Spring is that season of the year when many people choose to clean up their homes and businesses with a spring clean.
A clean office or home usually makes for a more productive atmosphere and work environment.
Similarly, it is also a great time of the year to give your website a thorough clean up, removing any old information which may no longer be valid, add or update additional text or images to keep your content relevant, and most importantly if you have a WordPress website ensure your site is running at the latest specifications and requirements.
WordPress is an operating system, and just like any operating system, such as a car or a computer, from time to time it requires a service to ensure it not only is optimised to load fast, but also is up to date with the latest theme, WordPress version and plugins to ensure it is not vulnerable to any viruses or trojans. It only takes one out dated plugin to allow access to a bot or person that can totally destroy your website.
It is recommended you service your website around a similar time you would service your vehicle, at the very least. Ideally it should be reviewed each month to ensure your site is secure and well optimised, protecting it from any issues. A website kept up to date will often also rank better as Google knows if you are running outdated plugins or version of WordPress, and other aspects of your site.
Most web designers, including Smartfish, will usually provide you with a free initial maintenance agreement, and then for a minimal charge if carried out regularly. This will usually include an off-server backup as well, ensuring that in the event anything major did occur you know your website will be up and running again in minutes.
However, if you are confident in maintaining your own website, here are the steps to ensure it is done correctly:
- Always backup the website first!
Use a recommended backup plugin to backup the site to either your server or Dropbox, or even better still, download it to your computer. This ensures that in the event anything during the maintenance goes horribly wrong you can easily restore it.
- Check your PHP version.
One reason many sites run slow is due to them running on an outdated version of PHP. IF you are running on anything under PHP 5.6 or less it is recommended you update it. To do this you will need to log into your Hosting Cpanel and search for the PHP settings. It is just a click of the button and it’s all done! IF you don’t have a Cpanel I suggest you find a better hosting package.
- Update WordPress to the latest version.
This should be checked regularly as getting too many versions behind can make it more prone to anything going wrong, but if you have a backup you can feel a little more confident. Once you update it check that the general functionality of the website is still working fine, such as Contact Form, Page Builder, etc. If all seems okay, move onto the plugins…
- Update your plugins.
Wordpress uses plugins to add particular functionality to the site, such as image sliders, contact forms, search engine optimisation, etc. Like an App on your phone or tablet, these occasionally require updating to the latest versions for security and optimisation. When a plugin is not updated things can start to fail in your website, or worse, you can get hacked. To keep your site safe, update the plugins one at a time, checking between updates to ensure there is no loss of functionality to your website. If anything does happen to break, use your backup to restore them back to the previous version and work around the problem one. You can usually find a replacement in the event one no longer works correctly.
- Update your WordPress theme.
Most WordPress sites operate under a theme, which gives them their look and feel and particular functionality. If the theme is a paid theme it will be licenced, allowing you access to (usually) free updates. Updating your theme will not only ensure your website should continue to last you many more years but will also often give your site new functionalities, and in many cases speed up the site. Skipping theme update versions though can lead to issues if you try and updating from a previous version to the latest without updating all of the ones in between, so this should be checked regularly.
- Finishing Up
Once everything has been updated and you have checked your website is all running fine, you should run a speed test on your website. To do this head to GTMetrix.com and enter your site. The online app will check your site and see how everything is running, and your loading speed. I try and ensure my own Smartfish website is between 3 – 5 seconds, as this helps me stay at the top of the search engines. If you are getting a loading time of over 5 seconds it is best to review your optimisation of images, and ensure you haven’t added any additional unnecessary plugins which may be slowing the site down. Also consider adding a cache plugin to cache the loading time.Once you have everything running fine and have checked all functionality is working well then run another backup of the website, and if possible download a copy to your computer for safe keeping until next time.
If you’re not confident in maintaining your own website, contact Smartfish. We offer our own clients a huge 40% discount on maintenance on websites we have built, well worth the peace of mind for your website.