301 – Maintenance

‘WordPress Business Bootcamp’ with Nathan Wrigley and David Waumsley

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Welcome to another in the Business Bootcamp series where we relearn everything we know about building WordPress sites and running a web design business from start to finish.

We are at the start of season 5, which is the last in this Bootcamp series and is about what happens after the website build.

Today we are talking about maintenance.

We are taking contrasting approaches to getting our new businesses running and our first client’s site built. She is a new lawyer with no previous site.

WordPress maintenance. A profession in its own right?

  • Ryan Sullivan from Sitecare was the (or at least one of) the first to set up a business dedicated to WordPress maintenance. This was in 2013.
  • It was not long before everybody was seeing this and an additional income.
  • It can be problematic for WordPress, and we have recently seen health checks, automatic updates and the ability to overwrite plugins appear in WordPress.
  • It can be problematic for the web designer too. Pitched at the wrong time and the wrong way. Is the client paying for the developer’s lack of skills and poor judgement?

Can WP maintenance be separated from hosting?

  • Control over PHP versions and databases seems essential to it. As does the allocation of memory.
  • How do you gain access to servers and support?
  • How do you know when you can update plugins to the latest PHP version?
  • How does a client know who is at fault?
  • What if they pick a Microsoft server?

What are we maintaining?

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Does it cover:

  • Things clients break?
  • Software that is no longer supported?
  • Free software?
  • Do we restrict what is added?
  • Does it include performance?
  • Do we guarantee to fix security problems and hacks?
  • How do we treat complex sites like memberships and e-commerce compared to static sites?
  • Should a static site even be on a server?

What do we actually do?

  • Prices vary a lot but the list of thing on a pricing table doesn’t so much.
  • Manual plugin update with test runs (or WordPress default).
  • How many back-ups. How many storage places?
  • Is image optimization included?
  • Do we clean databases?
  • Do run WordPress debug for hidden errors?
  • New plugin https://wordpress.org/plugins/debug-log-manager/

Client expectation and liabilities

  • Do we leave it to contract?
  • Do we try to explain it before the build and risk putting the client off?
  • Do we reserve the right to remove the service from clients, and how do we do that?
  • Do we cover changes in the law (GDPR)?

Wix etc. remove all of this, plus there’s the managed WordPress hosting companies which make this trivial and you get 24/7 support in some cases.

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Transcript (if available)

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[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome to the WP Builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the WordPress community. Now, welcome your hosts, David Waumsley and Nathan Wrigley.

Hello there and welcome once again to the WP Builds podcast. You've reached episode number 301. Maintenance. It was published on Thursday the 27th of October, 2022. My name's Nathan Wrigley, and in a few short minutes I'll be joined by my good friend David Walmsley, so that we can have our chat about WordPress site maintenance.

But before then, a few pieces of housekeeping. Black Friday, Halloween Cyber Monday, it's all around the corner and. If you are in the mood for shopping for WordPress specific deals, we have got your back. We've got a special page. It's a searchable filterable page, and it contains all of the deals in the WordPress space that we've heard of to date.

The URL is really easy to remember. It's wp builds.com/black. Once more, wp builds.com/black and over there you'll be able to find the deals. By searching and filtering, you'll be able to determine how much you're gonna get off and when the deals begin and end, and so on and so forth. If you are a product owner and would like your deal featured on that page, please add it.

You can do that for free. Just go to the top of the page, click the big blue, add your deal button, fill out the form, make sure to do it correctly, otherwise it won't make it onto the page, and hopefully we will get it on that page as soon as possible for others to experience. Also, if you're a WordPress company and you would like to boost or supercharge your deal listing, we've got four.

Sponsorship slots available right at the top of the page. You'll see they're in little black rectangles. And click the find out more button. It's a yellow button, and hopefully you'll be able to get your product on that page as well. Once more, it's at wp builds.com/black. Another curious thing that we've just begun is our WP Builds awards.

It's not like a normal awards. It's completely rigged. It's completely ridiculous. And really the idea is that we are raising money for the charity Big Orange Heart, which I'm sure if you know anything about them, you'll agree is a worthwhile cause. It's at. WP builds.com/awards and you can nominate yourself or somebody else.

All you have to do is prove that you've donated $20 to big orange chart and you are guaranteed to win a particular category. Like I say, it's just a bit of fun, but hopefully it will raise some desperately needed resources for big or in chart.

The WP Builds podcast was brought to you today by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro, the home of manage WordPress hosting that includes free domain SSL and 24 7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients, and get 30% of new purchases. You can find out more by going to go.me/wpbuilds. Once more, go.me/wpbuilds. And we really do thank GoDaddy Pro for their continuing support of the WP Builds podcast.

Okay, today we are on episode number 301. It's David and I having a chat, and it's all about maintenance. Rewind the clock 15 or so years ago, and most people building websites that I know at least anyway, were building them on a bit of a production line, build and then ship, and then look for new clients, build and then ship, and then somebody.

We think it might have been Ryan Sullivan from Site Care got the idea of setting up dedicated WordPress maintenance. This is back in 2013. Ever since then, this has been a real part of everybody's WordPress business. The idea that you can have some kind of recurring revenue, some kind of ongoing support, but what is it that we are covering exactly?

What are we talking about? Are we talking about every single change? Do we cover the server level? What if they're on. Quirky server. What about security fixes and things like that? There's a whole load that we go into, and I hope that you enjoy the podcast.

