Discover why website maintenance is important and an approach to website maintenance that frees your time for other important work.

Who doesn’t love the set-and-forget approach to, well, everything!

Set it up once and let it run unattended while you get on with all the other important things in your busy life.

The problem, however, is when used for website maintenance, set-and-forget soon leads to breakdown-and-disarray as website functions stop working and design falls apart.

But fear not – this article introduces a set-and-forget approach to website maintenance that works.

You can jump straight to our website maintenance solution or continue reading to understand why website maintenance is important.

What is website maintenance?

Website maintenance is the regular upkeep of the software programs used to build and operate websites.

These programs include:

  • Content management system (CMS) – The application on which websites are built, such as WordPress that runs over 40% of websites
  • Plugins – Programs added to websites to perform specific tasks, such as a contact form or ecommerce checkout
  • Theme – The foundation for website design, handling things like fonts, colours, layout, headers and footers

You can think of a CMS as like your mobile phone’s operating system (e.g. iOS for iPhone and Android for most other phones). And you can think of plugins as like your mobile phone’s apps.

And just like mobile phone operating systems and apps, website programs need regular updates.

Also like mobile phones, these updates sometimes cause problems, such as function failure (e.g. a contact form stops working) and design irregularities (e.g. page elements reflow).

Website maintenance can include other things, such as spam comment removal, but the main purpose of website maintenance is to keep a website operating smoothly on the latest versions of the software programs on which it is built.

You see why this is important next.

For us here at Trailhead Studio website maintenance does not include website repairs and improvements, such as publishing new content, design alterations and adding or removing features. If you would like help with these and other website tasks check out our Website Support service. You can choose from a monthly plan or support by the hour.

Three really good reasons why website maintenance is important

You have seen that the programs running your website are regularly updated. But why?

The three main reasons developers regularly update their programs are to fix security threats, release new features and improve performance. Let’s take a closer look.

1. Fix security threats

Fixing security threats is the number one reason why website maintenance is important.

I’ll go a step further – Please let the threat of security breaches convince you of the need to implement a regular maintenance routine on your website.

Although the internet is home to many wonderful things, such as free access to knowledge, open source software and support communities, it is also prowled by people with evil intent. Some of these people are highly skilled at hacking websites.

For whatever reason – to scam a few bucks, to steal bandwidth, sheer vandalism – these people work night and day to break in to your website.

Website hackers use many different approaches, but a common method is exploiting weaknesses in the programs that run websites (the CMS, plugins and themes you saw at the start of this article). This approach is popular with hackers because it works.

Reputable developers move quickly to fix security threats and release updated versions of their programs.

But, it is then down to every individual website owner using that program to update to the latest version.

Neglecting to update is one of the main reasons websites get hacked.

Fixing a security breach may require the services of a website security specialist. That’s expensive enough but you can add to this the cost of lost conversions and leads while your website is offline.

Note that security breaches cannot be fixed by updating programs after a breach has occurred (if only!).

So, no matter what other important steps you take to improve your website’s security, be sure to also perform a regular website maintenance routine that includes program updates.

Warning! Think they won’t bother with your small website? Think again. To hackers, small websites – especially websites run on outdated code – are the perfect target because their security is typically weaker than larger, professionally managed websites.

Website Maintenance Made Easy

Free your time and keep your website in perfect condition with Trailhead Studio’s affordable monthly maintenance plan.

2. Release new features

Fixing security breaches is not the only reason website program developers update their software. They also do it to introduce new features.

Completing regular maintenance gives you access to these features enabling you to better meet your audience’s needs and make more conversions.

However, a word of caution.

Although most feature updates are beneficial or have no impact on your website, some will cause problems.

Problems happen when an update removes or radically changes a feature used by your website. Problems also happen when an update causes a program to stop playing nicely with other programs installed on your website.

So, although website maintenance is important for accessing the latest features, you need to check that an update doesn’t cause existing features to stop working.

We further explore the risks of website maintenance below.

Tip – Regular updates in small increments (e.g. from V5.0 to V5.1) are far safer than infrequent updates in large increments (e.g. from V5.0 to V7.0). In the long run they’re cheaper too, as large increment updates require more time to check for problems.

3. Improve performance

Improving your website’s performance is the third reason why website maintenance is important.

Website performance is about providing your website audience with a good experience on your website. Remember, your website audience consists of your potential customers, supporters, donors and more.

Providing a good user experience projects a professional image of your organisation and builds trust between you and your audience. When people feel you are professional and when they trust you they become more likely to make purchases, subscribe and donate.

Because website performance is important for user experience Google has made it an important criteria for obtaining a coveted page 1 position in relevant search results.

There are many ways to improve website performance, but perhaps the most important is improving your website load speed.

