Website Maintenance Packages
What is generally included in monthly website maintenance packages, and do you need it? Virtually every website needs ongoing maintenance unless your site doesn't have a backend and consists of static HTML files.
One primary reason for this is to keep up with updates, and almost every technology has updates, some more frequently than others. In addition to this, generally, the more custom and multifunctional the website is, the more maintenance work it needs. For example, a website like eBay will need a lot more maintenance work than a website like TechCrunch (which, believe it or not, is also powered by WordPress), which in turn will need more maintenance work than a website like colourpop.com (which is powered by Shopify).
Let’s try and break down why this is the case! First, let’s sort the updates which can affect a website into categories:
- Web technology updates
- Website core updates
- Extension, library or plugin updates
Web technology updates
Updates that happen to the web infrastructure, such as changes in accepted protocols, browser updates, etc.
Think of these updates as something similar to your phone or computer software updates, for example, Windows or IOS updates. These updates fix detected bugs and enable new and improved functionalities to be executed. If you do not update your phone or computer software, your device may be vulnerable or unable to execute some tasks.
Similarly, in the case of websites, if your site is not caught up with the latest accepted protocols and standards, you will probably experience speed, accessibility and general functionality problems. One example of such an update recently was browsers beginning to require an SSL certificate to be installed and showing the website as a threat if it didn’t have one. So even if you have a beautiful website with tons of great content, if there is no SSL certificate installed, your site will appear like malware to potential visitors, completely undermining the efforts you have put into the site.
Another such example is PHP updates. A few years back, the highest stable PHP version was 5.6, so regardless of the web host that you chose, this would be what you’d get.
Recently, PHP 8.0 was rolled out, which can execute almost twice as many requests per second as 5.6. In the case of most hosts, you need to update to the newest version of PHP manually and then check your website is compatible. So it’s no surprise that to date, just over 10% of WordPress websites are still on PHP 5.6 and below, missing out on amazing performance gains!
As part of our monthly website maintenance packages, we ensure your WordPress site is kept up to date with the latest PHP version.
Web technology updates are generally not very frequent, occurring every 4 – 8 months, but generally have major implications.
WordPress PHP versions, as of October 2021
Website core updates
Updates that need to be made to the engine or core backend code of the site for it to:
- Remain compatible with web technology updates,
- Add new features to the core
- Fix issues in the existing core
- Address new security threats
These updates are always ongoing, but how you administer them will depend on how your website works.
For example, if you have a custom-made website, then your development team will need to address these on an ongoing basis. If your site is working on a CMS like WordPress or Shopify, then the organisation that provides the CMS will implement the edits. It varies from one CMS to another as well.
For example, in the case of Shopify, because they also host your website and have complete control of the server environment, their development team takes care of core updates behind the scenes without even requesting the site owner’s permission.
On the other hand, WordPress cannot do this for self-hosted instances (i.e., not wordpress.com). One installation with its given hosting and plugin configurations may accommodate the update, whereas another instance may experience fatal errors. This is why WordPress notifies website admins of the new version being available and leaves it up to the website admin to install the update.
Some hosting providers allow you to set WordPress updates on automatic for both minor and major versions. However, we strongly advise not to use this as we have seen far too many websites go down because of these updates. The cause may be an incompatibility with one plugin, a theme, or some code in your functions.php. This is why as part of our website maintenance packages we always ensure to create a backup just before running the update manually, as then we can restore the most up-to-date version of the site if anything happens. We would recommend you also use this approach as automatic backups may be a day or even weeks old, so restoring them will also lose all the website data in the interval!
Web technology updates are generally frequent, occurring every 0.5 – 3 months (depending on the CMS), but typically have medium to significant implications.
Extension, library, theme or plugin updates
Extensions, libraries, themes and plugins are code packages available for free or for a fee, allowing you to extend your website functionality without having to develop the features.
One good example of this is payment gateways. Whether custom-made or based on a CMS, most websites do not develop a custom payment system but integrate a ready solution like Stripe or Paypal. This ensures that the website admin doesn’t need to keep up to date with all financial regulations, such as being PCI compliant and can focus on running the site instead. Paypal and Stripe then bear the responsibility for the infrastructure updates (for a fee per transaction) but request the web admin to make updates every now and then to ensure that code remains functional.
One such example recently was the move to 3D secure cards, as part of which Paypal and Stripe gave instructions that should be implemented (which is generally a few lines of code) for the sites to remain compatible with Stripe and Paypal cores. Failure to enforce this update would mean that the website would no longer accept payments from 3D secure cards, which comprise the vast majority of cards.
These plugins, extensions, themes and libraries are updated for similar reasons to the website core, in particular to:
- To remain compatible with web technology updates,
- To add new features
- To fix issues in the existing code
- To address new security threats
- To remain compatible with the target core or software
These sit on top of the website core, usually developed by different developers to the website core. This makes them more likely to have incompatibilities as not all developers are as experienced and familiar with the core and may not account for all interdependencies. Likewise, the theme, plugin, extension or library may lack the testing and quality control or may simply be compatible with the core but incompatible with another extension that’s also used.
Still, although plugins, extensions, themes and libraries generally pose some additional risks, in most instances, the pros of time and money savings outweigh the additional maintenance needed! It is vital to ensure all libraries, extensions, plugins and themes are from trusted and experienced providers as poor choices can also affect the rest of the website.
Assuming you have chosen the right suppliers, it is still essential to always keep plugins, themes, libraries and extensions up to date as new updates range from functionality and compatibility improvements to critical security patches. In fact, in the case of a WordPress website, if your site is experiencing problems, your first action should be to backup your site and update all plugins and themes as this can fix it!
Like core updates, we don’t recommend enabling automatic plugin updates, as this runs the risk of breaking the site without you knowing what caused it. Again we recommend always backing up the site and updating the plugins and themes one at a time (standard practice with any of our clients on our website maintenance packages).
Extension, library, theme or plugin updates are generally frequent, occurring every 0.5 – 3 months (depending on the CMS), but generally have medium to major implications.
If you keep on top of these updates on an ongoing basis, your website downtime and errors will be kept to a minimum (assuming you have good hosting).
Is there any other maintenance that you need? It depends on how you use your site. If the site shows general information and acts more like a digital business card, assuming it was built well at the start, you probably won’t need much more maintenance beyond the above.
However, if you use your website as a marketing tool, run traffic ads, or work on SEO, you will certainly need to undertake some design and content updates. For example, if you have a blog, then the general consensus is to post every two weeks, if not more!
Although we offer custom website maintenance as well, the amount of work generally varies dramatically with the technologies, languages, development practices and features of the custom website.
So if you have a custom-developed website and are looking for maintenance packages, please contact us, and we will find a package that suits your requirements the best once we review the site source code!
For WordPress websites (one of our specialities), on the other hand, it is pretty straightforward to estimate the amount of maintenance work, so we have put together the following WordPress website maintenance packages for our clients:
Everything from editing banners to polishing images or creating new posts. The software we use primarily includes Adobe Creative Cloud and Figma. Please note that larger tasks may require more time, so if in doubt please contact us for rough estimates.
Everything from adding posts to fixing plugin issues or other errors. We can also create new pages or add new features, however, please note for some larger tasks more time may be needed, so if in doubt, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us for rough estimates.