What is the difference between reactive and preventive website maintenance? Website maintenance refers to the ongoing care and attention given to a website over time. This includes systematic updates, fixes, and improvements. Reactive website maintenance is usually done after a problem has occurred. Preventive website maintenance involves taking steps to prevent problems from occurring in the first place.
Why WordPress website maintenance isn’t as easy as it seems
WordPress updates are unpredictable. If you’ve ever clicked a plugin or theme “update” button only to find that your website no longer functions then you understand that it’s not a simple task. At my agency, our web administrators never process website updates late in the day—especially Friday afternoons—or while standing in line to board a plane.
I’ll never forget the first time I experienced a blank white website screen after processing an update on my first WordPress website. After I clicked “update,” I couldn’t even login to my WordPress dashboard. I felt sick.
Did I just lose my entire website? Weeks of my hard work?
I called my hosting company in a panic. To my relief, they were able to get my website back up and running by deactivating a plugin from the server files.
That was ten years ago and the first time I heard the phrase, “white screen of death” to describe what I saw on my computer screen after updating that plugin. Today, I look back at that experience as the CEO of a website consulting agency. But, at the time, I had no idea what had happened to my website or how it was going to be fixed. The term, “white screen of death” seemed appropriate.
Types of WordPress website maintenance
Expect three types of WordPress website maintenance to support your website.
Reactive WordPress website maintenance is corrective. It includes researching and troubleshooting problems that are reported by the website owner or the end user. If the website manager fixes the problem after learning about it from the website owner or the end user, then it is reactive maintenance. When we take on a new website maintenance client at Emily Journey & Associates, our initial maintenance of the website is in reaction to pre-existing website problems.
If a website manager finds and fixes problems in the website before they are discovered by end users or by the website owner, then the maintenance action is preventive or adaptive. Preventive Maintenance is about preventing errors before they occur. It includes updating the WordPress plugins, optimizing the code, reconfiguring plugins, conducting research, and testing features such as forms and e-commerce checkout processes. Preventive website maintenance is linked to an uncertain future event. Website managers should perform preventive maintenance before something happens.
Adaptive website maintenance is related to a certain future event. For example, adding more server space to support an expected increase in website traffic. Or, replacing old plugins plugins with more modern plugins. Adaptive maintenance should be done only after preventive maintenance is complete.
What are the responsibilities in maintaining a website?
The following table lists some of the tasks that a WordPress consultant performs on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis:
Daily Automated Tasks
- uptime monitoring
- full backups
- e-commerce report generation
- security monitoring
- Ongoing development projects and editing tasks
- Research and Troubleshooting
- Communication with client
Monthly Security and Performance Tasks
- theme updates, plugin updates, and software updates
- page load speed optimization and performance optimizations
- form deliverability and e-commerce testing
- communication with client
20 Best practices for website developers
Are you a website developer? If so, then read on. I became a website developer in 2012 when I was unemployed and 42 years old. Since then, I have been helping people and companies with their website problems. Along the way, I have made a few mistakes and learned some valuable lessons. Here is my list of best practices for website developers.
1. Tell the truth
If you don’t know how to do something, then say so. It’s really okay to not know everything. Honesty pays off in many ways. Customer loyalty is one of them.
2. Be transparent
If you are outsourcing some or all of your project, then talk about it in your proposal.
3. Outsource some of your work
You are just not that good at everything. Your client will get a better finished product when you outsource the things you’re not good at. I outsource graphic design, branding, and advertising. I even outsource some things I am good at like copywriting because I can’t deliver copywriting quickly when I’m the one doing the writing.
4. Encourage your clients to own their digital assets
Domain name. Hosting account. Social profiles. Do not assign yourself ownership of these important properties. Don’t ever be in the position of declining your client access to their own website files because you put them on your own server.
5. Complete projects
Be prepared to provide a full refund if you can’t complete a project. Or, pay out of your own pocket to make sure somebody gets the work done. I’ve done both.
6. Part ways with dignity
Make it easy to break up with you. Why would you want to hold a client and their digital property hostage? My parting words are always, “Thank you for trusting us with your business” and “We will be here if you need us in the future.”
7. Get paid faster
Who said 50% deposit and 50% upon completion was a good idea? Not me. Instead, get a 1/3rd deposit, 1/3rd at 30 days, and the remaining 1/3rd upon project completion. This approach ensures you are paid for 2/3rds of your work fairly quickly and prevents client foot-dragging near the end of the project.
8. If your client wants a duck, then give them a duck
Don’t force your big (expensive) ideas on your client. They may end up committing with reservations. Your client will be on high alert for all the reasons why this was a bad idea and you will be thrown under the bus.
9. Make sure they know the duck poops
Sometimes clients have bad ideas. Help them understand why it’s a bad idea to put a slider with 18 animated slides at the top of their homepage. They will make an informed decision; they might do it anyway, but their choice won’t be a reflection of your work.
10. Pick up after yourself
Delete the slew of unused/unneeded plugins and themes on the website when you’re done with your work.
11. Sweat the small stuff
Take the extra time to do the work correctly. Resize large images before uploading them to the website. Avoid uploading images of 1MB or larger. Details matter.
12. Have someone else test your work before delivering your finished product
You’ve been staring at the website for so many hours that you can’t see it anymore! Have someone you trust go through it while you watch. Have them click on every link.
13. Speak in ways you can be understood
Take a minute to remember what it was like to learn website development. You didn’t know all of the terminology. Slow down and simplify your language for the sake of your client. It will pay off in overall better understanding on both sides.
14. Pick up the phone
Email is not always appropriate. Especially if your client is upset or confused. Even when a client tries to have an important conversation with me via email, I will direct them to schedule a phone call with me.
15. Use instant video to explain and teach
Instant video tools such as loom are powerful time-savers and effective in helping clients understand you. I use instant videos throughout my workday to efficiently respond to questions from my staff and clients. Answers which used to require lengthy written descriptions and annotated screenshot attachments are now a snap with instant video.
16. Be responsible for your mistakes
If you messed up something, fix it on your own time. Don’t charge your clients for your mistakes.
17. Research and troubleshooting is a service
Research and troubleshooting of problems is a normal part of our work. It’s not free. Help your client understand this aspect of our work as a service.
18. Build in a time-limited support period after the project launch
Prevent the project from never ending. Make it clear how much time is available and what the cost of additional support will be.
19. Have a single point of contact at your client’s business
Invited to the team meeting to brainstorm about the website? I will show up for this meeting just once. While I’m there, I explain why it’s important for them to have these meetings without me. A single point of contact with decision making authority is more efficient and less expensive for your client.
20. Leave your company name off of the website footer
Your client’s website is not your billboard–even if they do love you.