Website load speed is the time a user waits from clicking on a link to a page on your website to being able to interact with content on that page.

So what does this have to do with website maintenance?

Well, the world of website software is competitive. Developers must constantly improve their programs or lose out to their competitors.

Developers know that website load speed is an obsession for many website owners (quite rightly, as load speed is an important ranking factor), so they frequently release updates to reduce any drag their programs have on load speed.

For you as a website owner this is a very good thing as it means after a maintenance update your website may load faster.

However, don’t be complacent when you’ve got your website loading quickly.

Once you have achieved an acceptable speed the important metric is not how fast your website loads. The important metric is how fast your website loads in comparison to your competitors (i.e. the websites trying to make it to page 1 of Google search results for the same keywords as you).

So, if your website loads at the same speed while your competitors’ websites load faster you have in effect slowed down, which may cause Google to reduce your position in search results. Regular maintenance helps overcome this paradox.

Bonus reason why website maintenance is important – It reminds you to check your backups

Earlier in this article you saw that regularly performing website maintenance helps avert security breaches.

But what if a breach happens anyway?

The simplest solution is to revert your website to its pre-hack state using a backup taken before the security breach occurred.

But this can only happen if you have a sound backup routine in place that you regularly check is working.

The ideal time to check all’s well with your backups is during your regular maintenance routine.

However, note that restoring your website from a backup will not solve every security breach.

First, some hacks cannot be removed by reverting a website to its pre-hack state.

And second, security breaches can be hard to spot. By the time you notice your website has been hacked all your backups may be infected.

So, you definitely need a robust backup system that you regular check is working as part of your maintenance routine. But don’t rely on backups as a universal get-out-of-jail-free card.

The risks of website maintenance

A double-edged sword has two cutting edges making it a more effective weapon than a single-edged sword but also making it more dangerous to the person frantically swinging it around their head in battle.

So a double-edged sword is a good thing that can also be a bad thing.

Website maintenance is a double-edged sword.

Website maintenance is a good thing because it helps protect websites from attack, gives access to more functions and improves website performance.

But it can also be a bad thing because website program updates can break your website.

At first glance it’s easy to be cranky about this – shouldn’t developers be more careful?

But in fact they are very careful. First, most of them are good people who don’t want to damage your website. Second, they don’t want the bad reviews triggered by poor coding.

The problem is that every website runs on a different collection of CMS, plugins and theme. Further, your website developer may have written custom code when building your website. It is impossible for any developer to predict how these various components will interact with each other.

If you look at your WordPress admin dashboard you will see opportunities to enable auto-updates. Take care if you use this feature.

Some of the programs running your website may be safe to auto-update, but others should simply never be allowed to auto-update.

To make website maintenance safe it should only be performed under certain conditions, including that you:

  • Have a recent complete backup of your website, two if you’re really cautious (read, sensible)
  • Make updates on a staging site (an offline copy of your live website)
  • Complete extensive testing before pushing the updated staging site to live

Murphy’s Law tells us that if anything can go wrong, it will. And Murphy’s Law is permanently hovering over your shoulder, waiting to strike.

What you need is a website maintenance solution that works.

A set-and-forget website maintenance solution

At the start of this article we told you about a set-and-forget approach to website maintenance that frees your time for other things.

But in the previous section we explained why you should take great care when maintaining your site, even stating that in many cases you shouldn’t use auto-updates.

So, how is a set-and-forget approach to website maintenance possible?

Easy, have someone do it for you.

Some website owners resist paying for website maintenance. After all, we update our mobile phones ourselves and this article has compared websites to mobile phones on several occasions.

However, the comparison breaks down when it comes to maintenance. Now your website is more like a car than a phone.

For most of us, car maintenance is a mystery best left to people trained in the mechanical arts. Even if we could work out how to maintain our own car the investment in tools and the time lost to other work would probably make it financially unviable.

This is exactly where website maintenance sits.

Yes, you could study how to maintain your website and invest in the apps that make doing it safe. (You would still have to work out how to fix things when an update breaks your site.)

Or you could invest that time in running your business or nonprofit, and that money in a professional maintenance service.

Here at Trailhead Studio we offer an affordable monthly maintenance plan that will keep your website in perfect condition.

It is the set-and-forget solution to website maintenance.

Why website maintenance is important conclusion

Website maintenance is crucially important for keeping your website secure, accessing new features and improving website performance. But, updating the programs running your website is risky and must be done with care, making website maintenance a time-consuming chore. The most effective solution to website maintenance is to have Trailhead Studio do it for you. It’s the set-and-forget approach to website maintenance that frees your time for other work.

Website Maintenance Made Easy

Free your time and keep your website in perfect condition with Trailhead Studio’s affordable monthly maintenance plan.