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Running a Website: 5 Of the Biggest Problems and How to Solve Them

Sam Hollis is a web designer, dad and serial networker

‘I’m always happy to chat and advice is always free’

A website can be a big boon for a person or company, so long as it’s launched and operated correctly. That’s why last month, I helped you solve the five biggest problems with launching a website. It’s also why this month, I’m solving the five biggest and most common problems that occurduring the daily running of the site.

Check if your issue is on the list and get in touch to ask for help if not.

 

1.      What to do when your website stops working

When your website goes down and you don’t know why, it can be incredibly stressful, especially if you run a busy business that relies on it a lot. Don’t worry though, most times your site goes down, it won’t be anything as stressful as a hack. It’s often a quick fix and there’s an easy checklist of likely problems to go through to get things working again:

  • Have your service contracts expired? – Every website needs hosting and a domain. If the contracts for either of these run out and aren’t renewed, your site will stop working. If you run your own site, check your emails for warning messages sent by your provider, check your account on their site and get in touch with them. It’s often easy to sort payment and get back online if caught quickly. If your site is run by a designer or developer like me, get in touch with them.
  • Is your hosting down for maintenance? – While you’re on your host’s site or in touch with your developer, check that their servers aren’t down for maintenance. This can happen and there’s usually a fairly big notice somewhere to tell you it’s happening.
  • Are your plugins, themes and security settings up to date?Most web platforms like WordPress will have areas where you can check these things are up to date. And most have obvious alerts if they’re not. See section two for more information on this.
  • Is there a warning on your website platform? – Most web design platforms will try to let you know when something is wrong. Enter the platform in safe mode if necessary and look out for any alerts.
  • Restore your site from a backup – If a change or update has caused a problem, you can try restoring an earlier version of a site from a backup. See section two for more on this.
  • Has your site been replaced with a blank, white screen on WordPress? This is not actually as bad as you may think and there’s an excellent guide to fixing it here.
  • Have you been hacked? As with the previous point, this is less of a terrible situation than you may think, and it’s common too. The key is to get in touch with your web designer, host or support expert quickly. Having good support from these experts can make all the difference here. The sooner these things are caught the better. If you have website backups, you can usually sort these issues out without losing much at all.
  • Contact your developer or get support. – If none of the above have solved your problem, it’s probably time to get support. It’s best to look to the person who designed your site or the customer services of the platform it runs on.

A lot of these problems result from poor maintenance, which brings me to the second problem:

 

2.     Poor website maintenance

We take over a lot of websites because they have deteriorated due to poor maintenance to a point where they are a burden for the owner, rather than a benefit. These sites often require a lot of work and investment that wouldn’t have been needed if they were well maintained. As you’ve read above, you can also avoid lots of problems by updating, backing up and generally checking up on your site. So, ensuring your site is well maintained can cut down on errors, stress and cost.

To do this, it’s often a good idea to turn to a web professional as explained in section three of this article. If you decide to do it yourself though, there are a few important things to focus on:

Ensure that your site is regularly backed up in a separate physical and digital location. This means that if the worst happens and your site breaks, you can restore an earlier backup to get it working again. One of the best services for doing this on WordPress is Updraft Plus.

As I’ve already mentioned, out-of-date plugins, themes and security settings are a big reason why websites fail. These need to be updated regularly. In WordPress, there is a separate section for each of these items in the left-hand menu. When something in one of the sections needs updating, a little number in a red circle will appear next to the button showing you how many updates are needed. You can then click the button, check the boxes next to each item you want to update, then click ‘Update’. Watch my video blog tour of WordPress to find out more about this.

Most other popular platforms will either have similar ways of updating your site, or will update automatically in the background, like Wix

Making sure all your website’s links go to the place they are supposed to is important too. Having broken links will put off visitors and stop search engines from sending people your way. Checks can sometimes be done manually for small sites, but I recommend you use an automatic link checker like W3C’s. Ensure all broken links are repaired so they connect to a relevant page or are taken out.

 

3.      Not having the support you need or not using the support you’ve got

Not being able to get the support you need is annoying in any situation. My biggest tip here is to get a website support agreement with a trustworthy web designer from the start.  Web designers are like dentists, one-off support costs a lot more than ongoing support, so get signed up. And, like teeth, well looked after and regularly maintained sites require little emergency care.  Most web designers will offer this maintenance and support in with your hosting and service package, but double-check before you sign up for a package.

There are people out there who will promise a lot and deliver little, so get referrals and check reviews and testimonials to get someone who delivers.Good support is valuable, but bad support is worse than useless. You can also end up paying hundreds for nothing, as has been the case with many customers I’ve rescued.

Remember, if you have a site with me and you need support, I’m happy to help. Just get in touch if you have a problem.

On that note, don’t be afraid to use your web designer’s support. They know how to keep your website in peak condition and can solve hidden problems. If you feel like something is wrong, but aren’t sure, get in touch with them. Some designers and developers are more proactive than others with maintenance. The squeaky wheel always gets the grease though.

 

4.      Not being able to use your website as you want and need to.

Make sure you know how to use your site as you want and how to get it updated by the time your designer finishes building it. Get the right site using simple tools if you’re building your own. Otherwise, communicate what you want to do clearly to your designer. Some sites, themes and tools can be very limiting. Your designer may be able to build you a spectacular, advanced site, but it’s no use if you can’t then use it as you want.

Ask your designer to show you how to do all the things you want and need to do, like blogging, before the end of the build. They should be able to show you basic blogging in around an hour, including illustrating it and putting in links at a basic level. Remember, blogging and updating site content are important ways of keeping your site getting found. If you’re going to need the site updating or adding to frequently, establish a price for that too so that you don’t get locked into an overly expensive service.

Good developers will still be around to answer the odd question when everything is finished, especially if you have an ongoing contract, that’s not true of everyone though. Check customer testimonials and reviews to find out if this is so.

 

5.      Good websites falling flat and not delivering any business or value.

If you have a good website and it’s not generating sales or bringing in leads, the solution is often marketing. Remember websites aren’t like shops. They don’t get any foot traffic past them. Every person who gets there needs to be sent there or to pick it as a destination in some way.

The way many people choose to promote their site is on social media, but results can be mixed and you need to make a concerted effort to get real returns. Other big promotional boosters include:

  • A blog can draw people in well and works well alongside the above methods.
  • Email Newsletters make sure likely customers remember your site and return when they want to buy.

You can also bring more browses onto your site using:

  • Pay per click ads like Google Ads, which reliably send a given number of targeted customers your way for an agreed fee are easy to setup, but hard to get results from without an expert.
  • Active SEO (search engine optimisation), which gets your website found by more people on search engines. This is a complex process that often requires a significant investment to see real results. Our guest blogger, Manni has more information on it.

Make sure to provide your users with a way to find your site and something that’s worth finding there too. If your site is falling flat, my blog; ‘Why is No One Visiting my Website?’ can help you diagnose the problem. When you’ve done that, learn more about boosting your site with the right marketing by reading my blog on thinking outside your website.

 

Got a problem? I can help.

If you’re having a problem, whether it’s on the list or not, email me and I’ll help you out.

 

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