Maintenance matters

Maintenance Matters

When you think about it, the idea of “maintenance” or “upkeep” is found in all aspects our every days lives.

Take health for example.

It’s common knowledge that in order to stay healthy, we have to take care of ourselves. This means eating well, exercising regularly and drinking in moderation. It’s not a promise of long life, but is generally accepted as the minimum requirement to reduce the risk of illness and to otherwise be “in good shape”. If we eat junk food and spend all of our time on the couch, we won’t be surprised if we gain weight and become lethargic. It doesn’t mean we’ll change our behavior, but the cause and effect is pretty clear. Take care of your body (mind and spirit) and live a healthier life.

It’s the same thing with cars.

Whether you own a car or not, the culture of the automobile is well enough engrained into our minds to know that cars come with maintenance requirements. They can over-heat and get flat tires. The windshield wipers can wear thin and the fluid needs to be filled. The better we take care of our cars, the less time they spend in the garage. The higher quality products we put into them, the better usage we get out. Take care of your car and it will run well and last longer.

And with your home.

Whether you’re a home owner or renting a flat, you know what it means to maintain your living space. Above and beyond basic day-to-day cleaning, things wear down over time and need attention. Walls need painting. Joints need replacing. Carpets need cleaning. As a home owner you know that if you don’t maintain your property, its value drops. And if you move out of a rental and haven’t plastered up all those holes in the walls, you’re unlikely to get your deposit back. Take care of your home to feel good in it while you live there and to preserve its long-term value.

There are no guarantees.

We can’t control accidents or heredity, a rotten luck of the draw or a down turn in the market, but it is common knowledge that you get out of life (and things) what you put in. Your teeth must be brushed, your clothes cleaned, your bike chain oiled, your hair cut…even relationships are known to require maintenance. Maintenance matters.

And of course maintenance has a cost. Whether it’s time, energy or money, maintenance is an investment. Without it, we get fat and lazy, our cars conk out, our roofs leak and our spouses get fed up.

Why would a website be any different?

It’s not.

I initially turned toward WordPress in response to clients who more and more were demanding autonomy over their websites. They were tired of having to go through me to publish new content, change a photograph or update a phone number. And frankly, I was tired of doing it. The revolution of WordPress and content management systems like it freed my time to do more creation and development and less data entry. It reduced client costs on content management and gave them the freedom they desired as well as a greater sense of empowerment. It was a win-win.

Since those early days, however, WordPress, like other software, has grown. The websites we are building are more complex. There are myriad plugins we are using to bring functionality to sites, and themes themselves are no longer simply there for decor. Websites today have lots of moving parts, and as our code improves and the need for tighter security increases, maintaining a website is about much more than content.

Clicking the update link on WordPress and plugins used to be relatively painless. Today, we hold our breath. Just this week, two widely-used plugins shipped updates with major bugs. One caused a fatal error on many sites, while the other had an error in its file name that could have potentially made whole sites malfunction. Fixes for these bugs came quickly, but how many people know how to connect to their site via FTP, locate a specific directory and manually change a folder name (the fix for the latter case)?

Maintenance requires certain skills.

Just like we rely on doctors, mechanics and plumbers for maintenance in other areas of our lives, so too is it important that you have professionals looking after the health and well being of your website. Whether you ride a bike or take a bus, drive a Golf or a Ferrari, the level of maintenance you require will vary. But very few things in life come with a lifetime guarantee. Running a website requires long-term maintenance, both preventative and curative if need be. It is an investment in the health of your site, which for many translates directly as the health of your business.

I am all for DIYing it, and could ramble on for another 500 words or so with stories of how I rewired my motorcycle back in college. This is a very important subject to me, one that I plan to explore further in the coming months. For now I’d like to leave you with a few simple take aways:

  1. Maintenance matters, it should not be neglected (we can’t all be Keith Richards).
  2. It has inherit long-term value. If you think that the investment in owning a website stops at site launch, you are mistaken.
  3. It requires our own time, energy and money, and where our skill set stops, we need to let professionals take over.
Jenny Beaumont

Jenny Beaumont is an Agile Coach and the Director of Delivery at Human Made, makers of Altis DXP. She speaks at conferences around the world (ok, these days only on zoom), and is a former lead organizer of WordCamp Paris and WordCamp Europe.

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