Why do you need website maintenance?
Regular website maintenance is important because it keeps your site running smoothly. Often, website designers charge for an hour of their time per month for regular maintenance, performing a set cycle of tasks. This can be billed annually, monthly, or quarterly. It may include minor content updates, but that depends on the contract you sign with them. Website maintenance costs also depend on the complexity of the site. A simple portfolio site whose content doesn’t change much will take less time than a WooCommerce site with hundreds of products, so their rates will be different.
Websites need maintenance like your teeth need brushing; it’s something you do repeatedly to stay healthy. And just like changing the oil on your car, you can do it yourself but most people prefer to hire an expert.
Search for “website maintenance checklist” and you’ll find a plethora of lists for weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual tasks. If you want to add these to your own task list, good for you! By the time you’ve maintained your own website for a year you’ll be an expert. But if you’d prefer to keep your focus on your business, I suggest buying the package.
Below is a list of what a website maintenance package includes most of the time, but they can get way more comprehensive. As with any contract, there’s room for negotiation .
What you may be paying for
Your website files need to be stored in a secure, easy-to-reach place, and website hosts do this and a whole lot more. See my entry on website hosting here. You can buy hosting yourself or your web designer can facilitate hosting for your site. Either one works, and designers often have a preference. If your designer hosts, you’re paying for a slot in their hosting platform.
You can automate updates, but at regular intervals you’ll need to get in there and make sure all software is cooperating properly. Glitches happen, and software becomes obsolete. Our phones, tablets, and computers change so rapidly, and the way we access websites evolves along with the hardware.
Aside from updating the obvious software, your website designer knows more in-depth software to track such as PHP; a bit of information that (in WordPress) is located in a menu in another menu inside anoth–… well, you get the idea. (Hint: you’ll find it in Tools > Site Health > Info > Server.)
Your site goes down because one of your plugins updated but doesn’t work properly with another one. What do you do? Go back to the most recent non-busted version of the site and use that until the plugins catch up with each other. When you contract for maintenance with a web designer, they will keep backups of your site and re-launch them when needed.
The way we use the internet is constantly evolving, and our SEO strategy needs to keep up. Making regular tweaks to your SEO is like keeping your tires filled; you get better mileage and the tires last longer. What’s SEO? Check out my post about it here.
As with any software, over time your website files will accumulate junk they don’t need anymore. Optimizing your database clears out that rubbish and keeps your site running faster. And as we know, a faster site retains more viewers.
Hackers. What a bunch of jerks. Jerks with nothing better to do than try to break into your website. Even more than SEO, keeping your security software updated is essential to keeping your site safe.
This is a measure of how much your website is up and running. There are tools that report on your monitoring, but as with anything, if you don’t check them, they don’t do you any good.
Aside from all the generic items listed above, your website designer knows your site because they built it. They know the tools and have the skill set to fix issues as they arise. It’s likely that they use the same tools on other sites, so they know what to keep an eye on and will be quick about fixing any bugs that pop up.
By having them check on your site regularly, you’re keeping the site fresh in their mind. Say that two years after launch you decide to update your content or re-design. They are already familiar with your current configuration and can make the changes faster, with fewer issues. And as with any business, the client that maintains a regular revenue stream becomes a preferred client.
Brush your teeth. Change your engine oil. Clean out the gutters. Tell your friends you love them. Stop and smell the roses …and update your website.