Regular Maintenance keeps your site younger For Longer
As the digital-age version of the saying (probably) goes, there are only three sure things in life: death, taxes, and needing a new website. Like most assets, your website has a limited useful lifespan and will become obsolete over time.
But we’re not saying that to scare you! There are steps you can take to keep your site fresh, timely, and useful to your audience. After all, we understand that building a new site from scratch can be a substantial investment, and you want to make sure you’re getting all the value you can. Routine maintenance helps you get the maximum possible life out of your website. Here’s how.
What lifespan can I expect for a new website?
Let’s get this looming question out of the way. Any website, no matter how expertly designed, will have a limited lifespan if left untouched. From our experience, a newly-minted website will last anywhere from three to five years before it shows signs of needing to be rebuilt. There are plenty of reasons for this estimate, which we cover in more detail in our post about signs that your company needs a new website. Some of the biggest factors include load speed, poor user experience, outdated technical components, and a clumsy editing process.
Why is web maintenance important?
No one wants to throw money away. A beautiful new site is a big investment for your business. It’s smart to protect that investment and get the most value you can out of it. That’s where regular upkeep comes in–it saves you money in the long run that would be spent replacing a site earlier than you’d like.
Another big reason for keeping your website updated, maybe even bigger than its longevity, is security. When components of your site like themes and plugins are out of date, they’re much more susceptible to breaches from hacking. And the longer those vulnerable entry points are left unattended, the more opportunity for security issues grows. A major attack could bring down your site or expose your customer’s data. That’s a scenario you never want.
How can I make my new site last longer?
Proactive maintenance and prevention efforts can help your website live a long and healthy life. Think of your website like a sports car: regular tune-ups and bodywork is essential to keep it in top form. With upkeep, you can move the needle toward five years or beyond of usable life before your site needs more intensive overhauling. Maintenance and updates are easier and less costly to perform on a new site, so it pays to take care of your new site from day one.
Here are eight essential tips for designing a regular web maintenance plan:
- Update your WordPress version, theme, and plugins
Take advantage of the new functionality that an update offers, but first a word of caution: You might not want to jump on the latest WordPress version the instant it’s released. It’s better for the new version to be thoroughly tested for bugs before you apply it to your site.
After a major version change, you’ll need to update your theme and plugins to be compatible. As we mentioned, outdated site components can leave you vulnerable to hacking and attacks. (And if your plugin isn’t backed by a developer anymore, it’s time to ditch it.)
- Monitor site uptime
When your site goes down, it’s bad for everyone, and you want to know ASAP. Don’t leave customers stranded on an error page while you’re left unaware.
Ideally, you’ll be notified instantly if your site is down, and how long it’s been down. Check on average uptime on a monthly basis to keep an eye on your site’s health–if it’s below 99%, that means your site is inaccessible to visitors more than 3.5 days per year, which is cause for concern.
- Protect yourself from security issues
A security breach can be devastating for your business. You need a plugin or service that will monitor your site 24/7 and notify you of any suspicious activity like site updates that you didn’t initiate or malicious bots creating accounts. If you’re made aware of any threats, you should block the attacker’s account, IP address, or even country, if that’s appropriate.
- Perform routine backups
You’ll want these if your site crashes or you’re the victim of a security breach. Having a routinely scheduled backup running in the background can be a lifesaver in critical site conditions, or if you simply need to roll back to a previous version of your site. Daily is best!
- Test and optimize for site performance
Speed is the name of the game. Web users hate the waiting game (especially on mobile), so a fast site is a traffic-winning site. By running your site through speed tests and checking your Core Web Vitals on a regular basis, you’ll stay on top of any issues that might affect page load speed. If your site is sluggish, there are plenty of ways to speed it up, including optimizing images, advanced site caching, using a content delivery network (CDN), and removing unnecessary plugins.
- Solve accessibility issues
Making sure your website is accessible to all people, regardless of any disability, is critically important. Here is a handful of usability best practices that will help your site meet ADA standards:
- Design with sufficient background-foreground color contrast to ensure readability
- Choose appropriate font sizes to make content easy to read on all devices Provide clear and consistent navigation options
- Add alt text to images and other media for screen readers
- Use recognizable design techniques to make it obvious when things are interactive (buttons, links, icons, hover states, etc.)
- Stay on top of SEO
How prominently your site shows up in searches is absolutely critical for capturing traffic. Ranking algorithms are secret and change constantly, so keep an eye out for the latest wisdom. Some areas that should definitely be a part of your SEO work include focus keywords, page titles, meta descriptions, and alt tags for images. Site performance (see item 5 above) is an increasingly important factor in search engine ranking as well.
- Test conversion goals and check for broken links
Once you’ve set conversion goals and how you’ll track them, you need to know these data pathways are working. Test links and buttons to make sure these are being tracked properly. Do an automated scan for broken links and fix them with redirects promptly. After all, no one likes being stuck on a 404 page!
On top of technical maintenance, you should regularly update content to keep your site fresh, new, and exciting–and optimized for search engine algorithms.
Sound like a lot to manage? Take a more hands-off approach and leave your site in the hands of experts. The Digital Team at Ampersand offers web maintenance services to handle the details and keep you informed about the condition of your website. In our hands, your site will serve you effectively for as long as possible.
Give Your Site New Life With Regular Web Maintenance
Contact us today to learn more and maximize the lifespan of your website!