Season 06 Episode 4 – Jan 17, 2023  
32:35  Show Notes

Tips for Website Maintenance


We talk about website maintenance, tips for planning maintenance, and maintenance contracts.

Show Notes

  • What is involved in maintaining a website
  • Owing a website is a lot like owning a car, a house, or a garden.
  • Unplanned expenses
  • Keeping the CMS and server updated
  • Once click updates
  • Waiting too long for maintenance could make your site more difficult or impossible to update
  • Too many plugins
  • Who, in your organization, is responsible for the website
  • Pruning users
  • Workflow and image editing
  • Backups - offsite backups are important!
  • Maintenance plans/contracts

Be sure to checkout our Website 101 Podcast YouTube channel.

Show Links

Accuracy of transcript is dependant on AI technology.

Today on the Website 101 Podcast, we talk about website maintenance and what you should be thinking about, maintenance contracts, and we give you a lot more reasons why you should check out Sean's blog.

Hello listeners! Welcome to another episode of the Website 101 Podcast. This is the podcast for people who want to learn more about building and maintaining websites. I screwed that up already. I know it works because of the topic today.

I guess it does work because of the topic. All maintaining or slash managing websites. Yeah. Anyway, thank you for joining us today. I've got with me talking Mike Miller. Hi. Hi. How you doing? I'm good. How are you? Very well. Excellent. And Sean Smith. Hey, Sean.

Hey, Amanda. Happy to be here looking forward to the Christmas holidays and especially getting on to this topic, managing websites. Yes. Yeah, managing websites as a general, you know, what's involved in managing websites, what you should be aware of, what you, you know,

deserve to have what features. deserve as a website owner, what you can do with maintenance contracts, all kinds of stuff, right? We're going to cover all of that. Exactly. I think a lot of what we talk about today will overlap with a recent episode called choosing

a CMS because I think some of the decisions you make when you're considering maintenance issues are also decisions you make when you're considering a CMS. Yes, 100%. Okay, so what are we talking about when we say website maintenance?

What are some of the things people have to consider when... they're thinking about what's involved in maintaining their website. Yeah, because I think that a lot of times, especially small business owners, where this

is like their first rodeo, they don't, you know, everything is new to them, they're just so excited about, yeah, I've got a website online, everything is great. But it's like, okay, what happens, what happens on day two after launch?

Like, we've got to cover everything about like content updates, software updates. If things are working fine for the first month. but then they've got like an idea or like a new feature that they think might help their business like all of these things need to be considered

Absolutely, so there is a lot of things to consider You know owning a website is a lot like owning a car or has as Mike has mentioned in previous episodes owning a house You have to plan for ongoing and future unexpected expenses

Well actually Shawn you have a blog post about this. I know you do I do I do tell us about that It's called a website is a lot like owning a car, just like I said. And I've mentioned it in previous episodes of the podcast as well.

And we'll include a link to it in the show note. But basically it's like, you know, you buy your car. You need to get oil changes. You need to change the tires. Something could break unexpected expenses.

Also, if you buy something, if you buy a cheaper car or a more expensive car, you get different kinds of features, a different way the ride fields. It's the same thing with your website. You could have a budget website if it meets your needs.

Great. If you need something full on that's bespoke and got a lot of custom functionality like you're driving a Bugatti or some sports car or something, you're going to pay a lot more. So there is a range in what you get, but every website needs regular maintenance, regular

planning for regular things that happen as well as unexpected. Speaking of unexpected things. I went into my backyard this afternoon and I noticed that my eaves trough had fallen off my roof during the last windstorm.