[00:04:28] David Waumsley: Welcome to another in the Business bootcamp series where we relearn everything we know about building WebPress sites and running a web design business from start to finish.

We're at the start of season five, which is the last in this bootcamp series. And this is all about what happens after the website is building. Today it, we are gonna be talking about maintenance. So Nathan and I are taking contrasted approaches in getting our businesses running. First client site built.

She's a lawyer with no previous site and I think we'll just run straight into it. So maintenance. Yeah. Is it a ? The first on our show notes here is this a profession in its own

[00:05:08] Nathan Wrigley: right? It certainly has become so hasn't it? If you rew the clock 10 years. Did what was this even a thing, Maintenance of websites for, because for me it really wasn't 10 years.

I dunno if that's the right number, but pick a number of years greater than 10 or something like that. And really all that I did was I would do all the things that we've discussed over the last four series. Get a proposal, build a website, hand it over. And then really the O, the only ongoing expense that I had with the client at that point was hosting.

So I bill them annually for the agreed fee for whatever hosting we were using. And that was it. Anything else beyond that was an hourly rate. So if they needed something changing, they knew what my rate was and they would email me and do it. Then we moved to things like WordPress and what have you, and maybe some of them took the time to learn how that worked and did a bit of it themselves.

But typically the relationship was just one of a monthly billing cycle for hosting, possibly made it annual. And then get in touch with 'em a couple of years later and say, Do you fancy see a new website? Yours is looking a bit out of date. That was it.

[00:06:18] David Waumsley: Yeah. Yeah. And certainly in our, circle of WordPress, People who build science for clients.

No one really considers not having a care plan now to offer. But I do remember, cuz I was really, that's when I got more serious about WordPress cuz it started becoming the profession back in 2013. And I remember this guy, Ryan Sullivan, and there is another guy, I'm sure he's. Deemed something who they both set up in that same year.

No one really talked about it, so they had to explain what they're doing this WordPress thing. So Ryan Sullivan was from a company that's still running called Psych Care, and there are just tons of them now out there. Just the. That's what they do, isn't it? They, you give them your WordPress site and for fee, a monthly fee, they will look after it and update it and make sure it's all running tickety Boo.

And since we've all adopted this, haven't we thought we'll have some of this .

[00:07:10] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah So here's the interesting thing. Back in the day. When I was building websites with really prior to CSS even, it was tables. Yeah. And then we've talked about this a lot. CSS came along, but it was basically a bunch of HTML files in many cases, just embedded.

And I had to hard code the links into each page. This is really 20 years ago, so it was just flat HTML files. There was no JavaScript, there was no css. It was just the files that was so simple and there was really, You had almost no. there was, I couldn't have even dreamt of an avenue of trying to say we need to, make sure it's secure and that things are updated.

Cuz there was nothing to update. It was just flat files. And then I started using p and all of a sudden you'd introduce this lamp stack into the process. And so that needed to be maintained. And then move to CMSs, Dral, Magento, and all of the dependencies that would go with that. So you've got a lamp stack and then modules and plugins, and then finally coming over to WordPress.

You've got all of that to maintain. And it was it was curious. The more you think about it, the more we add to the complexity of what we've built, the more that we can claim we need to maintain. Yeah,

[00:08:33] David Waumsley: exactly. We talked for some time before getting ourselves partly depressed really? Cuz , the thing that we cause carrying on really a little bit from the conversation we had last time where I was talking a little bit about JAMstack, which is, if you like, an attempt to get away from that, to keep it to the simple things.

Because once you used to build your. HTML sites. That was it. They would work for all time because, although there might be changes with browser support and how the spec would go for HTML and css, really, even when they deprecate something like the Bold Tag in html, it still works on all of the browsers.

So nothing was ever gonna break. And it's just delivered. So you didn't have a server to maintain as such, not a complex one with an operat. Them. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:09:15] Nathan Wrigley: But also we see that challenge, don't we? Yeah. But in, in that era, I also think nobody had any kind of exposure to computers really.

People use the computers for much more rudimentary things. Their life was probably less dependent upon the computer. And then over the last 20 years or so, so many industries and so many people have become really dependent on it. And they've underst. More and more in the news.

Things like things getting hacked and servers getting taken over, and websites getting compromised and passwords getting stolen on mass from databases and so on and so forth. There's now this whole vernacular of people really understanding that there are actual pitfalls out there, but it is interesting that it didn't exist and now it does exist for.

I think the whole idea of maintenance plans came from my time in WP Elevation, which I can't remember when that was, but it was a while ago and that, that was the first time I'd even really considered that this was a thing, that there was. That there was money to be made by offering what essentially amounts to insurance.

Sort of saying, Okay, if something goes wrong, we'll take care of it. We'll also take care of things on a daily, weekly, whatever basis in terms of updating things. But really all that you're doing is saying, we are gonna ensure you against failure against things going. Also, it

[00:10:42] David Waumsley: had its appeal. I wouldn't be able to manage without running some kind of hosting and care plan.

Because, working project to project means you've got nothing that ties you over in between. You gotta get too much that you can't take on or not enough and this ties it over. So it is a solution for us to, and a way of keeping a relationship with a client. So there. Think, in some ways I think the maintenance plan is a kind of failure of the technology that we use, but also it's a sign of the success because we it's more vulnerable to breakage because we do so much more clever stuff than we used to do.

