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PHP Updates: Why They Shouldn’t Scare You

PHP-Updates-Code

There are a few common misconceptions that I hear quite often.

The first is that “Google is always changing the rules”, but they’re not. They certainly tweak their algorithm very often, but the core rules have been essentially the same for 25 years.

The second is that “You need to rebuild your website every few years to keep it secure”.

While there are a lot of good reasons to periodically rebuild your website (new design, different focus, better user experience, etc), if your site was built correctly and is well-maintained it should last a long time.

Here are two examples, both for WordPress-powered sites.

Big Trouble

We have a friend whose site was built elsewhere a few years ago and we’ve been helping to maintain it (we handle her WordPress updates, plugin updates, etc). Her host is going to upgrade the version of PHP on their server in the coming weeks (“PHP” is software that helps power most websites), and that upgrade is going to crash her site. The upgrade needs to happen to keep the server secure, but her website simply can’t handle it.

We’ve looked into it, and the way that her WordPress theme was developed was not very solid — there is essentially no option other than to rebuild it from the ground up. It’s going to be a significant time and energy cost simply to make the same site function on newer software. It’s very unfortunate.

No Trouble

On the other hand, we have a client whose site we built over 10 years ago (it launched in late 2013) and it’s going along just fine. PHP updates are a benefit to this site, as they should be, and not a detriment.

We’ve maintained this site for years, but it’s the core of how it was built that makes the difference. The way we build sites (using a “child theme” on top of a well-maintained framework) ensures that the site will stay secure and smooth for many years. It still requires that we keep things continually up-to-date, but there is no risk of a future hosting upgrade crashing the site.

That said, it’s generally not a great idea to have the same site for 10 years. I’m proud of the work we did on this site, but it should have been redone a few years ago to keep up with new design trends and improve the usability of the site; those things change a lot in a decade.

The key, though, is that they aren’t forced to redesign it. We always do everything we can to keep control in the hands of our clients, and this is a great example. We’ll encourage them to rebuild the site when the time comes, but their hand will never be forced.

It’s a good place to be, and it’s only possible if you build on the right foundation.

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Mickey Mellen

Co-Founder and Technical Director

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