Why Does My Website Break Down?

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    If it takes more than two seconds to load your website, you’ll likely lose 14 percent of your clients moving to find another shopping site. Imagine the effect on your website if it was inaccessible for two seconds or more.

    Unfortunately, an old website must begin to break down over time. Fortunately, you can leverage several solutions to ensure your WordPress website is up and running. This detailed coverage has everything you need to know.

    What is a WordPress Website?

    WordPress is an open-source, free CMS (content management system) operating under the GPLv2 license. Open-source means everyone is free to utilize or modify the platform’s software, and you’ll pay absolutely nothing for this.

    WordPress is the easiest, most popular way of creating your blog or website. The platform powers more than 38.8 percent of sites on the web and means that it likely powers at least one in every four websites you visit.

    The platform is popular among small and established entities, bloggers, and Fortune 500 companies from all corners of the globe.

    WordPress Website Components That Can Break

    WordPress websites vary in many ways. However, each site contains a standardized set of components. It’s these components that constitute the fundamental building blocks of a WordPress site.

    Components that affect the functionality of your website include:

    Your website is made up of several components from posts to pages to the design made up of themes and functions.

    Posts – This crucial WordPress component allows you to create different content types. Site owners mostly use them for blogs, but you can still use them for any regular or timely content like image galleries and news articles.

    WordPress Posts screenshot

    Pages – These work like posts in many ways. However, their main objective is holding static, more ageless content with a lower likelihood of changing regularly.

    WordPress pages screenshot

    Plugins – These are software pieces that allow for the addition of extra functionality to your website. Changing functionality can be achieved in just a few clicks, and there’s no need for technical knowledge.

    WordPress plugins screenshot

    Themes – These refer to the different appearance aspects of your WordPress website design. You can consider them to be the skin of your platform as they determine the way content will display in the front end.

    Theme Functions – Each theme comes with its own set of functions, and the functions.php file uses PHP code to add features or change default features on a WordPress site. Editing the functions.php file using custom codes allows you to add post types, taxonomies, shortcodes, and more to improve your website.

    WordPress Functions file screenshot

    Media library – For an engaging site, you must supplement content beyond the text. Images are some of the most common additional media, but you can also upload audio, videos, or documents.

    WordPress media screenshot

    Widgets – This refers to the content added to the site’s specific locations called widget areas. Your chosen theme specifies the locations.

    WordPress widgets screenshot

    These are just some of the primary components you can use to ease functionality and ensure a better visitor experience.

    Embedded Widgets – These are 3rd party software outside your website but can be embedded within your website and add functions like setting appointments or sharing real-time Instagram posts. 

    embedded widget example

    What Makes Old WordPress Websites Break Down?

    Over the years, as you continue to use your site, build it out, add functionality, upload hundreds of images, it can break down over time. Consider an example of a Mercedes S Class you might have purchased in 2000. During its first years, the machine was cool, hip with a brand new engine, new tires, and that lovely, new car smell.  

    But 20 years later, after the car has about 150,000 miles on it, it will begin having problems. Hinges will break, the engine will deteriorate, electronics like your CD player will be outdated, and you’ll be left to decide whether to invest in the repairs or replace the car. A car breaking down is possible even if you’ve meticulously maintained the website with the right care.

    Your WordPress website best fits into this example. You can keep up with maintenance, but you’ll have to replace the engine and electronics after some time. Things will be too hard to fix as time goes on and technology improves, and you’ll need to consider whether it’s worth it to continue investing your resources on the site or create a new one.

    Let’s explore what makes old WordPress websites break down.

    1. Internet Dependencies

    Dependencies arise where one segment of your application requires another corresponding one to function. When one feature of your website cannot function unless the other is working correctly, this will be a dependency situation.

    An example of a dependency is your home requiring electric power. When there’s a blackout, your refrigerator will not function. Without power, your food spoils.

    Right off the shelf, your website comes with thousands of dependencies. 

    As I explained earlier, you know that your website is essentially software designed, deployed, and coded, serving use cases like any other software.

