Building a new website for your brand or business can be exciting, and maybe even thrilling. From choosing the colors and fonts to finally launching, there is a lot to mull over. But, did you forget about one not-so-small detail? Maintenance. Whether you are building your website on your own, hiring a freelancer, or working with an agency, make sure to tackle the topic of ongoing maintenance. Who will be maintaining the site, what does maintenance include, and how much will it cost? In order to make educated decisions about ongoing maintenance, you should know how to properly maintain a website and why your website needs maintenance at all.
Why You Need Website Maintenance
We often compare websites to cars: When you own a car, you periodically clean it, take it in for oil changes, tune-ups, an inspection, etc. If you don’t bring your car in for maintenance at the recommended intervals, it doesn’t mean your car will immediately stop working, but it might. Years of neglect can eventually cause a dramatic demise where major functionality is impaired (think your engine or transmission dying). Yes, like a car your website requires ongoing maintenance, regular inspections, and occasional upgrades or repairs. If not, it probably won’t perform as well as it could, and the chances of a dramatic, sudden, and deadly error increase.
Okay, so you get the idea: Your website needs a little upkeep. But what does it look like to properly maintain a website?
The first and probably most obvious aspect of maintaining a website is keeping the content up to date. If you change your hours of operation or move to a new location, it is critical for SEO and user experience that the information on your website is up to date. Plus, some customers may look for signs of an up-to-date website as an indication that your business is active. Some items they make look for include recent blog posts, images of recent projects or sales, or even the copyright date on the bottom of the site. If you don’t know how to make updates or don’t have the time, then consider hiring someone to help.
Plugin, Theme, and Platform Updates
Failure to update plugins and themes could have inconvenient consequences. It could cause the website to perform poorly (such as glitches, errors, or slow load speed), make the website vulnerable to viruses and hackers, and software can overtime become deprecated. Deprecated plugins that are not replaced will lead to broken code on the front end of the website and may go undetected for some time if there isn’t anyone conducting regular maintenance audits.
If your website is integrated with a 3rd party software, there are many reasons why the connection may be disabled, such as an update or an outdated API access token. If the program is disconnected, then the functionality won’t work. Types of software this could happen with include social media, payment processor, and CRM integrations. Would you know how to reconnect your software with your website if they disconnected?
There are various levels of security that you can add to your website to keep out hackers and malware, but nothing is 100%. Regardless of the level of security your website has, it is best to conduct regular site security scans to check for questionable links or files. If a website is hacked and caught quickly, uploading a backup and changing all associated passwords could be the solution. However, if it goes undetected for too long then even the backups may be compromised. This can make it much more difficult, time-consuming, and costly to eradicate all infected or harmful files and links, jeopardizing the integrity of your whole website.
Speaking of backups, periodically making a full backup of your website is a critical aspect of properly maintaining your website. Depending on how often you update your website, you may want to make daily, weekly, or monthly backups. Keep backups for at least 30 days and ensure that you are doing a security scan in between deleting backups. You may also want to make an extra backup before updating plugins, themes, and content. Backups ensure you can quickly revert to the older version in the event that the updates cause errors (it happens, trust us) and minimize potential downtime.
Consider This Before Getting a New Website
If you are technologically savvy, you may be able to handle ongoing website maintenance yourself. However, if you aren’t then you may want to consider your website maintenance plan before signing a new website development contract. Freelance website designers and developers are an affordable option to get a website up and running, but the temporary nature of freelancers can lead to continuity issues with site upkeep, and the frequent changing hands can mean important site details are overlooked. Agencies may be hesitant to provide management services to a client who had their website built elsewhere. It isn’t uncommon for agencies to only offer website management or maintenance to clients who have signed on for other services. For this reason, getting a website built from an established agency that can guarantee the ability to continue to serve you for years to come is a wise plan.