Website maintenance: Why, When, How

website service and support

Your Website – Your Car – The same

Pretty much everyone knows that with a car, if you fail to keep up with regularly scheduled maintenance, eventually, you’re going to experience a mechanical breakdown.  This is not to say that if you neglected your maintenance, such as oil changes, tuneups, rotate your tires, brake work, etc. you were going to have a breakdown right away.  A car can run a long time on dirty oil. Its cylinders can continue firing with fouled and dirty, spark plugs. Your tires will continue rolling down the road even when severely worn. And even your brakes will continue to stop your car even if the pads and shoes are severely worn.

Until they won’t.

A car can go a very long time, especially if it is brand new, without doing any maintenance before something major goes wrong, and your vehicle comes to a grinding halt. Those are just the facts.  But sooner or later, that once dependable vehicle that was operating perfectly will no longer be dependable. On top of that, you are likely to have a very expensive repair bill at the shop.

Your website is just like a car

Very similar to a car, your website is made up of several different moving parts. WordPress websites are comprised of three main moving parts. WordPress core, WordPress, themes, and plug-ins.  These are all pieces of software that are built and assembled together to provide all the content, design, features, and functions that you see on the website when you visit.   There are other parts that go into a website, such as a database, PHP, software, and other scripts. But the three main ones we are going to talk about in terms of maintenance won’t include those.

If your website is built using WordPress, then it is likely to depend upon a number of different software pieces that provide its styling, content, and function. WordPress is the foundation on which your website is built. WordPress is a content management system, just like others such as Wix, Weebly, Joomla, Dreamweaver, but probably powers 50% of websites worldwide.

WordPress is open-source software that is continuously developed and maintained to improve its features, functionality, performance, and security. In addition to WordPress itself, other software such as themes and plugins are developed to provide additional performance, style and functionality to a website.

How is my website similar to my car?

WordPress core, Themes, and Plugins

WordPress itself is a software piece that is the backbone of websites built with it.  As of the date of this blog, we are currently in WordPress version 6.1.1.  WordPress regularly releases updates that improve its performance, add features, and provide security updates. Every website built with WordPress is built on a Theme.  There are literally hundreds if not thousands of WordPress themes that go from a basic blank slate to ones that come with all the bells and whistles.  The point is, every website has a theme.  Themes (if actively supported by its developer) are also frequently updated for the same reasons WordPress is.  Often, updates are released to coincide with WordPress core updates to continue to provide compatibility and avoid software conflicts between the two. Lastly, most WordPress websites utilize at least a few, if not more – to several Plugins.  There are even more plugins than themes and more continue to be developed all the time.  Plugins provide additional style, performance, and functions to websites.  They are convenient because they allow websites to be built without the need to hand-code parts of a website.  As with WordPress core and themes, if properly supported by their developer, these are regularly updated for the same reasons. So think of your website core software, theme, and plugins as your engine, transmission, and drivetrain on your car.  Your car depends on its engine, transmission, and drivetrain to be properly maintained in order to continue being dependable.  So does your website depend on its core software, theme, and plugins being properly maintained.

So what happens if you don’t do any maintenance for your website?

Well, truthfully, it could be just like the case with your car.  You could go weeks, months, or even longer and never do any maintenance on your website, seemingly not experiencing any issues that you would know about.

Or not.

But the question is not if your website will go down, but rather – when.  Website break or go down for a number of reasons.  They can be hacked due to security vulnerabilities.  The software for themes and plugins over time can become unsupported by its developer.  Your theme or plugins can become so old that they are no longer compatible with WordPress core software or each other.  When a website breaks or goes down due to a lack of maintenance, it can turn out to be a big problem to fix.  Oftentimes, access to your website files or database can be compromised.  You can lose access to your website’s dashboard.  Your website’s files and database can be corrupted in the case of hacking or malicious code injection.  Most importantly, if you are a business or organization that depends on your website to function, you can lose revenue, and customers and damage your online reputation.

Website maintenance – How and When?

When it comes to how often you should update your website, you could go the full spectrum here. A fanatical approach is to check your website daily or even hourly.  The opposite end of that spectrum is checking once every month or so.  We recommend something in between.  A good safe practice is to set aside some time, perhaps 30 minutes to an hour each week for maintenance and updates.   If you are unfamiliar with how to safely maintain your website, we have a helpful link on our website service and support page. If you simply lack the expertise or time to take care of the critical task of maintaining your website, you might want to look into hiring a web company to do this for you. In most cases, web design companies provide website service and support services that take care of software updates as well as other important maintenance needs. Since you are here, you can quickly look at ourwebsite service and support page to get an idea of how we support our clients in this area.

Regardless of how you choose to do the proper maintenance of your website, the goal is to actually do it.  It is worth the relatively small investment of time and little to zero cost to treat your website like you depend on it – just like your car.  If you would like to talk to someone about how we can help, contact us.  We would be glad to help!