    But there are several dependencies that will affect how your website performs starting with the broader internet network, web servers, your website’s software, your internet connection, your computer, and then your browser.

    computer systems affect a website
    1. The internet network is the first form of dependencies. This is a collection of computers and servers and is the backbone that feeds into individual web servers. Therefore, your web users rely on a complex series of networks to connect to your site. Your provider will first check this whenever there’s a load problem or outage.  
    2. The website server is a computer or PC. You can configure the device to function as a web server while the operating system powers this dependency layer. Significant examples include Oracle, CentOS, or RedHat. The operating system encompasses thousands of unique dependencies.
    3. The next level is the actual software powering your website. We describe this as the “tech stack” or “technology infrastructure.” The stack could include IIS for Microsoft or open-source web server software. It also implies a LAMP, where the operating system is Linux, Apache working as the webserver will be Apache, and MySQL as the database. The scripting language, on the other hand, is usually PHP.
    4. Your computer then becomes the next dependency, and then your choice of browser affects how your website displays and function. The older the browser, the worse it will be. It’s recommended that 

    All these combinations must be working in unison to power your website and bring it out to the public. But then we have more to consider.

    2. WordPress Themes

    WP themes update screenshot

    Updates are not just inevitable but necessary. No matter how well coded a website theme is, in time, it will develop vulnerability. When that happens, developers of the theme will quickly release a patch in the form of an update. Typically, when you enter a WordPress dashboard, you see an alert of any outdated plugins and themes. From these pages, you can update the theme, but you should only accomplish this unless you have backed up your website and, more importantly, have created a child theme.  

    (A child theme allows you to change small aspects of your site’s appearance yet still preserve your theme’s look and functionality.)

    One of the larger concerns when it comes to themes is that each year many themes are abandoned. When that happens, there will be no patch issued to fix problems. This creates problems later it makes it more difficult to maintain.

    As other dependent areas change and upgrade like the web server, if your theme does not keep pace, it can break.

    3. Plugins and Widgets

    WP Plugins

    Third-party plugins help you achieve an enhanced user experience and expand your website’s capabilities. With plugins, you get updated features like e-commerce, calendars, memberships, and much more.

    But, as with browser and computer software updates, these third-party plugins like WooCommerce or Membership plugins regularly push feature updates and enhanced security and fixes the code.

    These are crucial updates, and while they sometimes boost your site’s functionality, more importantly, they fix security holes. Security holes are programming that hackers have found and try to exploit. These updates that the plugin owners push fix or fill these holes.

    With dependencies in your web server all relying on each other, each update can affect your website. Fixing one line of code might break another.

    What Can You Do When Your Website Starts Breaking Down

    Whenever you have a website that’s beginning to break down, you’ll have two options left. 

    1. Continue to Repair. You can choose to continue repairing the website like you would your beloved 20-year-old Mercedes. Over time, as I mentioned, your website will either completely break down, become an expensive beast to maintain, or become a security risk. Let’s not forget that an old website does age your company.
    2. Rebuild and Redesign. The next option is to rebuild and redesign the website completely.

    Key Takeaway

    Sites wear over time, and yours is no different. Your business has its complexities. Despite this, you must continue presenting all the moving parts in a compelling, engaging, and attractive format. But balancing it with the overall job of winning new customers and improving services may not be an easy job.

    Fortunately, you can count Global Spex Internet Marketing for all your custom web design needs. We offer custom web design, website support, WordPress services, branding, eCommerce, and SEO.

    Contact us today so we can help you get the most out of your WordPress website.

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    Christina Hawkins

    Since 1999, Christina has been designing and building exceptional websites partnering with small businesses to help them grow and increase revenue. With many years of experience in creating thousands of websites, she understands the need for continuing education in her field and, therefore, is constantly learning and teaching others about internet marketing and digital processes. In addition to her ability as a digital marketer, Christina serves as a coach and mentor with Agency Mavericks to other digital marketing freelancers, helping them grow their businesses. She is a sponsor and co-leader of Houston's WordPress Meetup. Recently, she spearheaded the next Houston WordCamp 2020 as its coordinator after a 10 year hiatus. She is currently President of the Houston Interactive Marketing Association.

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