Yeah. With dynamic content. Yeah. And so it's a bit swings and roundabouts with it, but it's interesting. WordPress itself has started. Address some of that issue or haven't they by, putting in things like the health checks, the automatic updates that we've got now, the ability to override plugins.

That was a key thing for me if you wanted to without having to do FTP or something, if you want to replace a new one. And there were a few other things I'm, there to deal with the person who doesn't have someone like us to offer a maintenance plan. A way of being able to maintain word.

[00:11:57] Nathan Wrigley: It's curious, isn't it? The whole idea of going to the client and saying, We're gonna build your website, and eventually getting onto the process of we're gonna do it with WordPress. And WordPress requires a server, and then it requires some sort of lamp type stack, and then it requires WordPress itself, and then it requires probably plugins.

And this is what we're proposing. And because we're proposing that, we're also proposing that. Liable to get hacked at some point because of what we've suggested to you. And so because we've suggested that you use this stack, this technology stack, we're also gonna suggest that you pay us a bit more money so that we can ensure you against failure of the stack that we're suggesting.

[00:12:41] David Waumsley: I know it's terrible. Obviously with the conversation I'm having, I, your pitch to me say, I might come in and just go take no notes of him. He's suddenly you a duff here. You'll be looking after it forever. Yes. . But it come with me.

[00:12:54] Nathan Wrigley: It's, I'll do your has to outside. Yeah. But the fact is WordPress, it's fabulous.

It's 42% plus of the. Loads of people use it and that is just what you need to make it work. If you want the convenience of a page builder and a cms Yeah. Which costs absolutely nothing. You don't really have any other options if you like. You've got to deploy those things and those things are run on an open source basis.

They're updating. Yeah. As and when by basically volunteers. I know that in some cases there are people who are seconded out from their companies and what have you, but generally speaking, a lot of this stuff is done by volunteers. But that's just the way the technology is. And if you want the convenience of WordPress and the freedom that allows you, and the fact that it is free as in beer, then yeah you run the risks of all these things.

So in order to mitigate those risks, I think clients understand on my website, which you really, I'm not updating all that much anymore. I had a whole laundry list of kilometers, things that could happen. That was my pitch to people who I was hoping would come on a care plan.

I've just built the website and then I'm introduced them to all the things that could go wrong. Yes. And and that was the way that I pitched it.

[00:14:12] David Waumsley: I think, that's the, pitching it at the wrong time and in the wrong way is the, I think the big concern with this one.

I think where do you start? Do you start at the very beginning where you're saying, Okay, this is a stack I'm going use and it comes with these downsize, but we can. We can do something about that, but it does mean an ongoing expense. And do you start with that or is that gonna be the thing that puts 'em off in the beginning?

And then also if you do it later, I think you you are more desperate if you like to sell the fear, sell on the basis of instilling fear in people, which is never a good look, is it? Yeah. It's a tricky one, I think, how you broached this

[00:14:53] Nathan Wrigley: whole thing. Yeah. I think the timing of it is really important and you're right about all of that because obviously if you talk about it from the beginning, , then you are going to potentially raise alarm bells.

, because they're going, clients are gonna be thinking, Wait, hang on a minute. You're telling me there's all these problems in the future. But if you, equally, if you leave that conversation until after the website's built, it almost feels like you just said, you've sold them a do you've built something and then immediately turned around and said, Hang on.

There's all these problems that we've now got to do with, so getting that timing right is really good. I definitely tried it the second way. I just mentioned where I didn't mention anything and then the website was built and then I said, Look, we should now get into the discussion about care plans.

And I, on the whole, I found that less effective. I found that it was much easier to be honest up front and say, Look, I'm gonna build you this website, but please have an understanding that just because it's built doesn't mean that's the end of it. That you can walk away from it. There will be things, And it was, I think that conversation is increasingly easy to have because everybody now sees their smartphone updating, everybody sees their computer updating.

Yeah. And they realize. Things are vulnerable and it's nobody's fault. It's just that hackers are always interested in taking things down and discovering new exploits that nobody realized was. I think

[00:16:19] David Waumsley: you're right. There is an acceptance of it. And not also because of the popularity of WordPress. They know it's a WordPress site and you say that comes with the WordPress they accept it.

So they, I don't think most people at the moment, because of its popularity, will think you took a wrong route with your stack, yeah. So they'll accept the payment. So I think it's a little bit easier. I found that one of the difference between the, this moving to the Agile. From the traditional, like it was more difficult because of the project based stuff.

Yeah. To try and communicate that well. Where with the Agile, I find it easier because I'm not really selling the platform any longer. What I'm doing is selling the ongoing help to try and raise their profile online through whatever ways we want. And bringing what I know about user experience, if you like, into that equation over the long term with low cost I, I tend to think, it's not like I've sold them a product, it's not like I've, Oh, I forgot to tell you the thing that I'm giving you comes with this problem.

Cuz it doesn't work like that. It's more about our relationship than the technology.

[00:17:22] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Whichever way you look at it. I really do think this is a profession in its own right. That is to say, I think that, we know for a fact, don't we? I'm gonna say dozens. That could be completely overdoing it.

But there are dozens of companies that do just this, yes, you can. If you are unwilling to do the maintenance of your long term clients, you can just send them over to a service like the one that springs to mind is go wp. They'll take that burden from. I'm fairly confident that they will also masquerade, if you like, that's probably the wrong word, but, it will appear that the care that is being done to the website, the updates that are being done and potentially any back and forth with support.

