The term “planned obsolescence” means purposefully producing goods that quickly become obsolete, in order for the consumer to buy more and keep the producer in business. While that isn’t necessarily what Automattic (creators of WordPress) did with their CMS, it is what you need to do with WordPress.
Planning for Change: the MySpace Syndrome
Sometimes, obsolescence comes from design or programmatic changes. Look at Windows, for example. Microsoft has updated so many times that Windows XP and Vista are obsolete; in another 3 years, Windows 7 will join them.
Do you remember MySpace? At one point in time, MySpace was the online place to be. Everybody who was anybody had a MySpace account. Now, it’s full of social graveyards – dead accounts that no one ever uses. It’s a leftover remnant of the glory days.
And yet, there are still MySpace hangers-on, just like there are still Windows XP users. XP is the best; they see absolutely no reason to upgrade. This is the MySpace Syndrome, holding on to the “olds” because they’re good enough.
This is where your WordPress website comes in. In short, your website will fall behind, and you need to be prepared. As you build your website, or as you continue to grow your website (because it’s a never ending process, really), you need to plan for change.
4 Ways Your WordPress Site Can Become Obsolete
There is more than one way your site could fall behind. Today we’re going to cover a few of those ways, and how you can plan to combat the MySpace syndrome.
1. Current technology.
Technology is constantly evolving. Some changes are minor (iPhone 5, iPhone 6, for instance). Others aren’t so minor (3G, 4G). With websites, you can almost see the evolution happen as the Internet fills with sliders, parallax effects and video-type home pages.
While you may not want sliders and so on (and you don’t have to have them), there are some things you do want to be prepared for.
Code will change. For example, many websites are moving to HTML 5 (now HTML 5.1), the most recent version of hypertext language. For the uninitiated, HTML is what all websites become, no matter what programing language they started out as. HTML 5 has the added benefit of being mobile friendly.
This isn’t a bad thing and, of itself, won’t affect your website. However, as coding rules change, browsers change with them. If you don’t’ keep your site updated, you WILL run into this issue.
Plan for coding changes.
How do you stop the MySpace Syndrome when it comes to current coding standards? Watch your website. Using a website like BrowserStack that will show you what your site looks like on several browsers. Keep checking, because eventually it won’t look right.
2. Current terminology.
The world of Internet marketing is a perfect example of this. New terminology comes out all the time. We have to stay on it.
One example is Digital Asset Optimization. Way back when – at least 10 years ago, now – one of our team members saw an article talking about DAO. They started asking other team members, “What is DAO? Why have we never heard of it?”
It turned out that it was just one more term that had been added to the list for something good optimizers do all the time. We would have just shrugged and gone on, except that’s what our visitors wanted to know about – consequently, we talked about optimization with this new title.
Plan for terminology changes.
When you hear a new term in your industry, don’t just pass over it. Take the time to look it up, notice it, and provide information to your readers. Stay at the front of knowledge; don’t get caught with your feet flat and your pants down and, most importantly, don’t let your readers get caught that way either. They rely on you for their industry information.
3. Current marketing channels.
The Internet has only been a marketing channel for businesses since about 1994. Television wasn’t used until 1941, when Bulova put out the first televised ad. Radio was only 20 years earlier, starting with an ad for apartments. Before that, it was good old print and word of mouth.
The point: the businesses that survived changed to incorporate the new marketing channels. Had they just stuck with print – now a dying industry – today’s well-known brands may not even be here.
Plan for additional marketing channels.
When possible, save a little of your marketing budget for R&D. Use the allocated funds to try out new marketing channels as they come. For example, new social platforms, or even something like virtual reality and 360° ads. They’re already here, brought to you by places like OmniVirt and VirtualSKY. Always be prepared to grow. The “Next Big Thing” may very well be the advertising platform that skyrockets your business.
4. WordPress themes and plugins.
While the points above can fit any website, this one is specific for WordPress. First and foremost, keeping everything updated is important. Automattic often updates WordPress to keep up with bugs found, new technology and security issues.
Because of this, your WP themes and plugins will also update. If your theme and plugins aren’t updated, they become security issues – not just for you, but also for your visitors. Keeping these areas updated protects you both from potential security hazards.
As well, it’s important to realize that plugin creators often stop keeping their plugins updated. This means that it’s no longer manned. There’s no support; there are no updates, and they become security issues or cease to work. The same can be said for themes.
With themes, however, there is another issue.
There has become a trend where business owners spend money on “complete solution” themes. These themes provide many options, including options that the business may not need.
As well, a lot of these themes use code snippets call “short codes.” While the theme is active, this isn’t a problem. However, should you want to change your theme, these short codes will cease to work and your site will appear broken.
As long as you’re aware of this and are prepared, it’s not a problem. However, if you aren’t ware of the problem, it could lose you money while trying to fix the problem.
Plan for change in themes and plugins.
Be aware that WordPress, its themes and its plugins will update. Be aware that themes and plugins may become obsolete themselves, due to lack of support. Be prepared before any updates or theme migrations are done. Test everything on a development site, if possible, or when few people are on the site. In this way, you can marginalize any potential issues before they become huge issues.
Whether you have a WordPress site, a site built on another CMS, or just a regular old site with HTML, you will run into some of these issues. Technology changes rapidly, and the world of Internet marketing is at the front line.
The only way to stay in front and combat obsolescence is to plan for it. Have a plan of action to follow to make sure you don’t fall behind.