We just finished up troubleshooting a serious functionality problem for a new WordPress Client. The centerpiece of this website was a plugin that ran most of the functions on the site and users paid a membership fee to access the information in this plugin.
The source of the issue was a bad upgrade. The creators of the plugin had pushed out a new version of the plugin and the new version contained serious bugs. Over the course of about 8 weeks, the plugin creators pushed several additional updates in order to fix the problem, but in the meantime, our client lost 1/3 of their memberships.
When you are in the middle of a situation like this, as a business owner, you are just trying to stop the bleeding, make sure your paying customers are happy, you are adding new customers and you stop the loses. But if you are reading this and currently putting your WordPress site together, before your entire business model revolves around a single plugin, what would you do if that plugin broke down?
Impact of Plugins on Site Functionality
As you build or run your WordPress site based on plugin functionality, a couple points to think about.
- WordPress is open source software. Meaning there is no 800 number to call when you get into trouble. In this story, the plugin creators did not take support requests. You had to pay a $300 per year fee to post requests to a user-supported forum. No help when you are losing customers everyday.
- Maintain a Development Site. If you are building a business on a website, whether its WordPress or not, plan and budget for a second copy of your website that you can use to make your upgrades first, before trying them on your live site.
- Don’t Hurry to Push Updates. Once you apply the updates to your development site, take your time to test the functionality of your website before updating your live site. Don’t rely on your programmer to do all the testing either. You are the person most familiar with your website. Block out time to test.
- Find a WordPress Maintenance Resource. I have met many website owners who are not technical people. If you can’t solve a code problem yourself, identify a resource that you can call in an emergency.
- Budget an Emergency Fund. If you do need a programmer to help with a plugin issue, keep in mind that some of these plugins contain 10,000+ lines of code. Not to mention you are asking someone to read through and fix all this code that your programmer didn’t write. This will be labor intensive, and that is going to cost money.
Cybervise is an advocate for the use of plugins. Plugins give the ability to add great functionality to a website is a short amount of time. Some of things plugins can do would have taken lots of time and money to implement on websites in the past. The WordPress platform is a technical advantage for small businesses. At the same time, don’t under estimate the role your website plays in your business and don’t give up business autonomy for a cheap website fix.