Handing a newly-built website over to a client provides a feeling of great satisfaction. It means that you can cross another item off of your to-do list. And it’s nice to see that all of your hard work has paid off, too.

But if that shiny new website was built with WordPress, there’s more to the process. It’s not just a matter of providing your client with a login and a wave goodbye. It even goes beyond teaching them to edit content. There are some things clients need to know in order to keep their site running smoothly.

As web professionals, it’s our duty to educate clients on all of the responsibilities involved. Otherwise, you may receive a panicked phone call about a “broken” website.

So, before you hand over those keys, here are the things new website owners need to know.

WordPress Requires Regular Updates

If you’re not maintaining your client’s new site, they’ll need to be keenly aware of WordPress updates. While this is common knowledge for designers and developers, clients may have no idea of this requirement.

The danger, of course, is that a security hole will be found in WordPress core, a theme or plugin. Left unpatched, the site is an easy target for being compromised. Recovering from such an incident isn’t always easy.

Therefore, it’s imperative that your client understands the importance of staying up-to-date. Suggest that they login to their site at least every two weeks. Better yet, install a plugin such as Wordfence that will send emails when updates are available. This will help them keep on top of the situation.

While updates can occasionally cause their own problems, the alternative is worse. To be safe, it’s also worthwhile to set up automated backups that can be restored in case of problems.

Chalkboard with the word "Update"

Commercial Software Licenses Need Renewed

Having taken over a few existing WordPress sites, I’ve often seen commercial plugins that were sorely outdated. When I tried to apply updates, I found that the license had long since expired. This can cause serious security and functionality issues.

Once again, this is something we need to make clear to clients. Any commercial plugins that have been installed may need their license renewed on a yearly basis, and the client should own the license.

This is especially important if those plugins are crucial to the site’s purpose. For example, a WooCommerce extension that enables additional shopping cart functionality. Letting that expire could result in a broken cart.

It’s also worth noting any plugins that use “developer” licenses. This license generally lets you use a piece of software on multiple websites. They’re fine to use, but clients should know that you can’t guarantee infinite license renewals.

The takeaway here is that clients need to know what’s installed on their website and how to maintain it all.

Person shopping online

Security Goes Beyond Software

Keeping a WordPress install updated is only part of the security equation. The other part involves adopting some secure behavioral habits.

Clients should be aware of the difference between WordPress user roles. This could help them determine that their summer intern should have an Editor account as opposed to an Administrator.

In addition, account passwords should be strong and not left lying around. Plus, every user should have their own login. WordPress allows for an unlimited number of accounts, so there’s no reason to share.

Finally, it’s a good practice to delete an employee’s account after they have left the company. While corporate network logins often get removed, websites tend to get left behind. Any content that user created can easily be attributed to someone else upon removal.

Chainlink fence

Post Revisions and Other “Hidden” Gems

It’s not uncommon for any of us to accidentally save changes at the wrong time. The action is usually accompanied by a sinking feeling in your stomach. Thankfully, the process of reverting back to a previous version is built right in.

WordPress Post Revisions are another feature that clients tend not to notice. I’ve received more than one message from a client who is beside themselves for making a mistake. Their sorrow usually turns to pure joy once they find out how easy it is to fix.

The lesson here is that there are so many little features within WordPress. Things that the inexperienced user may not pick up on. When we take the time to show our clients these features, we empower them to help themselves.

So, the next time you’re training a client, think about what other helpful tidbits you can pass along.

Woman taking notes

There’s No Such Thing as “Set It and Forget It”

Above all, the most important thing for website owners to know is that WordPress requires some attention. But it doesn’t require any advanced technical expertise. All it takes is a commitment to check things out on a regular basis.

To some, it may sound like an inconvenience. But when you think about it, the process isn’t much different than a business owner checking into the office every now and then. You just want to make sure that everything’s running smoothly. A client’s website is a natural extension of this philosophy.

For web designers, educating clients is part of our job description. The more complicated our creations become, the more teaching we need to do. And that is especially important during the final hand-off of a website.

If it turns out that a client isn’t interested in maintaining WordPress, then they can pay you do the job. You’ll gain some revenue and your client will glad to have you looking after their site. Either way, education is the key.

Anything We Missed?

What information do you share with clients before handing off a WordPress website? Let us know in the comments!

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Posted by Eric Karkovack

Eric is a freelance web designer and writer with over 20 years of experience. He works with a wide variety of clients and specializes in WordPress. Connect with him on Twitter.