So I got some unexpected maintenance to do in the spring. Owning a house is like owning a website. I thought it would be a little surprising. Yeah, I would actually say that there's also the opposite problem where a lot of people

who are building a website, often they put out a big RFP or whatever and they say, we're going to spend 40 grand on redesign or something. They go through all this work. They do it. They launch it and they kind of subconsciously perhaps just say all right

It's done You know, we'll just post the odd news article every few weeks and in five years We'll do this all again and you should not be doing that you should be I out my analogy these days is that

Website is like a garden and you have to like maintain it and prune it and you keep it up to date keep it alive So you should do that. Yeah one and done is not the way to go Although it might feel good in the moment later on you'll regret it

Absolutely. Yeah, I often like to use the analogy that I don't have one, I just didn't want to be left out. Mm-hmm, good. I was hoping you'd come up with one on the fly, but maybe I can splice one in and hit

anything. Maybe you'll have one. Later on. Yeah, exactly. You might have one. I'll put it on. Hey, listeners, do you have an analogy that you like to try to pigeonhole into like absolutely everything that happens in your life?

Let us know in the comments. Yeah, right. Absolutely. That would be great. Okay, so let's talk about what things someone who owns a website should be considering. What are some questions they need to ask?

about getting ready to maintain their site. What are some things they should think about? Well, the first one would be keeping the software up to date. Right. Are you running a website using a hosted CMS

such as Wix or Webflow? Or are you hosting a self-hosted website like WordPress or Craft or Drupal? Two different things. If it's hosted like Wix or Squarespace, then the maintenance part is taken as part of your contract.

They'll keep everything up to date and secure. But if you're running WordPress or Drupal or Craft CMS or whatever, then it's up to you or your web developer to make sure that all the security things are up to date,

that the server is up to date, and that you're ready to go for the future. I have a maintenance plan that I offer my WordPress clients, just because it's kind of a catch-22. So everybody knows about WordPress because it's free.

And so therefore everybody uses WordPress because everybody knows about it. And that means that there's so many people that are on it, but then because of that, that means that if any hackers are out there

and if they want to get into something to try to get as many sites infected as possible, they're gonna go after something popular, which means they're gonna go after WordPress sites. Like it just, it keeps like, it's cyclical,

it just keeps building off of each other. So for the last many years, actually, I've had a few clients who I just do like quarterly updates. You know, I back up the database, I update the software and all the plugins,

make sure everything's working fine. And... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... And then like if anything were to happen because they're, you know, kind of using low level shared hosting,

if anything happens, you know, we've got the backup, we can restore everything really quickly and it just gives them a little extra peace of mind throughout the year. Absolutely. I would like to add that it's not just WordPress

that needs to do that. No, of course not. Although the part about WordPress being a target because it's the most popular is true. I also offer maintenance plans to my clients and I don't have any WordPress.

And it's also done quarterly and speaking of that, I have two of them to do this week. End of year. Yeah, two sites will be getting updated to the latest version of craft and getting prepared to migrate to a new server the following update.

Yeah, so yeah, no matter what tools you're using, you're going to need to keep them up to date. There's nothing worse than opening up the command control panel and see like 10 months of updates that have not been run because even if you have one of those like one click

update buttons. I try not to rely on that stuff because you can sometimes click that button and you still get some error And what do you do then? Like what's where do you go from there? And the longer you let updates go without addressing them the more likely you'll encounter a problem like that.

Oh yeah, I'm always I'm not scared when I'm doing a regular update I get really nervous if I've got a site that hasn't been updated in over a year though Just because you could have weird incompatibilities.

I recently was sort of past a project was passed to me and it would have the tasks is everything needs to be updated. And the message at the top is like, the version of the CMS is so old that you need to update to this version

before we can give you the complete list of all of the update. Like it's so old, I'm gonna need to do it in installments and chunks. Oh, and if it's not just a point release when that happens, but a full major version,

it can be even more daunting or sometimes even impossible. Yeah. Yeah. And we should add for people who aren't sort of technical. about this thing, it's not always just a matter of clicking that button and updating it.

You could encounter a problem where the software that the hosting company is running, that your website lives on or works on, is itself not capable of running your new CMS. So PHP, MySQL, various things like that,

have to be of a certain version in order to run certain software so you might encounter a problem where, even if you try to update your CMS, it complains and says, I can't do this. because the host is not letting me know.

And that's actually hooks back into what I said about those two updates that I'm doing this week. We're gonna be preparing for a server migration because the following update is gonna be moving from craft three to craft four.

