As a few of our clients may know, Audacity offers an “Advanced Support” tier to our clients after launch and occasionally for those clients that we bring on board from other companies. This is in order to assist in maintaining those websites well after the design process has finished. What many people don’t know, however, is exactly what is involved in this maintenance contract and what services we provide during biweekly maintenance.

Stage 1: The Maintenance Begins

While each client has different needs, it all starts with the simple act of logging into the site that I want to start maintaining and going to the “Updates” tab. From there, I can see what plugins and themes need to be updated from their current version. Assuming everything goes correctly, this process is as simple as clicking a few buttons, and the updates will begin and be completed automatically. This is rarely the case however due to a variety of errors that can occur such as the license key for a purchased plugin having expired, the developers of the plugin having ceased development entirely, or at times it can even simply be a temperamental server that refuses to download the update for reasons unknown. These are simply a few issues that can occur during maintenance and each one has a different solution, some of which I handle myself, and others that I reach out to the client to assist with. From the examples listed above when a license key has expired, I must reach out to the client and ask them to repurchase their key along with putting it in our Project Management system as an Advanced Support issue. That is probably one of the more simplistic issues that I deal with regarding this. When it comes to the server refusing to download completely or a plugin having ceased development, the issue can become much more time-consuming. The solution may simply be for me to download the plugin onto my own computer and re-upload it to the server to force the update manually, or I may be forced to seek out an entirely new plugin to replace the one that is no longer functional or maintained which often requires a complete redesign of any section of the site that utilized that plugin.

Why are these updates important, you may ask? Over time flaws will be found with any version of a plugin or a theme that you might install and while some of these are effectively harmless, the longer a version is out the more likely it is that a highly dangerous exploit may be found. These exploits are often used to gain access to a website without the owner’s authorization and can be used to hold the site hostage or even delete it completely and replace it with something that directs your loyal userbase to a dangerous site where their computers may be infected with a virus or their personal data stolen. The developers of these plugins and themes will often be informed of these exploits far before the userbase are via various channels and will provide an update that patches the issue out or, at the very least, makes it far more difficult to utilize that exploit. This protects the plugin’s users from these unsavory individuals who would hack their website and damage their brand.

Stage Two: Audacious Security

So, now that I’ve completed all of the plugin updates and solved any issues I can regarding them I now get to move on to the second phase of maintenance, namely, SECURITY CHECKS! This section is done using our provided security plugin, Hide My WP. Just as with the plugin updates, the beginning of this is quite a simple matter, I have a tab that I click on called “Security Check” and, after a few moments, it will provide me with a list of the various issues that are found on the website that might expose the website to exploits. Now, for security reasons, I am not willing to go into some of the kinds of issues that I might fix during this phase, though I will say that you could likely find out on your own accord with some research. What I will say, is that this allows me to check for any of the common security errors that you might find with a customer-facing website and provides me with a plethora of tools that I might use to secure your website in a variety of ways. I even have methods of more completely securing a website beyond what we would usually do, and those methods are usually utilized on websites that process customer data or highly sensitive data, amongst other security methods. Regardless of whatever security holes may exist, Hide My WP allows me to patch them up quite handily.

Stage Three: Vroom Vroom, charts, and testing!

With the various security holes plugged up, it’s now time to move on to speed tests! For this, we utilize a lovely website called GTmetrix which provides us with an incredibly detailed look at not just how quickly your website is running but also exceptional insights into exactly what is causing any performance issues that you might be experiencing. This portion of the maintenance is often the one that takes the longest, possibly taking hours for a single site that is having extreme performance issues. Some of the issues I will resolve in this period include, scaling and compressing images that have been uploaded in a far too large resolution, deletion of various fonts that are not needed, and the removal of video files from the site so that we might pull them from an outside source, assuming it has been uploaded elsewhere.

The biggest issue that I find when working with sites that have been imported from sources outside of Audacity is usually the previously mentioned image scaling and compression issues. When even a single image is far too large, it can often begin to cripple a site’s load times thus reducing user traffic and usability. This is often solved by downloading the image and scaling it to a more appropriate resolution depending on what it’s being used for. As an example, if an image is being used at the very top of the page, in the “Hero” section, we often scale it to 1920x1080px as that is large enough for most screens and scales well with larger screen sizes. Once the scaling and compression are complete, I reupload the image to your website under a new name, usually with “_scaled” and “_compressed” attached to the name, and delete the old version so that it is no longer taking storage space.

Stage Four: Client Requests

Ah, we’re in the final stretch now, this is where I take the requests that you’ve made during the previous two-week period and begin to implement them. Some clients may request that I add an entirely new section to their website, displaying… a new service. Maybe a call to action that talks about a promotion that you’re running. Others may request that I add a new paragraph of content to the “About Me” section talking about who they are as a person or why they started their company in the first place. The requests I receive are widely varied, and all come with their own special challenges, some of those being design challenges as I must match the design that has already been implemented upon the website itself during the initial development process, others are technical in nature where I must find a way to make a large sweeping change to a page on the website in one go without saving so as not to interrupt any clients that may be viewing the page at that time. It’s always interesting to try and figure out how to work on a live website.

Once all four stages have been completed, I go in and fill out an email form that tells YOU what I’ve done on your website during your maintenance period. This is emailed to the address you provided to Audacity when your website was made or transferred to our care. You will usually receive these emails after each maintenance session, and it also tells you how many weeks you have remaining on your contract with us. I usually will list what issues I found, resolved, or didn’t fix and why I didn’t fix them. It also includes your GTmetrix score and any thoughts that I might have had about any of your website’s issues.

This is the Advanced Maintenance process in a nutshell! I hope this provides you with a little insight into what goes on during these sessions.

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