Website upgrades: How investing properly can reduce tech debt

For most everyone except IT teams, going through a system upgrade is about as fun as taking a cold shower in the middle of winter. We get it! When you hope to update your website’s look and feel, but an upgrade is required, it can feel daunting and time consuming. So, why are upgrades so important, and why should you keep up with them? Think of it this way…

Your website, at a minimum, likely uses the following software to run smoothly:

  1. Hosting Environment
  2. Programming Language
  3. Web Framework
  4. Content Management System (CMS)

That’s a lot of stuff that needs to keep working together, without issue…and unfortunately, over time issues begin to affect performance. Here are some contributing factors:

Support Ends with End of Life (EOL)

No matter what system your website or application is running on, software versions eventually reach end-of-life. This means that they no longer receive development support from their creators, or are found to have security vulnerabilities that require patching. When either situation occurs, you should upgrade your software to the latest version marked for long-term-support (LTS).

Stay Out of Tech Debt

As upgrades come and go, website software can be considered “outdated” if not maintained. Over time, skipping upgrades can create several issues that end up resulting in high risk and high budget resolutions. Seemingly simple tasks become complex and time consuming. Making contact form changes, navigation updates, design tweaks, and even content entry can be suddenly impossible without an upgrade. Time equals money, and eventually an outdated site will require a long list of upgrades and back-end work before simple changes like these are doable. And, who doesn’t like saving money?

Security and Peace of Mind

Security flaws are a hacker’s dream, and with more businesses moving online in a post-pandemic era, hackers know open security threats are also on the rise.  Your web security should be a top priority. In most cases you aren’t just keeping your business safe, but also the private information of your customers.  You may remember recent data breaches with Zoom, GoDaddy, and T-Mobile – and those were just in 2020. Regular back-ups of your website constitute a key aspect of website security, and all businesses need to pay attention to their website’s back-up schedule. Even brief outages when your website is down (whether due to an internal issue or as a result of malicious external interference), can cost your business in terms of traffic, customer loyalty, and revenue. Keeping up with minor patches and major upgrades ensures that your website is secure and that can help you sleep better at night!

Match Users Expectations

Just as technology evolves, so do design, accessibility standards, and user trends. What was a fluid user experience when your website launched, may seem dated now. Keeping your technology upgraded allows you to make quick design changes and keep up with latest user trends so visitors don’t get frustrated. Additionally, you have more opportunity to keep your website accessible according to WCAG guidelines. Accessibility provides a great UX for everyone, no matter their ability, but also shows your audience that you care about them. 

More Seamless Third-Party Integrations

What’s an integration? It’s anything that depends on another source for information or content. Let’s say you want to connect your Contact Us form submissions to your CRM so that data is automatically transferred – that would require an integration. If you’re pulling in a Twitter feed, you’re integrating with Twitter. If you’re embedding forms or chat bots, these are also integrations. Usually these are implemented via a plugin or API and may require code and design updates. Having a fully compatible (i.e. upgraded) website allows for a more efficient integration.

So how often should you upgrade your technology? If you ask a Developer, 18 months is considered a lifetime in this industry. For that reason, they recommend a check every 2-3 months to ensure everything is up to date. Some platforms release upgrades every month, while others can wait for 3-6 months. Having someone on your side with an in-depth understanding of the software is critical. Current technology is important for a number of reasons. Maintaining website upgrades keeps your website stable, quick, and reliable, providing customers with the best impression of your business. While the look of your website may not change with an upgrade alone, the stability of your site and its forward compatibility can be bolstered and make design updates faster and less daunting for everyone.