Full disclosure, Phancybox designs WordPress websites. And for good reason, we absolutely love WordPress, and so do our clients.

So why does it sound like I’m trying to warn you? Because I am.

There is some small print associated with WordPress. Information that is glossed over – if not thoroughly ignored – leaving companies unaware and exposed. We’d like to change that.

It goes a little something like this: WordPress websites are extremely powerful and effective… as long as they’re managed by a web developer.

And that’s the clincher right there. That’s how the sentence should end, but never does.

We only recommend WordPress if…

I’ve said this to countless clients over the years, and will continue to do so: We only recommend WordPress websites to friends, family and clients, if they can afford to have it operating on a managed hosting environment.

Actually, there’s a second reason (using old-school themes) make sure you circle back to this when you’re done.

But isn’t WordPress free?

Yes, WordPress is free. It’s free to set up, but it is not free to operate. And the more you ignore that fact, the more expensive it’s going to become.

If you can’t afford to invest in your business, stop researching WordPress and start looking into a CMS like SquareSpace instead – it’s a great stepping stone for constrained budgets.

How is SquareSpace (and Shopify) different to WordPress?

SquareSpace – like Shopify – is a managed product. They host all of their websites internally – you can’t choose to host these websites yourself, or with your web design company.

Since SquareSpace and Shopify are the only ones with access to their websites code, they’re also the only ones with access to manage the website software. And so they do.

WordPress doesn’t work like that.

Because WordPress is open source, anyone can host your WordPress website. And that proverbial anyone can choose to update your website software, or they can choose not to.

Don’t website hosting companies look after website software?

Not unless you’ve asked them to, or they’ve made this a mandatory service – like we have.

Website hosting companies manage the server software. There’s an enormous difference. Server software is completely separate to your website software. Unfortunately, some hosting providers and web design companies do offer software updates as a service, but list it as optional. And they do so without explaining the negative impacts of leaving your software out of date or managing it yourself.

Ok, so what happens to WordPress if it’s not on managed hosting?

Nothing good. WordPress websites without a web developer to manage the software lead to website vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities that spammers and hackers use for malicious intent. How do I know? Because Phancybox has helped countless businesses over the years in this exact, awful situation.

Hacked websites are costly and time-consuming to correct, never mind the reputation damage or loss of sales and enquiries during the process.

And what happens to WordPress if you manage it yourself?

This choice is more like Russian roulette, than the impending doomsday above.

If you log in to WordPress and simply update your own software, it will do exactly that. No questions asked.

Maybe you’ll have a clean run, or if you’re lucky, you’ll get an error that you can research and fix. But other times, you’ll get something entirely different. Like your entire website crashing or having a conflict that’s small enough to go unnoticed by you, but visible to potential clients, for months. Yikes.

Let me explain why these errors occur

WordPress is made up of multiple pieces of software:

  • WordPress itself
  • Your theme or framework
  • Around 20 plugins

They’re all built using different code, by different people, tested and delivered totally independently of each other. At this point, we’re still ok, the software can work together, sharing access and files with each other. The problem comes in with plugin updates.

Remember how each plugin is developed by a different person? That same person or team is responsible for keeping the source code of that plugin updated, and making it available to everyone using it. They’re the ones pushing the notification about the update to your WordPress dashboard.

They have no idea if their change is going to conflict with any of your other plugins or theme, or break your entire site.

But your web developer does.

Web developers can see the bigger picture

While the plugin creator is updating their software code to keep it secure, to repair bugs and to introduce new functionality, they address these changes in isolation – they don’t know you, or your website.

Your web developer, however, can see all of your website’s moving parts. They know all the caveats of your website. They know which plugins you’re using, which areas are hardcoded, which code and rules they’re all abiding by and how they interact with each other.

Assuming you’re taking advantage of the benefits of hosting with your web design company, they even know which server software is in use. This means they’re able to identify a website software update conflicting with a server too. Win-win.

Your web design company have access to the bigger picture, so can strategically roll out any updates, without the potential for drama. They do this by:

  1. Reviewing the proposed plugin change.
  2. Reviewing the files that the update will impact.
  3. Cross checking these changes with other plugins, your theme and WordPress itself.
  4. Cross checking these changes with your website rules, code, templates and logic.
  5. Confirming that the hosting server software is compatible.
  6. Repeating this for each piece of software, on your unique website, each time an update is released.

At that stage, they’re in the best position to act. To roll out the update, change some code first, or wait until all of your software ducks are in a row, and then update.

They can manage the updates, without negatively impacting your business.

Is your WordPress software being managed safely? Or at all?

If you’re not paying for the service, or doing it yourself, then it’s not happening. In this case, it’s just a matter of time before something breaks. Maybe it already has and you just haven’t noticed.

So start with your web design company – ask them if they’re responsible for keeping your WordPress software up to date. Ask if they can.

Or find a web development company that cares about your business and does just that.

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