Advice on Planning Website Upgrades
How to plan for upgrades and monitor your website to keep it in peak performance.
One of the best ways to maintain your website at peak performance is to continuously update it. As a content marketing measure, this is something that most of us do to rank for SEO and keep users returning to our websites. But in terms of functionality, UX, site speed, and security, the only way to ensure that your website doesn’t fall behind is to be aware of what needs to be updated, and when.
Supporting Your Website With Consistent Updates
It’s likely that user-facing features of your website - design, content, UX - are updated frequently. However, the technical aspects of your websites, the pieces that are responsible for speed, performance, security, and SEO will need to be updated consistently as well. Here’s what we recommend when planning for website upgrades.
1. Don’t Put Them Off
We’ll address the most obvious point first, and that is that the longer upgrades are put off the more of an issue they will be later on, both as you work around them and when you eventually address them. In many cases, completing upgrades in the moment is a faster, easier process rather than allowing them to accrue.
2. Know Exactly What Needs to Be Upgraded
Websites are built on many pieces of technology interacting together to deliver the formatted pages your users see in their browser windows. The overall performance of your website is dependent on the performance of each of those individual pieces. Our advice is to know exactly what your website is supported by - the platform, server, web design technology, system integrations - that will need to be updated during the course of your website’s lifetime.
3. Take Time to Plan Ahead
We recommend that when you plan for eventual website upgrades, you also consider how those upgrades will affect your overall website. For example, many websites will see an expansion of content on their website that’s simply tacked on to an older content strategy. Always keep the entirety of your website’s layout in mind, the information architecture and how you want it to improve and affect the user journey.
What Should Be Updated
More often than not the driver behind a website update is that something on your website has broken, managing your website has become a headache, or your technology is so dated that you can’t execute any of your current strategies. By scheduling website updates ahead of time, you may be able to get ahead of these issues. Here are some common areas that can cause issues for the rest of your website if they’re not updated in time:
Unless it’s a completely custom build, it’s likely that your website is built on a platform such as Drupal, Wordpress, Magento®, or Shopify. The expiration of this license will have consequences for the entirety of your website, and can possibly take your site offline.
End of Support
It’s common that when a website platform releases a new version of its software, it will discontinue support for older software. For example, websites built on Drupal CMS version 6.0 will no longer have continued support from the core team after Drupal launched its most recent version, Drupal v.8. For websites built on Drupal 6, this means an end to bug fixes and security patches. Once your website’s platform is no longer supported, you will have to migrate your website to a new platform. For some this could be a simple process, and for others it could be more complex - it’s entirely dependent on the path of your migration.
This could also be an opportunity to consider a new platform, both a CMS or an eCommerce.
Your website is not an island, and it’s likely that you have systems passing data in and out of your website. Those connections, whether through middleware or API, should be monitored. API connections, including those that are created and supplied by the systems themselves, are updated constantly. In many instances, your API will not update automatically, and without the support of the system that provided it, it will begin to malfunction.
Security patches are updates released from the core team of your technology provider. Unfortunately, no system is entirely secure and the longer the system is made public online, the more likely it is that a security vulnerability will be discovered. To combat that, your technology provider is constantly releasing updates with the latest patches to protect your system. If your website is on a cloud-based service, then those patches are being applied to your system directly. Otherwise you’ll need to apply them yourself.
An Oversized Backlog
Rather than preventing website breaks before they occur, an oversized backlog is indicative of another issue - the fact that your technology has become such an issue for you, that it’s bottlenecking your strategy. At a certain point, the backlog for all the new strategies you want to execute on and the issues that your website administrators have to deal with daily becomes so long it makes more sense to get a new website.
Planning for Minor Upgrades, and Major Overhauls
Even with continuous updates, as of now, there is no website that can last for longer than 5 years without needing a major overhaul eventually. But planning continuous updates between the moment your website launches and the moment it’s sunsetted will likely make that eventual overhaul a much easier process. Continuous updates are a step you can take to ensure performance optimization in the present, and ensure an easier transition down the road.
Our team offers continuous website support that includes performance maintenance, security, and addressing any website breaks. For more information, see our basic support package Run State.