Aug
10

The Knowledge: Pain-free site maintenance

posted on August 10th 2013 in The Knowledge with 0 Comments

I had a GREAT response from my recent request for those niggly questions you want to know for your website, so over the next few weeks you will see a few of my solutions here.

This week’s Knowledge Question comes from Anna Sansom who runs The Ladygarden Project, a DELICIOUSLY erotic haven for fans of erotica and anyone wanting to try writing it themselves. She recently relaunched and rebranded her website (and is an A+ Pimp that ‘Press Site grad!) and wanted to know:

“a) what is good practice when a site is being updated? Is there a way to hide it completely/put up a “back tomorrow” sign/have the original version still accessible?

b) are there any other key things I should be aware of when I’m doing the change-over so that it all goes smoothly.”

Maintaining your site should be super-simple, and while I get that it can seem like a mammoth task from the outset, once you get the basics done, you’re halfway there. So,

  1. Before anything changes on your site, for the love of Tuna Pasta Bakes, Back that shit up. You really do NOT want to get halfway through your update and realise that it hasn’t worked as you expected, and you’ve overwritten a whole bunch of files and posts and pages have been accidentally permanently deleted.
  2. Once (and ONLY once) you’ve backed your shit up, install the WP Maintenance Mode plugin (Plugins > Add New > search for “WP Maintenance Mode” > Click “Install” on the top result, then “Activate”)
  3. In the plugins menu, find the Maintenance Mode plugin and set it to on and customise the message – you can use one of the pre-designed skins or use your own CSS file if you prefer. The Maintenance Mode plugin allows only people who are logged in to the WordPress dashboard to see the site. Everyone else sees your message that the site is down for scheduled maintenance. Now, you can go bananas making changes ’til the cows come home, and you’ll be the only one who can see it. (Side note: I do recommend that you check it’s set up properly by logging out and then accessing your website. The plugin WON’T stop you from accessing your login page)

Once you’ve got all that preliminary stuff in order, you can get to work with the changes. Some of the more organised amongst you will already have this, but I suggest creating a list of all the changes you need to make and the pages that need to be updated, so you can just tick that shiz off as you go along.

When you’ve updated all the pages, you just need to check that everything looks and functions just as you expect, and this includes:

  • Check that the page looks as expected in as many browsers as you can find – the most popular ones for laptops and desktops are Chrome, Internet Explorer 9 and 8, Firefox and Safari, and for mobile and tablet are the Android browser, Chrome for Android, Safari for iPhone/iPad and Chrome for iPhone/iPad. This is useful so that you can ensure that all visitors, independent of the method of browsing, can see your site just as you want them to see it. Each browser works in its own special way, so even if you can see your site fine on your version of Chrome or Firefox, the people who use Internet Explorer might just be seeing a pile of website vom. 
  • Test all the links – ESPECIALLY if you have added new ones or updated old ones. Make sure everything in your menu and navigation works, that any contact forms or email links work, any links to downloads work properly.

If you’ve managed that and everything has gone smoothly, disable your Maintenance Mode plugin and let the masses back in.

That’s it! Like I said, get the basics started (and BACK THAT SHIT UP) and it can be an easy process!

Hope that’s helpful,

Smooches,

G x