When an update to your WordPress website breaks the website, who pays to get it fixed?

A WordPress website must be continuously updated and tested throughout its lifetime to remain stable and secure. It is a basic cost of ownership issue no public-facing software system can avoid. And yet, there are business WordPress websites that haven’t been updated in years. The plugins, themes, and custom code that run the website are outdated, as is WordPress itself. The reasons for this make perfect sense. They include the fear of breaking the website, owners not understanding why they have to pay licensing fees to keep the updates available, or nobody telling them about the need for updates.

Sometimes this is all discovered after a hack has occurred. Sometimes, fortunately, it is learned soon enough to do something about it.

This situation is avoidable with a simple conversation about WordPress updates at the beginning of the web design project. For example, WordPress components, such as plugins and themes, are often augmented with custom code. When those components are updated, the dependent custom code can stop working. In extreme cases, the website can crash. A maintenance agreement, or other understanding, prevents this reality from becoming a crisis down the road.

The web designer and the programmer are often different people. It is the web designer with whom most clients have direct contact. The web designer then relays requirements to the programmer or somehow manages them. A common scenario with small web design companies is to have a web designer build something, outsource the programming, and manage all of it behind the scenes for the client. The problem is that without a budget for code maintenance, trouble is assured.

A few months or years later, when the website is finally updated, the custom code no longer works. It happens all the time. But the web designer in this scenario is not a programmer and cannot help. The programmer that was hired for the job is long gone. Your website is updated, but it is no longer fully functional.

Who pays to get this fixed? You do. The exception is if there was some contractual obligation on the part of the professionals involved to handle this for you.

A misunderstanding about websites built on technology such as WordPress is that the expense ends once the site is finished, except for the annual web hosting fee. There are situations where that is true, such as very simple websites running few or no plugins, with no custom code, and a competent WordPress administrator to take care of things internally for the organization. For everyone else, the cost of maintenance needs to be known up front.