Gone are the days when you would set up your web pages and you would be done for the next 10 years or so. In today’s world, most websites require some sort of maintenance work and that is especially true for WordPress.
Why is maintenance important?
The number one reason is security. Your site is not alone. It exists in an ecosystem and it is connected with many other systems for it to work and do its job. All of this is in a continuous state of change. Change means that potentially new software problems are introduced that could affect your site. This change also means that new security exploits are discovered that could make your site vulnerable.
Unless you are a security expert and keeping on top of web security issues is your job, it is a daunting task to keep up with all this change. I get it. But that is no reason to just give up on it entirely.
At the very least keep your website components updated (core and plugins) and have good backups in place [link to backups].
The second reason is to continue to be relevant. As the services and business around you evolve, your website needs to evolve to keep up or even to lead the way. So maintenance, in this case, can go from simple website updates to constant incremental improvements so that your users’ experience gets better and better. The most common issue here is that integration points with other services change and without a maintenance plan in place, your site would just stop working at some point.
The third reason is to make sure your website is still functioning properly. You don’t want to hear from your customers that your store is not working. How many sales did you lose before someone took the time to contact you? You don’t want to wait months to discover your most valuable page is broken and so Google dropped it from the search index. The solution here is to have a test plan in place. Once a week you could check your home page, your purchase process, and the signup process and make sure they work. For bigger businesses, an automated test plan may be a better solution.
The Cost of Website maintenance
There is a cost for maintenance. That is time if you need to do it yourself, or money, if you need to hire someone to do it for you.
Instead of thinking just in terms of costs and maybe decide not to do it, ask yourself how much would it cost you in the long run *not* to maintain your website. In that sense, maintenance is a form of insurance that you pay for your peace of mind. It can also be an investment that you make in your business growth.
How to do it?
At the most basic level, you need to keep your software updated. For WordPress, that means updating to the latest stable version, and also updating your plugins. It also means that you delete (not just deactivate) old plugins that you no longer use.
A more intermediate level would also include some database operations to keep lean, optimized and fast.
For more advanced users you may have to hire someone to do this for you constantly: monitor the uptime, make sure that the core business processes are still functioning, check the integration points and update the software as required, optimize for performance and so on.
Don’t ignore maintenance. When you build a new website make sure you include a budget for it and that you also discuss it with your developer. And if you already have a website, you should also have a maintenance plan in place.
Do you have any “lessons learned” the hard way? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.