A common aspect of a new website build that often gets overlooked is regular website maintenance. While some websites today are “easy” to edit, they are still extremely complex software applications with thousands of files working together. Often, platforms that are trying to strip out the complexity of the web have even more moving pieces to accomplish that feat. Just like the operating system or apps on your computer or smartphone, this software needs to be kept up to date for security and performance reasons.
Think of your website as you would your house. Whether it’s brand new or 30 years old, if you neglect the little things like a leaky faucet or loose shingles on the roof, it won’t be long before these little problems lead to serious damage. Just like a house, websites don’t take care of themselves on their own. They need to be monitored, updated, and from time to time, need remodeling to keep up with modern design trends. If you don’t do this, your website’s performance and visual appeal will degrade with time.
To further illustrate why your website needs regular maintenance, let’s first look through some of the most common website maintenance tasks.
At Insight Creative, we perform website maintenance on a regular basis and typically include the following tasks:
A lot of modern websites are built on open-source content management systems like WordPress or Drupal. There are a lot of benefits to open-source software, but this comes with downsides too. While these systems make content management easy, they require much more work to maintain. Just like the apps and operating system on your smartphone, WordPress, themes, plugins and other systems are continuously updated, and new security patches and features get released sometimes on a daily basis. At the same time, hackers are constantly trying to exploit vulnerabilities of outdated software.
A common misconception is that your small business site would never be targeted by hackers. You aren’t a large corporation like Twitter or Facebook, you aren’t accepting credit card payments or storing other sensitive data. The reality is that hackers like small sites. Website hacks aren’t just about stealing data, they could be trying to steal website traffic or send spam emails. Often, they are using bots to inject scripts and other malicious code using known vulnerabilities, and tactics like this aren’t concerned about the size of your business. An old site that is not frequently updated simply becomes an easy target for hackers.
In the end, no website software is truly safe from hackers. The recent Twitter hack demonstrates exactly that. That’s why at Insight Creative we work extremely hard to minimize security issues, and we believe that regular website maintenance is one of the best strategies you can adopt.
Regular backups of your website are important, so your site and data are safe, and you have a recovery plan in place. Nobody can ever guarantee your site is safe from hackers, but this does ensure that—if disaster strikes—you don’t lose your entire website, and you can be back up and running in minutes, not months.
Technology also changes at such a rapid speed that new software updates can sometimes introduce new bugs. This is why—before running any core, theme or plugin updates—we always perform two site and database backups first, one on the hosting server and one in an off-site location for emergency fall back. That way, if a bug is uncovered, we can safely restore the site back to a working version while further testing is done in a safe environment.
Users and search engines both like fast-loading websites, and it’s one of the most important user experience benchmarks. Websites that load at more than three seconds are now considered poorly performing websites and hurt your user experience and search engine results. Outdated software eventually will start to degrade and run very slowly if not maintained. Newer versions of PHP, WordPress and often plugin updates are built with modern code and performance in mind. This means if you aren’t updating, you’re losing out on all these modern performance advantages.
Eventually, you may start to see drastic performance changes that become visible to users on the front end of your website. Not only will your site start to load painfully slow, but you may also start to see the basic functionality of your website won’t perform properly, and eventually, your whole site may stop working altogether.
Another important benefit of maintaining your website is how it performs in search results. As mentioned earlier, not only do your website visitors demand a fast-loading website but so do search engines. Search engines use site speed as a ranking factor because a slow website drastically impacts the user’s experience. An updated website will help ensure that your site’s performance is keeping up with the expectations of search engines and therefore helping you stay relevant in search results.
An outdated website may also start presenting users and search engines with broken links, broken navigation, dead pages, missing images or other software errors that create a poor user experience. When search engines start to see errors and bad user experiences like this, they may start penalizing your site and sending your search traffic to competitor sites. This can then be extremely hard–if not an impossible hit–to recover from.
Especially with complex content management systems like WordPress, it’s important to remember this is software, and as we all know software is prone to bugs, glitches, and security vulnerabilities. When Insight Creative includes monthly maintenance in our website contracts and service packages, it’s because you have invested in a service, and we genuinely like to see that performing at a high level for you.
So, what kind of maintenance is being performed on your website? Need help figuring out where to go from here? Get in touch with us if you need help creating a regular maintenance plan for your website.
Justin builds, designs and maintains custom websites for Insight’s wide-ranging client base. As a former business owner, Justin understands that your website should work as a major conduit for achieving marketing and sales goals. His strategic, results-oriented approach—combined with a can-do attitude, exceptional tech savvy and constant desire to learn—makes Justin an incredible asset to Insight’s creative department. Prior to joining Insight, Justin ran a website design and development company providing full-service creative solutions. He holds an associate degree in software application development from Rasmussen College.