And the current server is not gonna, yeah, it's PHP eight and MySQL 8.0. Yeah. I think oftentimes too many people depend to heavily on additional plugins. Oh, just plugins to do absolutely everything.

And sometimes if the plugin was like, the plugins are just created by regular people who still have everyday jobs. The majority of the time and if somebody is like, well, that's to this. I'm not going to maintain this anymore

I'm not going to update it It's suddenly this plug-in that maybe your site is relying on is no longer Useful on like an updated version of the CMS and then like do you leave it at the old version? Do you completely revamp it?

It's it's a big decision I have a Coincidentally, I have another blog article I wrote called the over reliance on plugins which I'll link to in the show notes Yes, and you did mention this in several episodes. Yeah, even on that choosing a CMS episode recently

as well, that's right. So, getting aside from the technical side, in terms of people actually managing their site, I think one of the things that has to be asked is, who is it in your company or your organization

that will be doing the updates? Is it one person? Is it a marketing team and you might have five different people who need to log in, things like that, because you need to consider that kind of thing when it comes to what your CMS is?

Does it allow multiple logins? that kind of thing. So in terms of managing content, ask that, ask what they need to be able to do. Is so-and-so just going to just be posting news articles once in a while, or do they need to be

able to manage user permissions and stuff like that? So you might want to be aware of that stuff too. Yeah. That could go so far as to being pruning users who have left the organization. Right. So if somebody quit their job or they got fired or whatever, even if it's on good terms, you don't

want them having access to the server. So- you would delete the user or remove their permissions so they no longer have access to change things. That should be part of your regular maintenance as well.

Agreed. Totally. I wanted to talk a little bit about features of content management systems that you may or may not have or even be aware of that could really help you when you're maintaining your site. So one of them that I know are

the three of us like very much, a feature is called Live Preview. It's available in I can think of at least three CMSs that have this feature. you're just in short, you click preview, you're editing fields that you're filling out

up here on the left, and a preview of the whole thing from the front end is on the right, and it updates in real time as you make changes. So not all CMSs have that, but a lot of people really like it

because it allows you to make a change, see what it's gonna look like before you've made it live for your visitors. So that's one example of something you might wanna think about when you're doing your maintenance.

Absolutely, I think that's a really, really powerful feature, especially if it allows you to send kind of a secret link to people. to view for approval. So you could be the content editor, but you might need approval from somebody in the C-suite

to publish it. So you type it all up, you send them a secret URL that's not visible to anybody who doesn't have it, and boom, they can say yes or no, or make this change. Yeah, drafting, that's in that overlaps with drafting as well.

If you wanna make a draft of an article, yeah, do you have that workflow where you have to get approval or sign off or whatever, is that part of how you maintain your website? Then think about that.

And. Make sure your CMS allows you to do that. Yeah. Another good one would be having an image editor built into the site. Do you need one? If you're comfortable using Photoshop or other image editing software, great.

Do that. But maybe not everybody is or not everybody has access to that. Then simple editing features built into the CMS such as cropping or adding certain filters might be important to you. Yeah.

If that's something you do when you manage your website, if you need to be able to manipulate then yeah, that's another thing to consider for sure. And WordPress has, of course, a reputation for this kitchen sink

style, these site builders, a divvy elementer, where you've got dozens and dozens of components you can kind of drop in. Some people who manage websites really want to get their hands dirty in that sense,

who they want to kind of like, if I wake up and I want to put a slide carousel on this page, I want to be able to do that. WordPress would be a good example of the CMS that. might let you do that.

It does have drawbacks, which we've mentioned many times. Maybe we won't go into, but something to consider. I had a client and I made a WordPress site for them. And so with the intent that they could do all of these

updates themselves, just content updates, you know, because they were, had a lot of like publications that they wanted to put on their site on a regular basis. And yet they still always emailed them to me.

Here, can you put this on the website? And every time I'd be like, it's going to cost you, you have a content management system. This is your login and they would just always reply, we don't have time to do it.

Yeah, sure. Using a CMS is obviously the way to go anyway, but why would you have a big. be in your bonnet about how it has to be an easy to use CMS when you're never going to use it. So I think that's another thing.

