Laser Technik Ltd

WordPress website monthly checklist. 

Modern web sites are now very complex and need more maintenance than the simple plain HTML of the 1990s. Although this page relates to WordPress, similar considerations are applicable to other web site builders.

WordPress has become the near ubiquitous software for creating new websites taking the global number of active WP  sites to approaching 40% of the total.  The advantages of WP do result in greater complexity and there are tasks you should attend to on a monthly basis.  These tasks are easier to undertake in WP than in any other type of web site. If warning signs or component updates are disregarded then at some future point more drastic repairs may become necessary.  See also another posting here “Annual website checklist” (there is some duplication).

A monthly check may sound like an unwelcome additional task but in practise it’s usually quick and easy and not a big deal if you miss a month (unless there’s a critical security fix needed).

Firstly a quick reference:

  • Al teast once a month log in to the Admin account
  • Click the Dashboard menu item (top left) to see a number in a red circle indicating what updates you need to authorise.
  • Click the red circle to see a summary of the updates
  • Select each and update (usually just a single button click)
    It’s possible to set the system to make some updates automatically.  That does come with some risk.  Occasionally an update may cause a problem, it may cause part of the website to stop working – or even the whole site.  If that happens just after you initiated an update you’ll know the cause, that makes it easier to address.
  • Remain alert to any error messages or problem reports from users.
  • Keep your content under constant review, any changes to your products and services need to be reflected on the web-site: new products to add, old ones to delete or update with changes to prices, images, specifications, shipping, terms and conditions.

We encourage you to read further to gain some understanding of the system

  • WordPress is made up of 3 classes of software, WP itself, plugins and themes.  All are subject to frequent update, this may be to add features, to fix bugs, to fix security problems or to fix compatibility issues with other components.  Some updates can be automated.  That comes with the risk that you’re not aware of an update so if it creates a problem you may not find out for a while. To reduce (but not eliminate) that risk it may be possible to defer automated updates for a few days after release.  That allows time for others to spot any problems the new version creates and get them fixed.
    • WordPress core product WP is under very active maintenance and development. Updates can be quite frequent.  As with much other software there’s a version numbering convention.  Broadly speaking that might work something like this: Version 5, a major release incorporating significant change over Version 4, possibly calling for additional changes to be made to a website.  Version 5.1 would have added new features, mostly improving things for programmers working on the code, maybe making existing features work better. Version 5.1.1 would have been a minor release perhaps just fixing some obscure bugs.  As version 6 approaches there may be warnings of upcoming changes in order to allow programmers time to update any plugins that might be affected.  WP is built on a basis of PHP (programming language), MySQL (Database) both of which undergo version upgrades which sometimes mean changes to WP.  Less likely but possible changes are with another programming language, Javascript (and less likely CSS and HTML).
    • Plugins extend the capabilities of the core WP product.  Most sites will use a few. Most are written by third parties, they may be free or commercial.  Changes to WordPress may mean a plugin needs updating. There is always a risk the author will stop supporting the product.  As a rule we will use either free open-source plugins or if a commercial one is necessary we aim to purchase with a “lifetime” license.  “Lifetime” has proved to be open to interpretation, one such package we purchased needed a renewal fee after a year at 10 times the original cost.  They justified it by pointing to a clause in their terms and conditions stating that they could change their T&C at any time.  Needless to say we are moving away from the author’s products.
    • Themes Broadly speaking less of an issue especially as some themes include plugins.  You will only actually be using one theme (and possibly a child theme based on that) but it’s advisable to keep one of the WP standard themes (but no more than one) as a “spare” theme can be useful for debugging if there’s a problem with the primary one.  Updates to good commercial themes often add new capabilities to the theme which could be very useful.
  • What needs to be done to update WP, Themes and Plugins? Usually its a simple manner of logging in to your WP dashboard occasionally where any items needing update will be highlighted.  You just need to click “update”. Very rarely an update may change the behaviour of the item you upgraded.
  • Is the content up to date?  In particular think about
    • New products and services
    • Old products that nee to be deleted
    • Changes to the specifications of products
    • phone, email and street address
    • Prices and shipping details
    • Opening days/hours
    • Events – news of trade shows you expect to attend
    • If you have a “news” section are you adding a new story at least monthly? Actively and sensibly used (like for promoting new products and services, upcoming exhibitions) a news page is a valuable asset. Do any old stories need to be deleted? Aim to post stories that are relevant to your products and customers and keep them short.
    • Location listings. If you operate numerous sites you will likely have a map of their locations.  Similarly you may list your retailers.  Those listings need maintenance, especially retailers who may change locations or web/email addresses without telling you
  • Any error messages?  I’ve seen “household name” websites displaying database errors left unfixed for weeks.
  • Any problems with the text? We all try hard to write clear concise text and check carefully for typing or spelling mistakes and poor grammar but sometimes something needs attention.  WordPress makes that quick and easy to fix.
  • Are product photos up to date? customers will expect to receive a product that matches the image they’ve seen on the web site. WP makes it easy end-user task to replace a photo (but ensure the new photo is the same shape and size).
  • Do any downloadable documents need updating? It’s common for non-core content like privacy policies to be provided in PDF format. PDFs are easily overlooked when content updates are required.
  • Broken links. It’s less common to have a page of links to other useful web sites than it was 20 years ago but external links to maybe a respected trade body help assert your credibility.  Destination addresses are sometimes subject to change. Internal links may need changing too – suppose you delete a page from your site, do any links to that page remain?
  • Do you have a note of who to call in the event of problems? It can be confusing, something’s not working – is it your PC, your broadband connection, your web host, has a bill payment been overlooked to your web designer, web host, domain name registrar or is there another technical problem?
    We’ve all called provider “A” who say the problem is with provider “B”. So you call provider B and they tell you the problem is with provider A. Not just that but each call involves waiting 20 minutes in a call queue only to reach a “help desk” operated by minimum wage staff with challenging accents and “calls handled per hour” targets to meet.
    You need someone with the technical understanding to correctly diagnose the problem. On numerous occasions we’ve had to prove to one of those help desks that it is indeed their problem in order for them to escalate it to more competent technicians.
  • Are there any new legal compliance issues to address? In recent years we’ve had to consider Cookie alert notices, GDPR compliance and no doubt there will be more to come…
  • Are there any other issues needing attention? Anything we should add to this list!