Twitter recently made some significant changes to its API. For those unfamiliar, an API is like a code library used when you build software. These changes affect every piece of software written to interact with Twitter. While developers paying attention are aware of these things, users often are not.
Millions of websites have little Twitter widgets and plugins installed to display their tweets. Some of them are custom built, many aren’t. These widgets and plugins have become so commonplace that many people install them with a single click and are ready to go. They think they’ll never have to worry about it again. Set it and forget it! It’s nice when things are that easy.
Unfortunately, that’s not the end of it.
What’s beginning to happen is these widgets and plugins are failing. They’re displaying error messages because they cannot connect to Twitter anymore. They fail because Twitter changed the API and the old code doesn’t work anymore. The plugin or the widget needs to be updated. But that maintenance isn’t happening.
It’s worth mentioning that Twitter isn’t the only internet service that changes its APIs. Facebook, like many other internet services, has multiple APIs, many which change every few months. Sometimes without notice. Google has a bajillion APIs to do everything from analytics to zip codes, and they change every once in a while, too.
Most reputable plugin authors have made updated versions of their code available, many long before Twitter made the changes to their API. The problem is that users aren’t always on top of their updates. Some users don’t know how to do it, are scared to do it or won’t pay their marketing agency to keep their code up to date.
But what’s worse: Paying to keep your code up to date or having error messages on your home page?
Many clients will say they can’t afford to update. But you have error messages on your home page. Your website looks broken. How can you afford NOT to update?
A website isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing. You cannot let your content stagnate. You cannot let your security updates lapse. You cannot leave your modules and plugins to fail. Imagine if your website was the company car. Would you drive it around with a flat tire? A smashed in window? What are people going to think about your business?
If it’s been years since you updated your website, or worse, if your website has never been updated, it can be very difficult and possibly cost-prohibitive to bring it back in line. To use our company car analogy again, this is like buying a new car and never changing the oil; when that engine locks up you’re going to have to buy a new car.
Your website is an investment and it requires regular maintenance. Being pro-active is better than waiting for something to go wrong and being embarrassed in front of your clients. (Trust me, I know.) Back up your website. Monitor outages. Check your links. Update APIs and other code. f you can’t keep track of every aspect of your website, consider scheduled update cycles; quarterly, if not more frequently. The company hosting/supporting your website might give you a discounted rate on a year’s worth of regularly scheduled updates, and they’ll be handled in a timely fashion.
Whatever site maintenance plan you decide to you, the important thing is that you use with. Because your customers are watching. Is your site conveying the right message? Does it even load?