Most of us are accustomed to the idea that we have to keep the content of our websites updated on a regular basis. If we don’t add fresh content regularly, people and search engines won’t feel compelled to come as often. But few of us think about updating the backend systems that power our websites.
Any modern website these days is powered by some type of content management system (CMS). At Matrix Group, we like platforms like Sitefinity and WordPress. Every single proposal to clients includes a line item for CMS upgrades. Clients sometimes push back and say, “But Joanna, I just paid good money to implement x CMS and it’s working exactly the way we want it to. Why do we need to upgrade?” Here’s what I counter with:
- You get access to new features. CMS companies stay in business by continually making their products better. With a CMS, no single customer pays all the freight for enhancements. With each upgrade, you get new features and functionality that perhaps you were waiting for or never imagined possible. For example, a recent Sitefinity upgrade included the ability to create sub-folders for uploads, thereby making it easier to manage images, files, etc. A small but super valuable enhancement!
- Upgrades often include bug fixes and security patches. None of us would think of NOT upgrading Windows on a regular basis to protect our systems against hackers and crashes. Why would you you treat your website any differently, especially given its public-facing nature?
- Staying on the upgrade path makes future upgrades easier. This sounds like a not so compelling reason to upgrade but the truth is, if you know you’re sticking with a particular system, it’s best to stay relatively current. Otherwise, a future upgrade could be nearly impossible or ridiculously expensive. Why? Most companies will write scripts that let you upgrade from the previous 1 or 2 versions. If you get to be 6 or 10 versions behind, there’s no simple way to jump versions because the database or programming are so different.
When you do upgrade, do take the time to familiarize yourself with the new version’s new features, bug fixes and changes. Ask your vendor how you can take advantage of new functionality so that the upgrade becomes even more of an investment in the future. And talk to your vendor about making sure that your site is configured and customized to be upgrade-friendly. I’ve seen websites that couldn’t be upgraded without a lot of money because they had been customized in a way that made upgrades hard or expensive or both. And if your vendor isn’t talking to you about upgrades, be sure to ask why.