Updating Your WordPress Dental Website

Maintenance-intensive WordPress and the need for ‘TLC’

WordPress hack riskPerhaps one of the most frustrating things we encounter on the web is where a WordPress dental website has been neglected and eventually breaks. Not only is this unprofessional for the business concerned, but also unprofessional on the part of many a web agency who were being paid to look after the site but actually hadn’t bothered.

Sometimes this is down to apathy; other times it’s because they built the website using a cheap template which couldn’t be updated due to incompatibility as the WordPress core files themselves updated. Either way, it’s not a good outcome.

As we’ve covered elsewhere in this blog, WordPress has pros and cons when it comes to using it as a platform for web publishing. As a blog platform it works well and isn’t reliant on numerous “plugins” to extend its functionality. Conversely, when it is used for dentists websites, the weaknesses become much more apparent. For example, the reliance on plugins increases and security issues seem to crop up far too regularly.

So whilst WordPress is undoubtedly popular, you have to be aware of the maintenance issues required to keep it working and secure – sometimes this isn’t trivial. Of course you don’t have to choose WordPress as your content management system and there are several robust alternatives which are arguably better for business critical applications. So consider this and don’t be swayed if your designer pushes you down the WordPress route – remember that it may be easier and cheaper for them, but could result in you being locked into an expensive service contract with a website which is not intuitive to use and still potentially insecure.

What to look out for if you do run a dental WordPress website?

Perhaps you didn’t really understand the pros and cons of WordPress when you had your practice website built and now you have to live with it, perhaps accompanied with that expensive maintenance contract I mentioned earlier? If this is the case, then what should you be looking out for to give you a degree of confidence that your site isn’t imminently going to break or worse, be hacked?

As a little bit of background, it’s important to know that WordPress updates really quite frequently, particularly when compared to other content management systems. This comes in the form of version updates e.g. 4.6, 4.7, 4.8 etc and then intermediate updates within a version e.g. 4.7.2, 4.7.3 etc. The main updates tend to introduce some new functionality (although often much of it is not really too useful in the opinion of many), whereas the intermediate updates tend to be bug fixes and important security fixes.

Issues arise in two main forms:

  • when updates aren’t done then security breaches occur – this is actually very regular when it comes to WordPress websites i.e. your site gets hacked
  • when updates are done but the core WordPress files are no longer compatible and the design theme or plugins break – this basically breaks your website

Fear of the second issue actually stops many web design companies from updating sites, even where you paid them and you think that they are! As sites get older, the chance of incompatibilities and plugin obsolesce increase and the whole foundation starts to become a little bit shaky.

In the WordPress dashboard you will see the status of the installation and the status of the plugins and this will tell you what needs updating and also if there are potential compatibility conflicts. However, some designers sneakily hide this information from users and they are never aware that their website is starting to fail or at risk.

Ensure you have administrative access to your site

Just like you’d want to see the service report for your car, similarly you should want to know the health status of your website – after all, this is important for your business. So please ensure that your designer gives you full administrative access to you dental WordPress website so you can see its health status. You should also expect reports as part of their monthly maintenance contracts. Don’t be scared to shout up if you see anomalies or something you don’t understand – and don’t be fobbed off!

Summary

WordPress is a popular web content management platform in wide use for dental websites. However, it has a number of downsides, including the need for regular maintenance input to keep it secure and working. However, even with this, template and plugin incompatibilities still occur quite regularly, meaning that your site can break, often with limited repair options.

The guidance here is two-fold – firstly, consider if you do actually want to go the WordPress route when you are having your website built (there are better options!) and secondly, if you already own one, be aware of the maintenance requirements and make sure the work gets done.

If you are struggling to know where to look or have concerns that your website might already be vulnerable, please contact the web design team at Dental Media on 01332 672548 for a free audit and guidance.