Yeah. They make it such that it looks like it's actually you and your team doing it. So definitely this is a profession in its own right, whether or not you can turn all of your clients to the point where you lose that feast and famine cycle is is another question. I managed to get a proportion of my clients onto care plans.

But because the websites I was building were, affordable, shall we say it wasn't that often that I strayed into the gigantic budgets. The, that was a more difficult thing to do. Most of my clients were happy to risk it, and then if something did go wrong get it fixed on an hourly rate after the.


[00:18:53] David Waumsley: I've dealt with this by not charging people much. And this is the next thing we want to talk about is can you separate the maintenance from the hosting? And my conclusion very early on was, No. And people know hosting so effectively I sell 'em. A kind of more top of the range hosting solution, which is what they're getting.

And if you like, the care side of it comes free .

[00:19:14] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Okay. So just what do you mean by top of the range hosting there? That's interesting. I

[00:19:20] David Waumsley: I'm charging about 300 pounds a year for what most people are on. There's a higher option for that, so it's not, but it's profitable for me.

Yeah. And everybody comes on it. Literally, everybody comes on it and. Because of the way, it's not too much. It's the cost of what hosting would be about 25 quid if you were going with something like WP Engine or something in that range. And I think they get in a service like that. So really, I took in the maintenance as a separate, but I really.

It's really hard to know. I don't think they really see the maintenance, they just see the hosting with me, so maybe I'm not really they appreciate it when things need to be fixed that I've done it, but I don't think at the point of sale they see it as that. And when they talk about it, they're in you in hosting, not maintenance.

[00:20:09] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. So you are running your own. Servers from, let's say a service like Digital Ocean. Yeah. But you are taking on the burden of a managed WordPress hosting company. So you will fix things if they go wrong. You are doing backups. You will restore those if necessary. And if something gets hacked, you are also offering to tore, to roll back and or fix whichever is the most appropriate.

You, you're taking all that on and the price point is about 300 pounds a year for that.

[00:20:39] David Waumsley: We've got a whole bunch of questions out of that, just what you've said there, what we should ask them. Charles, let's start with the first one. What do you think here? Can you separate the maintenance from the

[00:20:49] Nathan Wrigley: hosting?

I, Yeah. Yes. If you don't do the maintenance if you simply say, Okay, here's your website I'm gonna host it for you, it, and hosting is literally keeping it on the website, keeping it on the internet so you know, it's on a computer somewhere. But there is absolutely no expectation that if anything goes wrong, that it will be fixed unless there's an hourly fee.

But that's very explicit isn. And I, yeah, I definitely remember one client in particular who couldn't get that into their head. They were paying a really modest hosting fee because we'd had this exact conversation and I actually had it in writing as luck would have it where they wanted them the most affordable, ongoing.

And I said the most affordable ongoing cost is hosting. You can find your own host or you can use something that I recommend and they use something that I recommended, but they paid the bill so they set up their own account and paid the bill. So essentially, as far as I was concerned, I wasn't, I didn't really have any interaction with that client anymore, but they seemed to have it in their head that because they were paying for host.

That I was in some way responsible for the maintenance of the websites. And we had a fairly fraught conversation where I just said, Look, you've completely misunderstood. This is not in any way, shape, or form what you've signed up for. You're not even paying me. You're paying your hosting company. And then they were Oh, the lights came on.

And they were like, Oh, okay. Got it. And I can't even remember what the problem was. I fixed it. It was an hourly rate thing, and then they came on my care plan. Actually turned out, turned out to be quite a good interaction in the end. But yes, I think you can separate it, but I dunno whether you would want to in this day and age, cuz it feels like you're leaving.

To use that phrase, leaving money on the table. Yeah, I

[00:22:47] David Waumsley: know. I just share my experience of, I started just with the care plan because I was doing work for a friend and she was recommending the cheapest ongoing hosting for them. So they went off with a provider who was very good but got bought out.

So when I did this very low cost maintenance thing, just to do that updates and check other stuff it really didn't last for any length of time at all. I had to lose people because. I couldn't do the updates a lot of the time. It had a separate server for the databases than it did for the platform.

And I literally, most of the time we couldn't do through main wp, which was the tool that I used. I couldn't do the updates and I just thought, this is really difficult. But also I realized when there was some early query came in where it was clearly a hosting issue and they thought it was my issue and I thought, You know what?

I'll never be able to do this if I can't control the PHP version, right? And these days it's even harder because if they set up the account, everybody's got security on it now, so it usually needs to send them a pass to be able to log in, right? So it's not like they can give you So suddenly, PHP versions, databases need to be all up to date.

Allocation of memory could change as you host, I. No way. Can I separate it? But what's interesting you made to this point, I forgot about it. Some of these hosting companies are effectively doing your WP maintenance for you as well, aren't they? Yeah.

[00:24:09] Nathan Wrigley: This whole idea of a managed WordPress hosting company has become a really popular thing.

Yeah. In fact, some of the biggest names in hosting in the WordPress space are offering exactly this, They'll do all the updates. They'll monitor whether or not it's an effective time to update the PHP version, and they'll email you with, when it's gonna happen and all of that.

And they'll, they might not go as far as updating the plugins, but WordPress kind of takes care of that now if you wish it to. But they will honor fixing things, if it goes over to their platform and something breaks as a result. I don't know. Let's say a hack, they will honor the fixing of that.

