Without proper care and maintenance, a WooCommerce website will languish and die. An e-commerce website needs special care. It’s more involved than a normal WordPress setup, and there’s a lot more on the line.
A WooCommerce website needs proactive maintenance. Anything else is waiting for something to break, and that’s not maintenance, it’s repair.
It’s also costly. Any time an e-commerce website breaks, you (or your client) is losing money.
The stakes are simply higher with an e-commerce site, so you need to be proactive. You need to take care of things before they break. You can’t anticipate everything, but you can offer the best overall protection with a holistic approach and give your client (and yourself) peace of mind.
WooCommerce Website Maintenance: 5 Ways To Care For Your E-Commerce Website
The proper care of a WooCommerce site is crucial. Here are the 5 ways you can provide WooCommerce website maintenance for you or your clients:
1. Backup, Backup, Backup
The first thing you absolutely have to do is backup your WooCommerce website. This is non-negotiable. WordPress backups not only prevent lost data, they allow you to get a site back up and running faster if something goes wrong. That’s crucial when every second of downtime could be costing sales.
The biggest challenge with doing backups for a WooCommerce site is to make sure your backup strategy is robust enough for the scale of the store. You don’t want to lose orders (or at least lose as few as possible), so you need to backup much more frequently than a static site.
A WordPress backup plugin like BackupBuddy can handle your store’s backup needs. BackupBuddy includes a complete backup option which backs up your entire WordPress installation, not just your WordPress database.
2. WordPress Updates
WordPress updates encompass version updates for you WordPress itself, the WooCommerce plugin, and any other WordPress plugins and themes installed on your website. If you’ve had a WordPress site for a while, you’ve probably noticed these version updates happen frequently–and with good reason.
You should also pay attention to the types of WordPress updates. There are security patches that come out as needed and should be installed as soon as possible. There are also major releases of WordPress that come out with new features. You probably don’t want to install these feature updates immediately, because they can often be plagued with bugs. If you’re on the bleeding edge of installing new updates, you risk a little bleeding.
If you’re on the bleeding edge of installing new updates, you risk a little bleeding. The days of “cowboy” coding (when you could just run new WordPress updates and see if they work)—that’s not going to fly with a WooCommerce website. There’s just too much on the line.
You need to have a WordPress update process to make sure updates actually happen and to minimize any downtime caused by the update:
- Backup: We can’t mention this too often. Make sure you backup the site before running any updates.
- Schedule: You should have a specific update schedule to make sure sites are consistently and properly updated.
- Staging: Consider using a WordPress staging environment to test updates and then have a plan to ensure data continuity.
If you manage multiple WordPress sites, check out a tool like iThemes Sync to manage updates (and more) from one central dashboard.
It’s not enough to just run WordPress updates and say you’re done. You need to test that the website is still working properly. And that requires more than just loading the homepage and calling it good. Test the checkout process to make sure everything is working properly. You don’t want to give away the store because you forgot to test something.
You can save yourself from your own ineptitude (and let’s be honest, it happens to the best of us), by making a simple testing checklist. Learn more about the idea of checklists from The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. It’s short read and focused on surgeons and the medical community, but the concepts are applicable anywhere.
In short, checklists keep you from making basic mistakes. Here are some tips to make your testing checklist more effective:
- “Living “checklists: You need to be constantly improving and iterating your checklist. That’s how it gets better. So anytime something goes wrong, add it to your checklist.
- Hidden products: Create hidden products that only cost a penny so you can order something for real and legitimately test your checkout process.
- Check shipping: Write down the shipping costs for test products so you can double-check that the site is calculating shipping correctly.
- Checklist input: Create your checklist with input from all parties. Start with a standard checklist you use for all sites, then go through the site and look for specific issues. Then walk through it with the client and get their perspective. You’ll often end up with a more robust checklist that covers items you otherwise would have missed.
You want to know about problems before anyone else, so it’s crucial you’re monitoring your WooCommerce website.
Here are three main areas you should be diligently watching:
- Uptime & Downtime: A tool like iThemes Sync allows you to monitor WordPres uptime and get email notifications if your website goes down. Again, downtime can mean lost sales for an e-commerce website, so this is an important metric to track.
- Page speed: A one-second drop in site speed can lead to a 7% decrease in conversions. So speed matters. A tool such as Pingdom offers website performance monitoring to help you monitor speed and help you pinpoint when things slow down so you can figure out how to speed it up again.
- Security: Keeping a vigilant watch on WordPress security issues can be another line of defense to keep your site safe and functional. Some hosting environments offer security scanning or you can use a WordPress security plugin such as iThemes Security to perform a WordPress malware scan and view WordPress security logs.
