Imagine a single-room log cabin. Like the kind that Abraham Lincoln was born in, with four walls and a roof. There was no plumbing, or temperature control, or electrical wiring. If a log was damaged by dry rot, you disassembled the entire house, replaced the log, and put it all back together again. If the roof leaked, you patched it. Pretty low maintenance.
Now imagine a new house with a tankless water heater, a Nest thermostat, a smart fridge, solar panels, etc. There are a lot of individual pieces, each doing a specific job, and each requiring a different level of maintenance. I spend way more time replacing individual sprinkler heads than I do replacing the flame sensor in my furnace. If I don’t replace a broken sprinkler head, it won’t affect me too much. But if that flame sensor stops working in the middle of winter, I’m going to feel it.
But let’s say you’re part of an HOA and maintenance is taken care of for you. You’re going to pay for that convenience, but at least you don’t have to worry about maintenance anymore. You get the benefits of home ownership without the need to constantly monitor and track all those moving parts that can (and will) break.
Websites are much the same way. Back when websites were just a collection of HTML pages with inline styling and static content, there wasn’t much maintenance required. If the HTML standard changed and browsers started interpreting certain elements differently, you’d have to account for that. But otherwise, you built it once and left it alone.
Today, we’re building websites with a bunch of different moving parts and complex dependencies, each requiring a different level of maintenance. If Facebook changes the way their app authentication works, your Like button stops working. If your WordPress theme relies on a deprecated function, updating WordPress core may cause issues. Or if UPS changes their API, your real-time shipping quotes stop working. Some of these things won’t affect you too much, while others can have a serious impact on your site and business.
And just like there are HOAs for homeowners, you can find website hosting solutions that manage the maintenance for you. Don’t want to deal with WordPress updates? Host your site on a service like WPEngine. It’ll cost more than hosting it on Bluehost or Digital Ocean, but you won’t need to manage and worry about updates yourself.
If a website is part of your business, you can’t expect it to be a “build-it-once-and-leave-it-alone” thing. Chances are, the value you’re providing to your customers relies on a lot of those complex moving parts and integrations with other third-party services that can (and will) break. And generally speaking, the more you pay, the less you have to deal with these kinds of issues. But if you’re trying to run a site on the cheap, you’re going to get your hands dirty and replace a few sprinkler heads every once in a while.