So yeah, a lot of these companies, I'm thinking of things like WP Engine and Pagely and Pressable and these kind of things. They're all doing exactly that. Yeah.

[00:25:03] David Waumsley: So let me ask you a question with Ms. A. Let's assume she's a city lawyer. She's doing, she's gonna get a fair bit of money and you've won the job for her.

So when it comes to you're building her largely, we decided, I think static site for her. What do you think not thinking of your own business interest here, but what do you think. Be the best advice you could give her for her ongoing support and maintenance. Would it be to adopt one of these services who, good host in where they take care

[00:25:34] Nathan Wrigley: of that?

Yeah. Do you know what I think? I think it really depends. You would know the client and you would know their body. If they'd been nitpicking the whole time about, 10 pounds here in 20 pounds there, you'd have an impress. There's not a lot of money in here, but I guess to some extent, an ideal scenario would be that your care plan could afford for you to put it on some managed WordPress hosting company.

There, there's so many caveats around that sentence. There's, if you know what you're doing, you don't need to go to that length, do you? If you really do understand what you're doing, then you could set this stuff up. On a completely empty box, you could install Linux and you could install PHP and MySQL and do all of that yourself.

But my guess is that the people listening to this, they're in the process of building websites, not doing all of that kind of stuff. So yeah, it would be nice to think that the budget was there to. To go to a managed WordPress hosting company. You could send it over there. Then if there's any problems, you could interact with them and get it all fixed.

In another ideal world, you'd use a service like Go WP to do all of that for you. But it really all depends upon the budget. My typical scenario would be, these days I think I'd set them up on something that, It could be digital ocean droplet. If they had a small budget, it could be one of these managed WordPress hosting companies.

If they had a small budget, I would take care of the updates of the plugins. I'd rely on the hosting company. Should the site get hacked to, Yeah. To take that on if the budget allowed. It's difficult. It really is. There isn't a one size fits all. No I've decided

[00:27:16] David Waumsley: that I largely like managing my own servers and looking after sites, but I've been very cautious about using a very trusted stack of plugins.

And I think we should talk about the other thing we've got here. What are we actually maintaining and what's our responsibilities? Are we, is our. Is our maintenance covering things that the client breaks that I assume not that's gonna be, if they've gone in there and fiddled around with something they have to charge, They need our to pay us separately for that fix.

[00:27:45] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, yeah, I guess the problem here is unless you've got some sort of logging. It's difficult to prove that, isn't it? How do you prove that the client did something? Hopefully you've got an honest client who comes to you and says, Oh, nightmare. I went in and click save and now I've got a white screen.

You'd be like, Okay, great. That's very honest of you. Thank you. We know it was you, but I also imagine there's quite a lot of clients on there who would just say, I didn't do. It's just broken , yeah. So I don't know, I think you'd have to explicitly put that in, but how on earth you're gonna track that down without some sort of sophisticated login logging is difficult.

But I don't think you should cover things that the client breaks. No, that seems a bit, that seems a bit generous. Yeah.

[00:28:33] David Waumsley: And I, and obviously the third party services that you might employee hosting or care people, they couldn't really be expected to do that really as well. Yep. But also what about here's software that, this is where I came in, into WordPress doing a big job really at professionally anyway, for someone who software was no longer supported.

Oh my goodness. And the site was breaking. Yeah.

[00:28:56] Nathan Wrigley: How do we cover that? I don't even know. So Main WP has this sort of, and I'm sure other services have the same sort of thing, but this thing, which I can't remember, I think they call it abandoned plugins or something like that. And it sits in there, in the list of plugins installed on all your websites.

And it's red, it's like this warning. Warning. And and some of them are, they're gonna be crucial to the website functioning as it does. Yeah. So that, that good grief. That's a really difficult one. But the client may be unwilling to reach into their pocket and find a new solution with you because, yeah, A, there's money that they've got to spend, but B, it might be that their whole workflow is dependent upon the functioning of that plugin and how it, the UI is what all their staff know and so on.

I think that one's really difficult and a real Achilles heel in the WordPress space, especially when millions of websites out there will have.org plugins on that. Nobody. Has any right to demand updates occur cuz you're not paying for it, it's just there for free. I don't know, do we co, should we cover that or should we just issue a warning and say, This is out of date.

I think we should look into this and it's gonna be, there's gonna be a fee for my research. I'm not sure. What do you think?

[00:30:19] David Waumsley: It's one I've struggled with because I've often started these off with the assumption I think I've got in my terms, which of course I know people haven't read something, which say that we can only, basically we only support the things that we've put in.

And also there's some sort of caveat about the fact that it, should it be pulled or they go outta business and not much we can do about that and do you know what I mean? We can't obviously maintain. Which rely on other people. But so yeah, I think I've covered it and I try, and now I'm a bit more cautious of it.

It's interesting because even though I still say to people, I don't do it very well, and there's some people who just often, because the staff changes, go and put in plugins and just over the last couple of weeks I've had two plugins that have been pulled from the repository that are free. That are out to date.

I think the repository maybe at the moment, cleaning up all plugins that are, cuz both of 'em haven't been updated for seven years. But it's really interesting cuz I had to go and remind people going do you need this? In fact, in both cases they didn't need these plugins. They were just in there and slotted in.

But, so that was a problem.

