Time to Check Under the Hood (of your website)?

It’s the start of a new year. It is the start of a new decade. Your website is your “homebase” online. It is the virtual “face” for your brand. It is a very likely a key element of most, if not all, customer journeys. It is something both potential and your most loyal customers will use to connect with you. Like your car and home in the physical world, it is a complex asset that requires regular maintenance to perform reliably and look great.

Here at Outcome Labs, almost all of our prospects and clients use WordPress as the platform for their website. When we first engage with a potential client, there are several questions we ask. These include:

  • How long has it been since you first brought up your WordPress site?
  • What version of PHP is being used?
  • Is everything up to date (WordPress, theme, plugins)?
  • Are regular backups being done? Has backup recovery been tested?
  • And more…

Too often, the answers indicates the client (or their current developer or agency) has not prioritized regular updates and optimization of their WordPress-based website. This may mean that their site doesn’t look like it is being updated, does not display well across devices, is slow, or is exposed to security issues.

Here is a recommended checklist to run through to check the health of your WordPress site with some suggestions to address issues identified. Before you start, check your Site Health in the Tools section of the WordPress admin. This is a core feature since WordPress 5.1. This will identify areas you need to check on your site. If you don’t see this, you need to update to the current version of WordPress.

Check the Foundation

  • Verify your site is being backed up. Most web hosts provide recurring server backups, but we don’t recommend you use this as your primary backup capability. Your WordPress site consists of files (software and media) and a database. You should have a regularly scheduled backup of both of these. You should also have the ability to perform backups on-demand before you do updates. Many managed WordPress hosting companies provide this as part of their plans. You can also do it with plugins.
  • However your site is being backed up, you should run through a restore check to make sure you can recover with the backups if issues arise.
  • You should also verify that you have the ability to easily generate a “staging” copy of your site so you have a place to update WordPress, themes, and plugins and verify your site functions correctly after the update applies. Managed WordPress hosting services usually include this. There are also manual ways to do this. This overview outlines some options.
  • Check which version of PHP you are using. PHP is the language WordPress is written in. You should be using PHP 7.2 or higher. Check this on your hosting account panel. If you are not, there is a plugin that will let you check if your site, themes, and plugins are compatible or need to be updated before you update PHP.

Refresh the Code

  • Verify you are running the latest version of WordPress.
  • Verify you are running the latest version of your active theme. If you are using a child them, verify you are using the latest version of both the parent and child theme.
  • Do you have Twenty Twenty or Twenty Nineteen installed as a fallback theme? If you have any themes other than your primary and backup, can you delete them?
  • Verify you are running the latest versions of all active plugins.
  • Review all plugins. If GPL licensed, are they all currently supported by the developer on WordPress.org? If commercially licensed, are they actively supported by the developer, and do you have a valid, current license? Replace any plugin that is not currently actively supported.
  • Are there any plugins that are no longer needed? Deactivate and delete them.

Sweep Out the Trash

  • WordPress has an automated revision system. As you create and update content, revisions are created and stored. Over time, the database all your content is stored in is packed full of this stuff. Clean it out.
  • The same is true if you have added and deleted themes and plugins. They leave things behind in the database and in the file system. This stuff also should be cleaned out.
  • If you allow commenting, when was the last time you dumped your spam and trash folders?
  • There is a range of different tools to help you get things cleaned out and optimized. Spend the time to really understand them before you use them and always make sure you do backups before you use them.

Check and Update the Locks

  • Do you have user accounts that are no longer active? If you enable users to subscribe through the front end, are you sure they are all real folks? Go through and delete any that shouldn’t be there anymore?
  • When was the last time you and your users updated your WordPress passwords? Are you requiring strong passwords? Same for your hosting accounts?
  • Do you have an audit log to see who has accessed your site and, especially, what updates have been done? Is this stored on your site or externally where it can be more secure?
  • Do you have multi-factor authentication enabled on your WordPress site and your hosting accounts?

This kind of process is what we go through with any site we take over support for here at Outcome Labs. For sites we have developed and support, we monitor and perform regular maintenance on a recurring basis. If we can help you with your site, please get in touch.

Custom Software Development

Are you looking for a proven technology partner?

Our business is based on four fundamental commitments that we believe every technology company should deliver on for its customers.

We will take the time to understand your business needs.

We will explain your options and what they will cost without lots of technical jargon.

We will deliver on time and on budget.

We will think about your business like it is our own.