Why Is WordPress Website Maintenance So Important?
Over the last several weeks we’ve had a dramatic increase in the number of repair requests to WordPress websites. Despite the differences in site content or target industry, there are striking similarities between them.
- Websites were developed more than a year ago
- No one has logged in or made updates recently (at least three months)
- Site user reports website features aren’t functioning
- There has been diminishing performance (leads, sales, etc.)
- You’re getting emails about out of date plugins
WordPress is no different than the car you drive. Although you put gas in the tank, you still need to maintain the engine. This engine has several parts: the core WordPress software, plug-ins, and the theme.
Core WordPress Software
WordPress is a software system that is being continually updated. Performance improvements, security patches, and bug fixes are addressed in every update. These updates are released on a regular basis.
Features your developer utilized to add security, display a calendar, provide a contact form, or showcase your product gallery are referred to as plug-ins. Plug-ins are updated for the same reasons and often more frequently than the core WordPress software.
The visual design and styling of your WordPress website is managed by a theme. Just like the core WordPress software and the feature plug-ins, themes will be updated by their creators. While updates are mostly done to provide security updates, design changes, or support changes to WordPress; the themes will sometimes fall behind the rapid pace of updates. Making sure your selected theme is regularly updated means your website will continue to look good.
Note: Themes are pretty complex. There are parent themes, child themes, framework, and other elements that make up the theme installed on your website. For the sake of brevity, we are discussing the high-level idea of a theme.
Maintaining Yourself with One Click Updates — The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.
The WordPress administrative interface allows you to make these updates with a click of a button. It should be that simple. However, the complexities between the components of your website can sometimes cause a breakdown.
Between the three components of the website (WordPress, plug-ins, and themes), updates can come freely and without specific timing. The ability to simply check a few boxes and click “update” sounds like a dream to manage. WordPress has done a wonderful job making it easy for these kind of updates to be done.
When the updates show that they have been successfully installed, you breathe a sigh of relief. Yet the ease of one click updates can be a little misleading and is not without risks.
WordPress updates the core software. A plug-in developer makes a security patch. A theme developer applies tweaks to widget functions. Are they all on the same page? No. Do they all roll out based on the same information? Nope.
While WordPress attempts to caution site administrators by showing a “compatibility” rating for plug-ins, these are not guarantees the plug-in updates will work for your specific site. A successful installation doesn’t necessarily mean the plug-in will function correctly.
This is where a developer comes in handy. In addition to testing the plug-in updates, the expertise of a developer can troubleshoot challenges that arise. If the plug-in needs to be rolled back to a previous version or the site needs to be restored to a previous date, a developer will be able to work efficiently to get the site performing as it should.
Plug-ins control functionality but themes are what makes the website look good. Depending on how the theme is constructed and how the updates are managed by the theme designer, updates can be chancy at best.
Themes frequently use a core programming base commonly referred to as a parent theme. The parent theme will control much of the overall function and may even rely on specific plug-ins to work properly.
Plug-ins within the parent theme may not be updated or supported in the same fashion as independently installed plug-ins. In other words, a parent theme may rely on a plug-in that falls out of compatibility with WordPress.
This is particularly common right now. Many parent themes have been developed using plug-ins that aren’t compatible with the newest versions of WordPress. This has led to portions of websites not functioning or displaying incorrectly.
Theme updates sometimes push changes to how the website displays, too. Depending on the age of the theme, customizations to the design (colors, fonts, layouts, etc.) can be overwritten in a theme update.
This situation, which is becoming more common, is another reason why working with a developer to maintain your WordPress site can be advantageous.
Find a Developer You Trust for Maintenance
While it sounds like maintaining a website is full of danger and pitfalls, coordinating with a skilled developer is a fantastic way to keep your website’s engine in peak performance.
When you’re in the website development process, be sure to ask your developer about maintenance plans or support options. Everyone goes into website ownership thinking they will have time to run updates and refresh content. It becomes more of a challenge as business responsibilities mount.
Be sure to ask critical questions like:
- How often do you run updates?
- What is and what isn’t covered by the maintenance agreement?
- Do you run a backup before making updates?
- What happens when a plug-in is incompatible?
- What is your policy when updates require additional support?
- Do you have similar maintenance clients?
Owning a website is much like owning a vehicle. Invest in a good vehicle from the start. The right maintenance plan will prolong the lifespan and improve your website’s performance. Be sure to trust the right maintenance provider and only use quality parts. If you’re in the market for a website, we “know a guy.”