The chances are that as you read this article, you are either doing so on your smartphone or your phone is at least within your reach. And it’s also pretty likely that you invest in new personal technology every few years to keep with the pace of technology. The fact is that that we are living in a time where technology rapidly changes and just like with your phone or even your computer, the technology that powers business systems like content management systems (CMS) also undergoes frequent improvements and changes. It’s essential that website owners prepare and invest accordingly, so here’s what you need to know as a website owner, marketing manager or IT professional.
Running an “unsupported” website
Just like other type of technology, there will come a point where the technology used to build the site becomes outdated and the company that supports the CMS no longer releases updates. If you are at this technology juncture, it’s vital that you understand what this truly means so that you can make an informed decision.
Your site will still work: If you have a website that has not been updated and “is no longer supported” this generally does not mean that the site will not work. There is no automatic shut off switch, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an important investment and technology roadmap checkbox for your company or institution.
You can be at risk for security vulnerabilities: Since keeping a site updated includes security updates too, it’s possible that by not keeping your site updated you are exposing your site to security threats. This is not a risk any business or organization should knowingly take.
Site bugs and glitches: Part of improving their product includes fixing known bugs and glitches. These are typically pushed out at the same time as security updates. Read more about this below.
Technology improvements: CMS companies continually improve, so keeping your site updated and rebuilding every few years in the latest technology means that you can enjoy new features, clean code and other benefits of having newer technology.
What do CMS updates mean?
The term “CMS updates” is a catchall for many things including security updates, new features, technology fixes and more. While each CMS may use different terminology, what’s important to understand is that each version of a CMS has different updates applied on a frequent basis, until the company reaches a point where they stop supporting older versions all together.
Before you talk with your developers or agency about applying updates, you first need to understand what’s available for the CMS version you are on. If you are on an older version, updates may not be available and in some cases, if the technology has changed significantly, updates aren’t possible and you will need to plan to rebuild your website using the latest technology (more on that later in this article).
Different CMS’ have different processes for updates
If you have a licensed CMS, part of what you are paying for is for the company that created the CMS to fix any known bugs, apply security related patches and continually improve their product. Likewise, if you use an open-source CMS (e.g., WordPress or Umbraco) then there are regular updates released by the community of developers who support that platform. Note: if you are on a SaaS (software as a service) based product, updates may automatically be applied as part of the service you are paying for.
No matter what type of CMS you have, it’s essential that you or your development company check for updates regularly and have a support plan to install and test those updates. Any CMS should have thorough documentation about the process, what’s included and more. You will want to work closely with your web development team or agency to plan and budget for these updates just like any other technology expense for your company or organization.
Redesigning and/or rebuilding your website
Every few years every business or institution needs to plan for and evaluate the website technology they are using and how the design supports current business goals. Depending on the complexity of your project, a website redesign or rebuild can take months or even a year, so it’s essential that planning for this kind of project is on your business radar.
Most clients choose to rebuild their site and redesign it at the same time. More often than not there are some elements of the current design or user experience that a company likes, but as business and visitor needs change, websites need to meet technology, design and user expectations. Another consideration when evaluating whether a current website design follows mobile responsive and ADA guidelines. That said, if you love your design and it’s working just fine for your business, then you will just want to invest in rebuilding your site as-is in the latest and greatest technology.
Yes it’s an investment
Websites, like all technology, require continued investment. Your business or institution should have a plan and budget for keeping up with CMS updates and larger projects every few years like a website redesign or CMS rebuild. Given how essential websites are to nearly every business in the world, making sure that you are supporting your digital needs is the key to keeping your site healthy, easy to manage and appealing to today’s consumers. If you're an existing ZAG client and want to chat about upgrading or rebuilding your site, reach out to your Account Manager or contact us online.