[00:31:24] Nathan Wrigley: But so yeah. Here's another thought around that. So the first one is who's paying for the licenses? So the. It feels like the best way to avoid a problem is to get the clients to buy the licenses and then they know what they're getting into and they'll be able to see for themselves that this plugin isn't getting updated and so on and so forth.

But then of course, that causes. More friction in that you've then got to manage the relationship with the client for the license key. And if they forget to pay, you've gotta get in touch with them and it creates all of these problems, but at least they know what they've got. But in terms of ones that are not being used, Yeah, take 'em out for sure.

Absolutely. Just get all the bits and pieces out there that they don't need. But also at the beginning, I guess you've gotta have a conversation about the architecture of WordPress and about the fact that it's a minimal CSS out of the box. It doesn't really do much of what anybody needs. It requires all these things built on top of it.

And so it's a bit like your computer at home, if you switch on a brand Windows based computer. Yeah, it's got a few things, but the likelihood is that you're gonna have to pay for other software for it to be useful in the way that you uniquely want it to be. And I guess you've just gotta have that conversation and outline all of the different plugins that you're gonna use right from the outset.

But I, I also feel that I was guilty of this and I think you've had this conversation with me before and you probably are as well, that there are times when you want to pretend. You are doing all of it, and you don't really get into the conversation about plugins because you want to, you want to pretend that you are the authority.

Yeah. Yeah. And if you fall into that trap, then you don't really have a leg to stand on. But if you're more honest and say, Look, I've got a plugin for your calendar. I've got a plugin for your page builder, I've got apl, then you've insulated yourself a. Yeah. I

[00:33:26] David Waumsley: must admit over the time, it's all about your own ego or your sense of right feeling that you have any I dunno, any skills that you're bringing to it so you get a bit defensive, so you do try and hide it.

Where these days I feel more confident that I do add something of value to the relationships. So I'm a bit more open about, I just use this and, so I feel I've got better at that at all time. Oh, but you're dead, right?

[00:33:51] Nathan Wrigley: Absolutely. I remember. Just basically lying is the wrong word, but avoiding those questions about how you're gonna do this.

And the answer, the truthful answer was I'm gonna download a plugin. But you would just say there's some, we're gonna get some code on the website that'll do this on the other. Anyway, fast forward a few conversations later, it became so self-evident to me that if I said there's a plugin over here that's $99 a.

That will fix all the problems. Not one client said. That's weird. They all said, Oh yeah, okay, that's great. That's perfect and we'll go with that. That seems like the perfect solution. They wanted to be assured that it did what they did, that what they needed it to do, but nobody thought that was a strange scenario.

So anybody out there who is listening to this, who is going through that process of pretending that they know how to do everything when potentially that they don't? I think, yeah. I think the honesty policy there is. It's not gonna make your clients feel that you are shortchanging them. And also

[00:34:58] David Waumsley: We had those, you alluded to it when you were talking about the services.

Go wp, where you they white label for you. That, that's another thing that used to really appeal. If you could white label, that's great. You look really professional to do that. Now I've really moved against that. I think I'd just rather let them know . Yeah. Yeah. I use this cuz it just keeps me safer in the long run.

What about. Another one. What we're maintaining so well, what were we promising here? So if they get hacked, are we fixing up for them or is. Is that part of our

[00:35:32] Nathan Wrigley: maintenance or not? Of course this is another whole industry, isn't it? There's a whole industry of WordPress, specifically WordPress security plugins.

So that gets thrown into the maintenance mix as well, doesn't it? But obviously that's preventative. I really don't know what the position is with some of those services as to whether, if you are on an annual plan with something like word fence or patch Stack or all of the different, I don't know if they have plans.

They will step in and fix things. I'm not sure I'm, my guess is that there would be that, but I think this is singularly the most difficult one to get into a conversation about because you have absolutely no idea what's coming around the corner. Like you, you just don't know what the guys out there who are into hacking are gonna come up with in the next six months, a year, two years.

And some of these things, can be almost impossible to fix, real expertise and fine grained research needs to be done to figure out what's going on. And I know a few people in the word press, security space who do this. And when they talk about what they're gonna do to fix things, I am utterly out to sea.

I haven't a clue what they're talking. And I don't know, I think caveat emptor a bit, really, if you're gonna promise to fix everything, you might have to dig into your own finances and pocket to hire somebody should something go catastrophically wrong. Of course, the simple. Thing, which probably most people are doing, is creating backups and promising to restore backups as the security fix.

But what if the vulnerability Uck in a year ago and just never raised its head? It just sat there dormantly. But the fact that it is in every backup that you've got means that it has to be properly expunged. I don't know. Yeah, I think I, I promised backups, basical.

[00:37:30] David Waumsley: Yeah I need to reword what I say because I say that I will, we'll do the security fix and I'm a little bit it's not very clear what I'm saying because what I am thinking is that I will be, I haven't had the issue, it's only people who've gone and managed it themselves who have got hacked.

Yeah. It's never happened to me and some of the software. Tools that I'm using that are that they're the ones that in fact, recently knowing about a plugin, I didn't know it was on the site. It was the security tool. I think it was Malkay. I've got a couple of em, virus dive running who told me that this is a security risk.

Now I don't think it is as such. There's no mention of it anywhere, but they're just pointing out the fact it's being pulled from the, So they're telling me, Things that I might not know about there. And since then, it's not been an issue. And I think because of the fact, and I would have to treat ca I should do, and I haven't done treat care plans for e-commerce very differently to the static sites that I run because at least I probably got some hope of being able to get rid of the hack on a, on a.

