A website is not something that you can build and just let go. That may work for a while, but over time, things begin to stop working. This is similar to a car; it works great right off the lot, but if you don’t change the oil, brakes, tires, etc. you are setting yourself up for failure.
Imagine driving down the road and you see some old broken down building. The grass hasn’t been cut in months, paint peeling off the walls, a couple broken windows. But inside, is an amazing restaurant, or a law firm with the best lawyers around. Do you think anyone would want to stop and come in. Maybe, but you are more likely to stop down the street at the cute little corner building with the nicely painted doors and flowers planted. This example might be a bit out there, but instead of a road you are driving down, you are on the internet searching for a certain product or service. That old abandoned building is your website. Do you think people are going to stick around long enough to call you or send you an email?
People say “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”, but on the internet, that is hard not to do.
Often times, the first interaction a customer has with your business is your website. You don’t want to give them a bad first impression, because it could be lasting.
So how does a WordPress website actually become out of date, look abandoned, and randomly break?
As of early 2020, WordPress powers around 35% of websites on the internet, making it the most popular CMS available. It has even more of a stake if you count the websites that only use their CMS. It is open sourced software and its core group of developers are always working to fix bugs, add new features and increase performance of the system.
On average, a new WordPress version is made available every 4 months.
With WordPress being the most popular CMS, it also makes it a target for hackers to exploit vulnerabilities in the system. As new versions of WordPress are released, a list of changes are also released. This could also give a list of vulnerabilities to target. If you are running an outdated version, it can easily be found by viewing the source of the webpage. Often times, hackers can insert malicious code through plugins that target WordPress. Staying up to date with the latest version can help combat these attacks and not make your site a target.
Version of PHP Outdated
PHP is a server-side programming language that is used to create dynamic websites. The PHP version is usually set on the server by your hosting company. There are two main reasons to keep the PHP version up to date:
Website will be faster. The current version of PHP is going to run faster and perform better than previous versions.
More security. Just like WordPress, PHP is maintained by the community. Because it is so popular, it is a target for hackers. Keeping up to date with your PHP will ensure you have the latest security changes.
One of the things that makes WordPress so great is that it is open source and allows anyone to create a plugin that works with the platform. However, the downfall is the same reason; anyone can create one. If you have an older plugin, and you update WordPress versions, this could cause a break in functionality of your website.
This leaves a few things to keep in mind:
The support of the plugin may not always be there. If you use a plugin that is not well supported, that may leave issues down the line.
The plugin may not work with newer versions of WordPress or PHP if it hasn’t been updated by the developer
If there are updates for your plugins, keep it up to date. WordPress does a great job at letting you know if the update is compatible with your version of WordPress.
If your site has old pixelated images or images from 10 years ago, now might be the time to update them. Most of the devices and displays we use are larger and high resolution. Some of the most appealing websites have high quality images and look beautiful on these devices, so it is pretty obvious when a website hasn’t been updated for a while and your customers will see that as well. Poor photoshopped images and cheesy stock images stick out like a sore thumb. Make sure you are giving your website visitors the right impression.
Services & Products No Longer Provided
A lot of websites that are older have out of date information. If you don’t have the most updated services, products and information, then you are missing out on the opportunity to be ranked in the search results. This leads to missed sales and opportunities to grow your business. Be specific and if there is a product or service that you no longer provide, then you should remove it. Providing inaccurate information on your website will only lead your potential customers to frustration.
How many times have you gone to a website to see a box or error on the screen somewhere?
An API is an application programming interface. It allows someone to leverage data or functionality from an application hosted elsewhere. When you go to a website and see a map displayed, that is most likely a Google Maps API. Those different apps that show the weather; this is pulling data from some other application. Understand where this is going?
Users generally see this error above because a plugin or API is broken. It is trying to pull info from another source but that source may not be available or the application was changed and your website was not.
There are a lot of things that can go wrong with a website that make it look obsolete and stop functioning properly. Some of them are obvious, like outdated images, while others happen behind the scenes and don’t surface until it is too late (APIs, contact forms, etc).
By keeping your website updated with fresh content and allowing it to evolve as your business ages and grows, you will be providing your customers with a great overall experience. You have to take a step back and think of two things; 1) What do I want my customers to know about my business? and 2) What would my customers be looking for on my website.
Are you answering those two questions and doing something about it? Taking care of your site periodically will go a long way and prevent a lot of missed opportunities for your business. Give the right first impression.