As we just mentioned, the security of your WordPress website is also going to take some extra ongoing maintenance. You need to take proactive measures to protect your WooCommerce website from hacks and security breaches.
WooCommerce doesn’t store credit card information, but you still have a responsibility to protect your customer’s personal information. Here are few WordPress security tips to implement on your website:
- Practice good WordPress password security – Admin users have a responsibility to use strong passwords, period. Check out these WordPress password security tips and make sure you’ve implemented them all.
- Enable two-factor authentication for admin users – Two-factor authentication may seem like a pain, but it’s one of the best ways to secure your WordPress website. By requiring both a password and a secondary code sent to a mobile device to login, your WordPress admin accounts are instantly more secure with WordPress two-factor authentication.
- Install an SSL certificate – If you’re running a website that processes payments, an SSL certificate is really non-negotiable. (Your website should include “https” at the beginning of your URL). Check out our WordPress HTTPS training if you need help installing an SSL certificate yourself. Usually, your host can do this for you, too, but fees can vary widely.
- Protect yourself from WordPress brute force attacks – Again, with a WordPress security plugin like iThemes Security, you can enable both network and local brute force protection to guard your site against WordPress brute force attacks.
WooCommerce Maintenance Tips for Client Sites
Freelancers and web developers have a responsibility to their web design clients to make sure that a WooCommerce website stays up and running. As you know, there are so many technical pieces that need to be considered that you can’t just hand over the keys to a client, tell them to run the updates, and walk away. Remember that your clients are busy running their store, not updating the website. So it’s your responsibility.
In addition to the list above, here are a few WooCommerce maintenance tips for client websites:
An important and often overlooked part of caring for a WooCommerce site is communication. You need to keep the client (and sometimes the customers) updated about what’s going on. Frequent, transparent communication with your clients or customers should always be the goal.
There’s a temptation to not communicate until you’ve fixed a problem. You want to deliver good news. But the problem with that is you’re not setting expectations, you’re not letting your client know that you’re working on it, and you’re leaving them to wonder what’s happening. The biggest fear is the unknown, and you’re allowing it to thrive. That’s not a happy place to be.
So you also need to be proactive in your communication:
- Communicate what you will be doing: Give your clients a heads up when you’re doing maintenance or you discover a problem and are starting to work on it. Let them know you’re on top of it before they find the problem themselves and freak out.
- Communicate what you are doing: Make sure people know when you are working on something. You should have a good maintenance mode with a helpful message. Don’t let customers see a blank or confusing error page, if you can avoid it.
- Communicate what you did: Give your client a recap of what you just completed. You probably don’t need to go into technical details, but let them know things are good and give them that peace of mind.
Peace of Mind
Properly caring for a WooCommerce site includes all the technical details we’ve outlined. But another part of your job is simply offering peace of mind to your client.
Here are two simple ways to offer that peace of mind:
- Single point of contact: Offer to be the single point of contact for your clients for all things web related. Don’t expect your nontechnical clients to understand domain hosting, DNS hosting, web hosting, email hosting, etc. It’s complicated. Take care of it for them, so they can get back to running their store.
- Support: Be responsive and communicate often. Put an autoresponder on your support email so clients know their message has gotten through. Then send a real response to let them know you’re on it. Just like we covered before, it’s all about communication and setting those expectations. Don’t let a client worry about the unknown.
Much of what we’re doing is simply risk mitigation. You can’t protect a site from everything all the time. But you can do a lot to lower the level of risk.
Everything we’ve covered so far is about protecting a WooCommerce site for your clients and giving them peace of mind. But what about your peace of mind?
Here are a few ways you can lower your own level of risk as a developer and create your own peace of mind:
- Contracts: Always, always, always use contracts in your freelance web design business. Contracts protect you from unnecessary demands, save your sanity and keep you from losing your shirt on a project.
- Managed WP hosting: Don’t rely on cheap hosting. The hosting you offer to clients is a reflection on you, so go with something solid.
- Manage expectations: Work can be a lot easier if your clients know what to expect. When they know what’s coming, they make reasonable requests instead of bizarre demands. They’ll be happier and so will you. Learn more about the terrible client protection plan.
- Network: It always helps to build your personal network. Know who you can reach out to when you get stuck.
More WooCommerce Marketing Tips
We’ve covered the proper care of WooCommerce maintenance. But to really make a store grow, you need to feed it. That’s a whole other conversation. That’s about marketing and investment—the things that will make a store thrive.
This post is based on The Proper Care and Feeding of WooCommerce webinar hosted by Gordon Seirup over at iThemes Training.
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