It's easy for you. Well, it is easy for me, but that's the point. It's like, if you are a business owner, be aware of your time, be aware of what you want to be doing, be aware of your skill set and your desire for like, if you're going to

actually do these updates yourself or pay someone else to do them. Yeah. So maintenance process, workflow is something you really should consider right at the outset when it's... if you're going through a rebuild or a build

of a fresh site or whatever. Yeah, because it does influence the CMS you use, the plugins that you, you know, if you don't need to be able to drop in a store locator plugin and have your web developer build

in that functionality, because you're never going to do it, then you should be aware of that. It might save you money. Now, Amanda, I think you said earlier about backups, or somebody said something about backups.

That's a good, it's a good point. You should make sure that really whatever workflow you have, you have something. workable backup system, you know, whereby if something really goes south, you can

roll back to a previous version of the site and it's all good, especially if you're doing your own maintenance without a web developer getting involved because things might break. Yes, I would like to point out about backups is that

depending on your hosting company, I don't want to say beware but sort of be aware. Sometimes the hosting company will like offer this service where, oh, we're gonna we're gonna back up your file. and back up your database every month,

and it's like awesome, great things. And then they charge you extra for it. And the thing is, anything web related is intimidating if you're new and if you don't know what you're doing. But even small business owners,

if this is something that's very important to you, it is something that you can do yourself. You can easily do yourself. I don't know that you wanna be paying your hosting company an extra 10 bucks a month

to basically be doing something automated for you. So I mean, yes, especially trying to like restore everything. might be an extra leery and then maybe you do reach out to a developer to help you with that.

But I don't pay for stuff I don't have to pay for so I'm always really concerned when clients are like, oh, I'm gonna throw them under the bus. Go Daddy. Go Daddy just sent me this email that they're gonna

find extra amount and it's just like, no, don't do that. I however feel that if you're not technically savvy, paying that extra, let's say it's $10 a month, like Amanda suggested. That's only in $120 a year.

If your business depends on it, that is a small price to pay to ensure your data is safe. One last thing I'd like to add to backing up. If you're relying on C-panel backups, which is built into a lot of shared hosting, those backups are not off-site. So if your host's

server dies or whatever gets hit by a lightning bolt, your data is gone irretrievably. What you really want is off-site backup. Yeah, I've had that exact situation where I've had a client's hosting company,

has something they had a meltdown, and the backups that they offer for free in the hosting plan were on the same server that the site was, and they were also not available. Fortunately, I had a redundant backup set up,

so all was good, but yeah, it's not as simple as, oh, they offer backups, then I'm safe. You really gotta do your research. So there are third party backup services that you can use. I know that there is a couple with WordPress.

I can't remember their name offhand and some unrelated ones that will work with any sort of server, backup sheep and a couple others. I'll add them into the show notes. I just can't remember them off hand right now.

Hey listeners, do you like what you hear? You can find us over on website 101 podcast. So Amanda, you talked a minute ago about a client who wanted to be able to do everything, but then they didn't do everything.

They sent everything to you. I have a similar story to that. This company was redoing a website for a client, and that company hired me to do it. They subcontracted me, basically. They gave me a design brief and whatever.

I did the rebuild, and they said, hey, can you show it to the client? I said, sure. I walked them through it. The first thing they said was... was how do I change the logo? And I was like, Wait, wait, they actually said that to you.

The logo of your organization? And they said, yeah. And I said, are you guys going through like a rebrand or something? And they said, no, but if I someday wanna change it, how do I do it? And it was, there was no way,

I hard coded it into the template because it wasn't in the brief that they needed that control. And then he started pointing at different things. How do I change this? How do I change that? What about this footer thing?

And he said, I think his exact words were, I need to be able to change every single thing on this website. I want to. And I had to say to them, look, that wasn't in any of the design brief that I was provided. You need to go back to the company that hired me, tell them that, and

then they can come back to me and it will cost a lot more money. And this is what I'm getting at, is that it's easy to say, I want to be able to do everything, but it's going to cost you money to have a web developer build that functionality in that lets you

do every single thing. Exactly. And of course, it introduces all kinds of other problems with, you know, plus. and whatever that makes that possible. So it's a good idea to have that conversation.

