When prospective clients reach out to me with a website emergency, one of the first things I need to determine, is whether or not their hosting environment and website are suitable for a quick, safe, and affordable fix. Many times a simple fix isn’t a “simple” fix, because of the following issues:
#1 Hard-to-Restore Backups
Your WordPress website should be backed up at least daily, and preferably also immediately before any changes are made to your website… and sometimes immediately after. But a recent backup of your website is almost useless if you can’t quickly restore the site if something goes wrong. Otherwise, it could be many hours or even days, and hundreds of dollars in development fees and potentially lost revenue, before your website is back online.
#2 No Staging Environment
When something goes terribly wrong on a live website, it’s usually because the event that caused the issue was not adequately tested. An “event” could be a theme or plugin update (whether manually or auto-updated); modifications you or a developer recently made to a page or template file; a change in your hosting environment (e.g., a PHP version update); or even a simple design revision.
Consequently, a staging environment is essential. But not just any staging environment! It must be tightly integrated with your hosting environment and allow for fast, one-click deployments. Otherwise, copying to and from your staging environment could easily cost you hundreds of dollars in development fees — vs — $25!
#3 Budget Hosting
What you “save” with budget hosting is easily offset by fees you’ll pay a developer to troubleshoot what may actually be hosting-related issues. For example, many budget hosts overload their servers with too many customers’ websites. This can cause performance issues that can make your website slower, buggy, and even more vulnerable to hackers. Indeed, some issues could be related to your hosting plan.
#4 Poor Maintenance
If you haven’t updated WordPress and/or plugins in months, there’s a good chance your website is behaving badly — whether you know it or not. Outdated themes and plugins can be buggy, but so can the process of updating them (hence the need for a staging environment). In some cases, outdated versions of website-related software have known security vulnerabilities that were patched in subsequent updates. And yes — I’ve been hired to perform seemingly simple tasks on clients’ websites that were actually hacked before I began working on the site! I had to clean the site before I could do the work, they requested. First things first, please!
#5 Inexperienced Web Developers
Inexperienced web developers and/or volatile project requirements often result in a back-end mess of your website — typically unseen by most clients. However, a poorly developed website can be unnecessarily and relatively expensive to modify. For example, if the footer on your website is identical on every page, there should only be one place to make changes to the footer — so that the same changes do not need to be made on every page.