Static site with the backup, but with e-commerce and, 50, a hundred orders a day or something, heck, what am I gonna

[00:38:43] Nathan Wrigley: do about that? I know, and if at the beginning you are pitching yourself as the all in one solution and you are gonna, maintain everything and fix everything, especially e-commerce, you really have to know what you've got yourself into there, because you could be jeopardizing somebody's livelihood.

But the other problem with this is, you were saying about how. You've never had a problem. The. The hackers only get better. They never get worse. And yesterday's best hack is next year's like Trivial Hack. And I think this is a, I think online security and maintenance.

That this is gonna be a really difficult thing to, to know how to do. And yeah I think promising backups is a, is an easy way of saying, this is what I can cope with. But just know that if somebody truly wants to hack your site, we might need to employ the services of an.

Yeah, so I

[00:39:46] David Waumsley: think we always need to watch our liabilities, don't we? With this, we have to maybe, we're offering the service. Shall we just talk about what we actually do? What that includes? Yeah, sure. In terms of that, generally it's the plugin updates, of course, backups that we've mentioned.

What else did we get on? There

[00:40:03] Nathan Wrigley: were other smaller details. For me it was def, it was backups, it was plugin updates, it was uptime monitoring. So I would promise to, keep checking that every I never specified a time, but basically I would say I'm in a monitor, your website 24 7, and I've got lots of services, which are pinging the websites constantly.

Typically I'd be notified within a couple of minutes and then I could react and I'd be able to say I'll know about it before you do, which I think is actually probably true. , But then I would throw into my care plans, depending on the tier that they chose. I would throw in things like a bit of additional time.

So it might be that you would get an hour a month. Routine tasks. Let's say you want a blog post updating, or you want to change the style of the homepage, send me all of the things that you wanna do. We'll chunk them up, and I'll say, I can manage this in an hour, so that's what you'll get this month, and we'll do the next thing next month.

So there was a bit of that. That was about it really. What about you?

[00:41:06] David Waumsley: Yeah, I mean there is the image optimization service, which I include, which a lot of people include a lot of these third parties, which are quite useful, that they get. The, but there are some things which I've done over time cuz I felt they're important.

There was always some cleaning of the database, which was built into some tool or another. Yeah, good point. That would automate. But I, but now I go a lot further than that because it doesn't, those automated ones just clear up your revisions if you really wanna clear up your options table because they've, added in and removed lots of plugins in that time.

So that starts to blow up. So that's a job. So I started to add this in just bit at a time when people have been with me for a long time. I don't say anything about it. And also things like, W p DBU on stuff, particularly if I'm updating some of the plugins when PHP versions are, you don't see the errors.

The errors are all in the backend hidden and that kind of stuff. So there, there was a lot of these extra things in that aren't part of what I'm selling, but seemed. Important to maintenance now, to me,

[00:42:10] Nathan Wrigley: yeah. I tried. I also had, apart from the fact that there was these hours where I would do work, I would also have online meetings with them.

So using something like Zoom. Can't remember what we used in the day. It was probably Skype to have coaching calls, talk about what it is that they want, where their website's succeeding, where it's failing. Of course there's things like SEO monitoring, SEO as well. Yes, but also I tried and failed at things like offering.

Email marketing campaigns, that sort of thing as well. I would send out some emails on your behalf and make sure that they look nice and design the emails those kind of things. But typically that's it. I think we've covered absolutely everything that I would have wanted to pitch.

Yeah, I do.

[00:42:58] David Waumsley: Oh, yes. Actually next week we're gonna talk about monitoring, so we will talk a little bit more about some of the things that are related to this. But yeah, so just going back to the expectations and liabilities on that. Do we how do we deal with that? Do we have a contract in place?

[00:43:17] Nathan Wrigley: I, I had a contract, but it never got invoked to the, I never got, By anybody to the cleaners, through the lawyers. In fact, not even any real threat of any of that. So I am probably not the person to speak about it, but I think in all of this, the one that you've gotta be careful of is the security bit.

You can promise to back things up and you can check it. You can promise for the website to be up and you can make sure that happens. Even if it means that you move to another host in the middle of the night. You can do that. You can check the performance, you can be checking the seo. You can do all of these things.

But the one thing, which I think is out of your control is the security bit. So I think that's where you've gotta be really careful. Yeah, I

[00:44:01] David Waumsley: guess it's all about expecta. I think it's true of anything. When we start a relationship with clients, there's a need to try and make it simple, so it's easy and sellable.

We're in charge, we know what we're doing. But I think you have to I think. More these days. You have to start from the perspective. Look, the whole medium is dynamic and changing all the time. We just can't predict the future about building our web sites, how useful they're going to be, how the technology might change, and really, Completely change our view, but we're doing, I think, to get that kind of thing over.

And it is a way of protecting ourselves when we are offering the services, cuz the services that help to get rid of some of the problems that come with the platform that they have. But we can't jump ahead and know how things may change things. All these things are beyond our

[00:44:51] Nathan Wrigley: control.

Yeah. I think really this all boils down to basically you are selling, if you are offering maintenance, you are selling peace of mind that somebody, some. Has got your back. I used to send out , hang on. Little caveat there. So that's what you are selling? Yeah. And because it's your business, you are interested in all this stuff and so you think the clients will take this all very seriously.

