Website Maintenance

The thing about websites is that they aren’t like posters and books… they are on technology that changes. Any tiny change can cause a problem with your website. Far too many times I’ve had clients come to me with a website issue that they have no idea how long has been an issue, because they went with the “set it and forget it” model of website ownership. Once your website is done, if you aren’t signed up for any kind of support plan or WordPress website maintenance packages, it’s up to you to make sure that your site is up and running. So here is my list of the three main things you should be doing at least once a month to make sure your site continues to work for you.

Look at it.

Don’t underestimate the power of just looking at your website and making sure it looks okay. Some websites owners never visit their website again after launch, or rarely go there. If you don’t check it once in a while, something could be wrong and you wouldn’t even know. At least once a month you should visit your website, click around a few pages to make sure things are working. Sometimes the homepage looks fine, but another page or your portfolio is broken because a plugin update failed. It doesn’t take long to do, just open up your website and take a look around and make sure it looks okay. (Check it out on your phone too.)

These visual reviews lets you examine not just how your site looks, but how it functions. Can your users get around? Are there any broken links? Does the user experience make sense?

Test your forms.

If submitting forms on your website is one of your goals, and it is for me, then it’s important to test those forms to make sure they are getting to you. There are all kinds of reasons why the forms may get stuck somewhere. One of the most common ones I see is that people get a new email address and don’t think to update the forms on the website. And if you stop checking your old email, or it stops working, you never see those submissions again. Changes to your web hosting platform can cause issues as well. Or the submissions can start going to your spam folder and you may not notice. One time a client’s server’s IP got put on a spam blacklist, and then every submission on their website got filtered as spam and they didn’t see them (through no fault of their own). At least once a month, go on your website and submit a test of your forms. That way, you know if there’s a problem.

Additionally, login to your site and look at the form submissions. If you are using Gravity Forms or other similar form plugin, you can see all the submissions. It’s a good idea to look at those once a month just to make sure you didn’t miss any.

If you have an e-commerce store, it’s always a good idea to place an order once in a while to make sure all aspects of your checkout are continuing to function. Trust me, you don’t want to wait until you notice that you haven’t had an order in a month to realize there’s a problem.

Run software updates.

Like I said before, websites these days are not set it and forget it, and if you have a WordPress site, there will be updates that need to be run. RUN THEM. This is one of the biggest reasons sites get hacked is because people aren’t updating their plugins.

One time I logged into someone’s site and every single plugin was out of date, their theme was out of date, and WordPress was out of date. I asked why they hadn’t done any updates (because these were VERY old updates) and the business owner told me that the person who made the website told them not to – that updates would break the site.

If your site is done well, and it is done using quality and vetted plugins and themes, then 99% of the time, an update will not break the site.

If you or someone else has gone rogue and edited plugin files and theme files on your own, the an update definitely could break the site. So don’t do those things. But definitely, keep your software up-to-date. Updates come out regularly and you will rarely go a week without at least one plugin, theme, or core software needing updated. It may be a lot to ask you to check in weekly (although we run updates weekly for those on our support plans) but check in at least once a month.

Taking some basic steps to make sure that your website continues to work for you and your users doesn’t take long, but will pay off big time. You’ll feel confident that your users are having a good experience and that you aren’t missing anything. And of course, if you don’t want or have time to do these things for yourself, you can hire us to do it for you by signing up for one of our support plans.

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Amy Masson, Web Developer

Amy Masson

Amy is the co-owner, developer, and website strategist for Sumy Designs. She's been making websites with WordPress since 2006 and is passionate about making sure websites are as functional as they are beautiful.

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