot harder to do than with print copies of work) they also need more regular updates both in terms of content and maintenance. Websites which haven’t had new content added tend to look, to most users, like they’ve been abandoned by their creators and those which haven’t been updated to work with new browsers won’t work at all. Whilst websites can and are updated they are in some ways less permanent than print.

Whilst in an ideal world websites would be regularly updated with new content and updated in line with new software this can be impractical. Firstly if a website has been created for an academic project with a set lifespan there will come a point when new content is not being created so there will be nothing to update the website with. At this point, in effect, the website is finished and those involved in the project need to work out how to preserve the content of their website for others to use in the future.

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