What am I going to need to do to maintain this website realistically? Am I gonna change my logo every three months? Maybe not. And I would think that any good web developer is gonna make it so that you can change anything

that is most likely gonna need to be changed. Like the main bot, the main copy and images and videos of the things, but changing the logo, I don't know anybody that would bake that in off out of the box.

Yeah. So do you want to go into maintenance contracts and talk about what those are all about? Yeah, sure. We kind of hit on it a little bit earlier. And I also have yet another article that I'm going to plug on my blog.

Why website maintenance is important. So you can go there for a little bit more detail about that. But yeah, maintenance contracts, I hit on it at the top of the show where you just want to make sure that everything is.

going to continue to run smooth, keep yourself up to date. The longer it goes without being updated, the more risk you're carrying of potential problems. Yeah, so I have a few maintenance contracts myself.

Sean, I think you do too. This is an agreement where the client basically pays the developer a certain amount per month or per quarter or whatever. And in my case, and I'll speak for myself, they get access to a certain number of hours of my time

every week. month is how it works. And they get sort of priority, sort of seating in my, you know, if they write me and say, Hey, we need this article up on the site, I don't say, okay, I'm working on

something else for the next two weeks, but I'll get to it after that. I say, okay, I'll be today or tomorrow, like they're the priority because they're paying me regularly. So that's one benefit of a maintenance contract.

Yeah, my maintenance, I have two levels on my maintenance contract, a basic and an intermediate level. That implies advanced, but there is no advanced level. It's a like, build your own, which nobody's taking me off.

everything about Sean is advanced. I have a feeling I'm afraid that's going to end up in the share card of this episode eventually. I'm a little bit clustered now. What was I saying? Oh, okay. Sorry.

There's another beef for our beef. Is that the swear? There you go. It's a beef for the beef roll. So my contracts, I have two levels, basic and intermediate. There's no advances, like a build your own.

The basic, they get once a quarter, I do a CMS update, they get priority, seething like Mike said, and they get a half hour of work per month. So it's a one and a half hours over that term. The next level up, they get a reduction on the hourly rate.

More hours. I think it's three hours per month and like the highest priority. So they're like at the top and I have two clients. on that middle one. Yeah, like chances are you'll be able to find different agreements.

I mean, even between me and Sean, we have different sort of ways that we work. I recently had a client come to me who said that they are no longer working with their previous developer because that developer only takes retainer maintenance contracts now, does not do any new work.

And I think they had to have like 10 hours a week minimum or something like that. And you can imagine how much that would cost. So that it just wasn't cost effective for them to work with them. them anymore. But yeah, I have negotiable hours, you know, some clients just use a few

hours a month and some use more, whatever. So you might be able to find, you know, different plans like that. Yeah, I would say that if the your web developer offers you something, but it's not exactly

what you want, whether it's too much or not enough, ask. I am always willing to negotiate. Like, if you want more of my time, great, we'll book more of my time with you. Because for me, I like knowing I have regular work and income.

but maybe somebody else just prefers one and done stuff. You don't know. I think just ask. That's the important thing. Amanda, I know you have a lot of clients, if my understanding anyway, is that you have a lot of clients

that come back to you for other work and stuff like that. Do you have any that are on any kind of a regular plan, a maintenance plan, that pay you regularly every month and get a certain amount of your time?

Not a lot. I have one client who pays like a monthly retainer. And so if they need me for that. OK. hours then great and if not then you know they get the high priority and if not I just sort of pocket the money but then also kind of

like I'm a little more lenient the next month if they go over an hour or two whatever so that kind of works out. I think it's common to have a clause that's like if you don't use the hours you can't roll them over or whatever that kind of

thing I often have that. Yeah I have that as well and it's important otherwise you have somebody banking hours for a year and a half and you come back and no I'm not gonna do that obviously but you only have redesigned.

It's mostly about ensuring that you're available for them. And you could always, if it ends up that they're not using the retainer for several months in a row, maybe they renegotiate it with you and lower the price in hours.

