If you’re one of the 37 million people worldwide who have their website built using WordPress, you’ll know there are a few ongoing costs associated with keeping your website live and functioning to optimum levels.
You pay your yearly website hosting invoice, because if you don’t, you know that your beloved online home will cease to exist (not an option!). You also pay your domain name invoice biennially because it’s just as necessary as your website hosting. Once you’ve got these two things sorted, that should be it, right?
These two expenses aside, there are a couple of other costs that come up and they may seem optional and they kind of are… until something goes wrong. Keeping on top of these ‘optional’ costs ensures the health and security of your WordPress website. Let me elaborate…
A lot of the plugins you have installed on your website (maybe all of them) are free. You can continue to use them and update them well into the future. For the more advanced functions of your website though, you may be using paid plugins, especially if you want your online shop to give you extra features, or if you’ve got an online course as an offering. If your website has been developed by a web designer, they would have made you aware on the ongoing cost.
When you pay for a plugin, you usually receive an activation key and you can keep using the plugin for an unlimited amount of time. Great! No need to renew the subscription, you’re thinking. The main thing that you won’t have access to after your subscription has expired is the ability to update the plugin into the future. Sure, it may not seem like a big deal, but trust me, things can go wrong and it’s usually caused by your favourite internet browser (Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.) releasing new versions and your old plugin is no longer compatible with it.
That’s one scenario. Another is your old plugin has old security features that ever-outsmarting hackers love to hack… it’s just what they do. Having up to date plugins provides peace of mind with both the security of your website and it’s functions operating properly. Paying the yearly subscription is worth it and really should be considered a non-negotiable cost.
UPDATING WORDPRESS, YOUR THEME & PLUGINS
The beauty of having a WordPress.org website is the freedom you have to customise it as you see fit… you dream it; it can be created. In saying that, just like adulting, freedom comes with responsibilities…
You have complete ownership of your WordPress website and you can easily create your website and be done with it (which obviously goes against my mantra that ‘your website is never finished’). As with your paid plugins, WordPress itself continually releases new and improved versions to ensure its compatibility with browsers and that it’s hack-proof (to the best of its ability). The same goes for your chosen WordPress theme and your free plugins. They all need updating on a regular basis (yearly at a very minimum).
Sounds just like your iPhone and apps, right? Sure, in essence it’s just like that. When you log into WordPress, you’ll see little notifications about the things that need updating. You could easily start clicking the ‘update’ link for whatever needs updating. But wait! It’s a little more complicated. An update could cause your website to break and you’d be left with a website with an error message on a white screen. If a plugin is no longer compatible with your theme or with the latest WordPress version, it can all to easily go horribly wrong.
Before any updates, it’s important to backup your WordPress files and database, just in case something goes wrong. It’s also important to test your website and it’s functionality AFTER you update anything. Your website might look like it’s supposed to but customers could receive an error message when trying to purchase a product, for example.
That’s where the extra cost of running WordPress comes in. For the websites I’ve co-created with my clients, I manage this process for them. I backup, update and test everything at least once a year. My clients then receive the knowingness that their website works well.
Again, this cost is pretty much a non-negotiable. Sure, your website could continue to function well, even if you don’t update it for years… or one day it could just break without warning and then it’s difficult and costly to restore it. I’ve had clients in the past who, despite my warnings, chose to leave their website rather than getting it updated and trust me, fixing the broken website ended up costing them more than my hourly rate to update it in the first place. Lesson learned.
This may seem all a bit worst-case-scenario but it’s important to get the big picture of what it means to own a WordPress website. Incorporating all of the costs of running your website into your yearly budget is highly sensible. Know that you’re not alone though, WordPress is my specialty and I’m here to help.