Your website is going to require regular maintenance to keep running smoothly, and some improvements too from time to time. That's why owning a website is much like owning a car. It's therefore important that you're familiar with some of the recurring development issues, so you know what to expect and plan accordingly.
Let's now have a look at the major recurring development needs you should be concerned with, along with useful tips from WordPress developer and Codeable expert Raleigh Leslie.
Have your website built right
How much trouble you'll have with your website largely depends on how it's built in the first place. As with anything of value, you'll want to have a website that's built to the highest professional standards. This will save you many hours of frustration and lots of money down the road. But if you outsource your development to low-quality freelancers, there's a good chance you'll have more problems popping up from time to time.
If you have your website built by an expert developer, someone who really understands your needs, who does a lot of planning to make sure that your website has all the right features included from the very start, then you won't be having to invest in those new things looking ahead. That's why you need to make sure to invest heavily in the planning phase when you're initially building your site or taking on a website ownership.
It might sound simplistic, I know. But it really all comes down to the two things: a) Accurate planning at the start of the development process and b) working with high-quality developers. If you use a non-professional who's just going to slap something together and leave you with it, you'll be handling huge development problems that could have been easily skipped right off the bat.
These low-quality builds invariably lead to you needing to put out fires and fix issues far more frequently. Smart outsourcing and proper planning can help you avoid these issues and their associated costs.
Keep your website up-to-date
Most, if not all, of the themes and plugins you use, are being updated from time to time. These updates are meant to improve the product's functionality or sometimes to patch security loopholes, so it's always recommended to install updates when they're available. Also make sure you're running on the latest version of WordPress, which gets updated from time to time.
However, be cautious because it’s not always a good idea to immediately update things on your production site. Sometimes, an update to a single component of your site can completely shut everything down. A badly coded plugin can wreck your database. A theme file may not play well with your other plugins. An update to the WordPress core can ruin your custom eCommerce solution.
Sometimes patches or hot-fixes are rolled out immediately after a plugin or theme update is released to the public because a new issue has arisen when the initial update was pushed public. So sometimes if you don't install updates immediately, you can avoid being the one to find that bug in the new release before it's patched. But still, you should always implement new theme, plugin and core updates as soon as you can manage, and always be prepared if things don't play nicely.
Still, it's best not to take chances with blindly running updates, which brings me to the next point: backups.
You cannot afford not to have backups of your website stored at some safe place. Suggests Raleigh:
If you make a change or something happens, knowing you have backups in place is the biggest thing you can do in terms of saving yourself on recurring development issues or costs with running your website. Before you run updates, always make sure your site has a full backup so you can easily roll back to when it was properly working, if needed. Maybe confirm a few different backup sources are current, and also know how to use them rapidly.
Ideally, backups should be automated using plugins such as BlogVault, or VaultPress or UpdraftPlus which can be easily set up to run backups at your won desired frequency and also has the possibility to store your backups on third-party services like Dropbox, Google Drive, FTP server, and so on.
Several hosting companies also offer automated backup services and you should check with yours but be sure not to rely on that exclusively as part of your backup strategy.
Understand the importance of scheduling maintenance
Now comes the most important aspect of them all, when it comes to staying on top of your WordPress website's maintenance.
All of these recurring development needs should happen like clockwork and each task should have its own schedule and requirements.
Many website owners employ either a freelancer or web agency to take care of maintenance duties, such as ensuring the backups are done right, ensuring the site is secure, etc. This is typically on a retainer basis, which is a fixed list of tasks they had previously agreed on with the developer. With that kind of arrangement in place, you have people you can easily reach for assistance, even for unexpected issues that you had no idea they could happen.
As Raleigh highlights:
There are some standard things, such as maintenance and recurring tasks, that can be budgeted for and accounted into things. But there are others that are unexpected. Just like a car, sometimes it can leave you on the side of the road and there's nothing you could have done to prevent that. If you're a website owner and hire a professional developer on a retainer, it makes it really easy to have an open an ongoing communication channel between your business and your trusted freelancer. And, should you need an extra feature or should you have an unexpected issue, that line of communication is already open.
If you want to effectively and efficiently manage recurring development needs and regular maintenance for your website, you should focus on finding out what specific set of recurring tasks is your website requiring and make a plan for tackling it. If you have no idea where to start, you could have an outsourced developer help you figure out what routines your website will need.
That will give you an actionable plan along with costs that will make your budgeting easier.
How not taking care of your website regularly would affect your business?
There's no better way to explain it, than how Raleigh does:
Many business owners depend on their websites, it's their brick and mortar storefront in a way. So it's really important that your website isn't just maintained but kept running at its best.
If your website goes down because of a hack, for example, there's the risk of your customer data ending up in the wrong hands. And your business could come to a screeching halt if your website becomes inaccessible. Such problems will no doubt have a direct impact on your bottom line.
As Raleigh continues:
There are a million things that could happen. And that website, you own it. It's just like your child, and so you need to take care of it. And if you take it to the clinic down the road, you might get a lower level of service than if you take it to a specialized, highly-skilled, and recommended expert.
If you're like many business owners who depend on their website, it's important that you find a way to take care of your website's recurring needs. Besides regular maintenance, there are a ton of other things that could happen to your website, causing it to break down, run slow, or become vulnerable to hackers.
Waiting to fix things when they go wrong, or just look for the cheapest solution could end up costing you more than paying for regular maintenance, so the services of a reputable WordPress expert will ultimately pay off in the long run.
As Raleigh notes:
If you're spending less on website maintenance and keeping your site running well and healthy, you might end up paying more in the long run.
I'm sure you want your website to perform well, to be a secure site that resists hacks, attacks, and theft. This all circles back to that need for a quality build from the start and some preventive maintenance.
This blog post features Raleigh Leslie who is a senior in-house WordPress expert at Codeable. Raleigh helps clients and other experts be more successful in requesting and delivering freelance projects within Codeable's quality promise. He's helped thousands of freelancers and business owners with getting results they require when outsourcing WordPress projects.