So often my first contact with a new customer is to fix their existing website. Most of the time this website was built on the Wordpress platform, and has not received regular updates for an extended period … or ever!
The initial cause of the problem is usually something like this:
- The old Wordpress version is not compatible with the new version of PHP running on the server. Web hosts may update the PHP version without notice.
- Old plugins or themes are no longer compatible with the new version of PHP running on the server.
- Plugins are no longer supported by their developer, becoming obsolete, insecure, and will no longer function properly.
- The website has been hacked due to failure to install security updates.
- An SSL certificate was added to the website without properly migrating all URLs to https.
- Contact forms have stopped functioning, causing missed leads, wasted marketing budget, and diminished brand credibility.
In trying to fix these issues, I often run into problems like these:
- The previous developer did not supply the license information for the website theme or paid plugin, and it can therefore not be updated without purchasing a new license.
- Conflicts arise between plugins when they are updated to current versions.
- The website layout breaks when the theme is updated.
- A child theme was not used, and customizations are lost when the theme is updated.
Paying zero for maintenance over a few years can basically result in a website that needs extensive redesign work, or a complete redesign at some point. Keeping the website running smoothly with regular backups, updates and testing will result in a more secure, more reliable and better performing website. This doesn’t mean that plugin and theme conflicts will never arise, and it will not stop plugins or themes from going obsolete. However these issues can be caught and fixed before they cause a problem if you are maintaining the website on a regular, at least monthly basis.
Because Wordpress has such a shallow learning curve, it is easy for someone with basic computer skills to install a website using a template, swap out some text and images, and call themselves a web designer or web developer. Down the road when you need some customizations, run into problems, or your site crashes because the software hasn’t been updated, you will exceed the expertise of these “practitioners” and need to go shopping for someone with more extensive knowledge.
Here are some additional gotchas associated with improperly developed or maintained wordpress sites:
- Is your Wordpress installation locked down, or is it easy hack?
- Does your website include a security plugin? A firewall? Are they configured properly?
- Is the most recent and secure server software available on your web host? Are you even using the most recent versions?
If you don't know the answers to these questions, don't be surprised if your site gets hacked. If fact, it may already be hacked without you knowing it.
- Are you using a caching or site performance plugin? Is it properly configured?
- Are you using a content delivery network (CDN) to further improve performance?
- Are you on the cheapest web hosting account you could find?
Wordpress is a fairly complex piece of software that requires significant server resources to run smoothly. When you start adding plugins from various developers, the impact on need for additional server resources can be staggering. If you are on a cheap hosting plan, even though you may be allotted sufficient bandwidth and disk space given your average traffic, as soon as your site starts using more resources, like CPU, than the threshold for your account, the web host will throttle, or limit, your sites use of server resources. So if you get more than a few visitors, your site could easily go offline, or load so slowly that it is unusable.
I hope this information helps you in finding a competent Wordpress website designer for your business. If you are interested, you can review our Wordpress web design services.