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Technology / Business websites

Is your website drip dry or dry-clean only?

There are three types of people in the world: drip dry, dry clean and survivor. Here are 7 ways to be a more confident website owner no matter who you are.

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There are three types of people in the world.

There are those who only ever buy clothes that never need ironing, and merrily wash, throw the clothes on hangers and smugly feel great about their life choices.

And others who carefully read the clothing care labels on each of their tags and dutifully take bundles of clothing to the local dry cleaner and hope that their clothes will come back with the mysterious stain removed in time for the party in a fortnight’s time.

And then you have people like me.

I am a tag cutter. If there is a tag on an item of clothing and I feel it when I am wearing it, I take to it with scissors with all the speed of a kid from a large family told that pizza is on the table.

This leads to a survival of the laundry fittest happening with each of my washing loads. Everything goes into the wash, no matter what the label may have originally said.

"Learn what order to update things in your site (cough – plugins done one at a time, themes, then WordPress), and pop into your site every week or so to take care of business."

Those clothes that survive end up on hangers to be worn another day. Those that don’t are either MacGyvered back into shape with the able assistance of a well-thumbed version of Shannon Lush’s ‘Spotless’, respectfully donated to charity if still good but suddenly five sizes too small, or turned into really posh (and incredibly expensive) dust polishing cloths.

Your website is the same.

The drip dry people only get websites that they can easily maintain themselves. These are the WordPress, Weebly, Wix and Shopify people of the world who are either self-taught or have a designer that teaches them how to do things.

When they need to add or swap something, they confidently leap in and make the edits before moving onto the next item on their super-organised to do lists.

Other people get websites that whenever they need a teeny tiny change (such as changing the hours they are open over the holidays, or wanting to remove the photo of Brian who left the team six months ago from the About Us page), need to get in touch with their web designer to do it for them at a fee that makes them go “ouch”.

This is great, except that web designers of custom-coded or “you can’t touch this” sites often go inexplicably missing in action for weeks/months at a time, meaning your Christmas holiday opening hours get loaded to your site somewhere around March.

Then there are survival of the fittest web owners, who are not quite sure what they are doing with the edits but are willing to give things a right royal crack, and who hope like heck that someone somewhere has a back-up in case things go inextricably pear-shaped.

Seven things to make you a more confident web owner

Most of my clients fall into either the drip dry or survivor category. If you are like them, here are seven things you can do to make you a more confident web owner.

1. Know the essentials of website maintenance

You can’t wear the same clothes day in and day out and not wash them without people looking at you judgmentally as they sidle away from you on the bus.

Your site needs regular care and maintenance to reduce the risk of being hacked or looking strange by running out of date versions of bits.

Learn what order to update things in your site (cough – plugins done one at a time, themes, then WordPress), and pop into your site every week or so to take care of business.

Alternatively, look for hosting that includes basic site maintenance as part of your hosting package.

2. Have backups of backups

Even if your web host promises faithfully that they do backups for you, always have your own backups stored separately to your hosting in case of disasters (or falling out with your host and needing to make a quick getaway, so you don’t end up Thelma and Louise style).

We use Updraft Plus stored either in Updraft Vault, Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive as our option.

3. Know how to restore your backups

Know where your backups are stored and how to get the site restored in case of hacking or accidental over-enthusiastic editing.

A one-click automatic restore is one of those quality of life things on a website you only have to use once to want to throw a first division Lotto win towards the developers for creating it.

4. Know how to rollback

Many problems come from themes or plugins having conniptions when they are updated. We use WP Rollback on all our WordPress sites to roll back to a previous version of all plugins and themes in the main WordPress repository.

We also use Divi as our base theme as it has its own rollback feature backed into it. When in doubt, rollback.

5. Test BIG changes on a development site

Talk with your web designer about setting up a testing environment for you if you will regularly be making large changes to your site.

Alternatively, UpdraftClone is a super simple way for non-tech people to check out “what would happen if” type situations with their website. We used it to test all our client’s sites before migrating to the Gutenberg version of WordPress and for testing out before updating to the latest version of PHP. (We run a minimum of version 7.1 across all hosts, but we run 7.3 wherever it’s available).

6. Get some lessons

Every new website should come with some free lessons on how to do the basic actions of your site. If you need more, don’t be afraid to contact your web developer and book in some one-on-one time, or get them to video some training walk throughs for you.

We include training as part of all our packages as there is nothing as awesome as confidently knowing what to do with your website.

7. Know your emergency contacts

Every website owner needs to keep a record of:

  • who their web host is and what their hosting login details are;
  • who their web designer is, and what their website login details are;
  • what paid themes and plugins are on their website, and how to renew them when they come due;
  • who their domain name is registered with, and what their domain name registration login details are;
  • who to talk with about different things (e.g. who to call for email problems, being hacked, things not looking right, wanting major changes).

Having an emergency contact record for your site is a life-saver when Jan from your team, who knows everything about your site, is on leave and you suddenly have a website emergency.

Last thoughts

If you are a virtuous drip dryer or a survivor tag cutter like me, taking a little bit more control and gaining a teeny bit more knowledge about your website is one of the best ways of gaining confidence in the tech side of your business.

I believe that no matter who you are, you can learn this stuff and be as confident with it as you are with all other parts of your business.

What would happen if you made this one of your resolutions for your business this year? To ask and keep asking until you are confident with these seven website things. How awesome will you feel when you do it!

Ingrid Moyle

from Heart Harmony Communications is a psychology-based copywriter and web designer who works with small business owners to help them convert lookers into buyers online. When not hardwired to her computer, she quests for the perfect coffee while playing Pokémon Go (Yes, it is still a thing).

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