So Amanda, with those hours that they get from you, do you just make it available for any work that they want you to do? Or is it specifically for software updates or something like that? Any work.

Yeah. Any work that they want me to do. That's usually how I do mine too. Yeah. I've got some clients who... You know, it's like you said, Sean, they, you know, here's a new article in a word document.

Just can you put it on the site? And, you know, sometimes they could do it themselves, but they've got other things to do. They've got other jobs, so they send it to me and it's fine. So I don't mind doing that kind of stuff.

I'll do it. It's not my favorite kind of work, but I'm happy to do it. So what are some other advantages to having a maintenance contract that the contractee has? That the person, yeah, the developer in another word in space.

No, not the developer, the person who owns the site. Contractor. Would it be? No? Well, maybe I'm confusing my terms. But the person that we have a contract with, our client, what would the advantage be for

them of hiring us on a maintenance or a retainer? What would they get out of that? Well, I would think the one big thing is that, especially if we built the site for them, we know how to update it.

We know how to maintain it. We've already got, I would hope, a fairly successful working relationship. There's a trust that goes both ways. I think it's a win for everybody. Definitely. So kind of.

familiarity with the site, making it easier and faster to do updates than pulling in a random developer when you have a problem. Yeah. Yeah. I've I'm sure I've been in situations where I've been with the organ like not with the

organization, but I've had that relationship with them for so long that I end up being one of the senior, not senior. That's the wrong word, but like one of the like you've got institutional memory that's lying in most people. Yes,

that's what I'm sure. Thank you. Yeah. Like where I can actually say, well, I remember this conference. that we're about to do or whatever for. I remember when we did it last year, and this is what we did then, are we gonna do,

and I'm able to introduce ideas like that because I have that ongoing relationship. So that's definitely a benefit that the website owners would have working with someone long-term. Absolutely, I think that's really important.

Yeah, another benefit of that, by the way, is to my point earlier about how it's more like a garden than you should maintain your site. If you have an ongoing relationship with a web developer. It is then easier for them to add new features regularly.

Like if you get a developer to build you a site, then you say, okay, thanks, goodbye. I can update it myself. What if you do wanna introduce a new feature that's not there, that's somewhat complex,

and you don't have one of these kind of site builders or it's caused other problems or whatever else. If you're working with a web developer long-term, it's much easier to say, look, I wanna build in this feature.

Can you tell me, can you do? that kind of thing and it'd be much more likely that'll happen. Yeah, how much? How long is it gonna take? Yeah. Oh, yeah, that's in budget. Let's go ahead. Right, exactly. Okay, well, this is pretty good.

Have we covered everything? I feel like we've covered everything. I think we've covered everything, but just like I think a nice summary would be that if you're gonna do it yourself or if you're gonna have somebody else do it for you,

you should at least keep maintenance in your mind throughout the entire course of your project being developed. Yes, and even after that, of course. Yeah. Don't let your website stagnate and just sit there.

Absolutely. Keep it up to date. Yeah, definitely. Well, thank you very much for listening. Be sure to give us a positive review wherever you get podcasts and check out the YouTube channel. Amanda, anything cool happening on the YouTube channel right now?

Oh, we recently found our Spotify wrapped stats. And so we made a couple of smaller clips that just show, hey, listeners, thanks. This is the countries that you were listening from. This is. that are most downloaded, are most streamed episode and it was a nice little review of

the last year just to see how much work we've put in and how much our listeners have enjoyed listening to us. I really liked it, it was cool. Yeah. And you can go to YouTube and search for website 101 podcast and we'll pop up there, right?

Or check the show notes, there'll be a link. Thanks for listening everybody. Bye. Bye. Bye. The website 101 podcast is hosted by me, Amanda Lutz. You can also find me online at Recording from a secret lair while plotting world domination, I'm Sean Smith, your

co-host. One of your hosts today was me Mike Mela. Find me online at be like or on socials at Mike Mela. What's happening? Sorry, Amanda was signalized to someone. I thought you were pointing at us. Sorry. microphone. That's alright. It's all good.

Have a question for Sean, Mike, and Amanda? Send us an email.