I would imagine most clients do not care from day to day. That any of this is happening. And I don't mean that to sound cruel, I just mean that I used to send out emails on a weekly or monthly basis to show what I'd done that week. Services like main WP will, will say, These plugins have been updated.

The, this is your Google analytics, da. Were they ever read? Course they weren't red. Nobody was opening those emails after the first two or three when they realized, Okay, Nathan's gonna be sending me these emails every week. And they'll look just like this. And it's a bit like me. If my insurance company sends me an email, I see the name of my insurance company in the email subject line, I bin it.

Don't wanna read that cause I know it's, there's nothing of interest in there for me. The only bit, the only time I'll care. When I need the insurance, somebody breaks into my house. Now suddenly I'm interested in my insurance company. Prior to that, I couldn't care less. I just wanna pay the fee, know that I'm insured, and hope that I never have to speak to them again.

I think we've gotta accept that there's a bit of that, that the clients are getting. This is peace of mind, but really on a basis they wanna focus on their business. And all of this stuff is just, if we need. We've paid for it. We wanna know that it's there, we're not that interested on a day-to-day basis.

[00:46:38] David Waumsley: Yeah. Dead right there. And actually, one thing we didn't even mention here was that one of the things that goes to the maintenance plan and what a lot of people want from their tools that help them to provide that is client reporting. And Yep, it was the key thing that. Got me started with main WP that it had it, and now I've dropped it.

Cause No,

[00:46:55] Nathan Wrigley: no one's interested. Of course, like you noticed straight away that they opened the first two because it's from you and you just built the website. But two or three in the email is broadly the same. And yeah. Don't get me wrong, if your client is opening that, if you can automate that and it costs you nothing in terms of time or effort, keep sending it.

But I don't think for a minute many people are gonna open that after the third or fourth one on and scan it. Thoroughly, maybe some litigious type of client will stick it away and, bring it out when the lawyers get involved. I don't know. But yeah I dropped all of those emails as well because I noticed that nobody was reading them because for the reasons I've just said.


[00:47:38] David Waumsley: dunno if our next conversation is gonna be a long one talking about monitoring stuff, but there is something like, I just throw it in now as a kind of segue to where we're gonna talk about next. But part of the maintenance is do you think clients think then it's your responsibility to flag up issues that might be on their site of whether they're just visible ones or is it their responsibility to tell us we'll move on to monitoring later and also do they expect that we should be the ones who are as part of our maintenance, keeping them above the law when things are changing, when it comes to the web?

[00:48:17] Nathan Wrigley: I don't know what their expectations are, but the only thing I can say is if I unprompted ever went to a client and said, I've got an idea for a way that we can improve your website, nobody found that weird. And they all loved the fact that I was bothering. So it feels to me like there was a real good win there.

No, nobody ever turned around and said, Look, our website's fine. Get lost. They would basically say, Really? Do you think, Okay, so if we change that in this way, you think there's a benefit to that? Yes, I do. I'm. Pretty certain we can improve it in this way. So I don't think you have a responsibility necessarily for that, but I think your, your clients will love you if you do that, and I know you do that, and I bet your clients love you for it.

Yeah. I'm

[00:49:07] David Waumsley: not sure if they do, but , , they certainly tolerate me. Okay.

[00:49:12] Nathan Wrigley: But okay. Maybe that was too strong a phrase. They'll have a more favorable impression of you, yeah. It'll be like David, he's the guy that bothers and he cares, and he comes to us and unprompted tells us things that we can improve, whereas if you weren't doing that, maybe they would've moved on far. Yeah, we'll talk about

[00:49:30] David Waumsley: that next time on the monitoring. We'll include that in all the sort of things you could be looking out for your client's interests. I think you're right. That was perfect because yeah, they don't expect it and bits in now interest to do it, I think.


[00:49:42] Nathan Wrigley: I agree. Okay, so that's the end of this one. That was series. Let me get this right. Series five, episode one. So we'll do episode two all about, the what exactly we're monitoring in a fortnight in two weeks time. All right, nice one. Thanks David. Cheers. I hope you enjoyed that episode.

Maybe you learned something, maybe you didn't. Maybe there's a whole load we missed out. Maybe this is all new to you Anyway, it was all about maintenance. If you've got any thoughts about that, please go to the WP builds.com website. Search for episode number 301, and leave us a comment there.

Alternatively, go to our Facebook group, wp builds.com/facebook, and you can search for the same episode and leave us a comment. Just a couple of reminders about some of the things that we've got going this week. Remember, we've got our Black Friday page that I mentioned at the start. Wp builds.com/black.

Make it your home for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and indeed Halloween. Go book market right away. Wp builds.com/black and our awards page. Just a bit of silliness to raise money for big orange charts. Wp builds.com/.

The WP Builds podcast was brought to you today by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro the home of manage WordPress hosting that includes free domain SSL and 24 7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients, and get 30% off new purchases. You can find out more by visiting go.me/wpbuilds and we thank GoDaddy Pro for their continuing support of the WP Builds podcast.

Okay, we will be back next week. It will be an interview episode because we flip flop between an interview and a chat with David Walmsley. That'll be on Thursday. We've also got our this week in Word Press Show, which we do live, 2:00 PM every Monday. You can find that at wp builds.com/live. I hope that we'll see you at some point in the next.

If not, stay safe. Have a good week. Cheesy music fading in. Bye bye for now.

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

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