Today we’re discussing one specific scenario that that hurts business websites. This is when WordPress website owners don’t own the plugin licenses for their site.
For those of you who don’t know what that is, many CMS like WordPress have “plugins” that extend the core site functionality. Some plugins are free, and some are paid. Other content management systems like Drupal or Expression Engine have the same sort of thing, they just call them different names.
On the WordPress repository, there are free plugins. But there’s also a ton of premium (paid) plugins in the overall ecosystem. These usually have an annual license for support and updates.
Many third-party companies, like WooCommerce, Gravity Forms, or WordImpress, for example, sell these plugins for a set price each year. The premium plugin licenses are good for one year. The licenses have a unique key which allows the site owner to update their WordPress plugins when they are available, or get ticketed support from the plugin vendor.
Bear in mind, your website is like any other piece of software. When software updates are available, they need to be applied. This helps keep everything functioning correctly, and keep your site safe and secure. Most websites today are not simple static brochure sites. E-commerce websites in particular are full-fledged web applications with a database and complex functionality.
More On Plugin Licenses
Free plugins from the WordPress repository rely on donated time from the developers to stay current. Premium plugins have a more sustainable business model, which allows development teams to support a plugin indefinitely.
Premium WordPress plugins usually have a few tiers of paid licenses ‘ one site, a handful of sites, or unlimited sites. The unlimited licenses are sometimes known as developer licenses. These developer licenses allow a consultant or agency to pay extra each year and use the plugin license on client sites for the duration of the year.
This sounds good, but there’s a few things to be aware of.
Not every web design company has a developers license for every plugin they use. And you shouldn’t rely on them to renew it each year, either.
It is better for your business if your company owns the licenses for any premium plugins on your site. In case your developer gets hit by a bus tomorrow, or you simply have a parting of the ways, it’s a reduction in risk if you take responsibility for paying for annual plugin licenses each year.
Setting Expectations For Responsibilities
Once your web development project has a well-defined outline, you should have a clear expectation of what plugin licenses you’ll need to update each year.
When your web development agency has that discussion with you, about what particular plugins need to go on your site, they should set the expectation of what your annual ongoing cost is going to be to maintain your site.
Your website is your most important marketing tool. Your business website is something you have to invest in regularly, like you would any other part of your business infrastructure.
Websites are not static entities. They are constantly evolving organisms. Maintaining your website properly means being able to install software updates when they are available.
Setting Realistic Expectations For Ongoing Costs
So why is it important for you is the site owner to have your plugin licenses?
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been called upon to help someone with their site, and they don’t have the licenses for several of their plugins. This is problematic, because it usually means they’re already several updates behind. It also means the realistic expectations for ongoing site costs may not have been set. This means the site owner has to pay for whatever licenses are missing.
Quite often, a site owner may be piggybacking off of a developers license for a plugin. This can be bad news if the previous developer or agency doesn’t renew their license each year. If the previous web design company doesn’t renew the license, that means your site will stop Getting regular updates for that plug-in once a license expires.
Another thing that can happen is developers may move on to getting regular day jobs, and perhaps those annual plugin license renewals are forgotten about. Never take it for granted that you can piggyback off the developers license for any given plugin. As a site owner, you should always have a clear expectation of what WordPress plugin licenses you’ll have to renew each year.
It’s the same situation if the developer or agency goes out of business. Let’s imagine this happens, and you never had control of your plugin licenses to begin with. The developer lets those licenses lapse, and suddenly you’re scrambling to purchase a bunch of licenses so you can update your website.
Personally, I don’t think plugin licenses should be treated any differently than your domain name registration or your hosting. The client business or site owner should own all of those components. This enables them to get support from these third-party services (hosting, domain registrar, plugin or theme developer).
Have A Plan For Plugin Licenses
If you’re revamping your existing site, or building a new WordPress site, make sure you and your web agency talk about what plug-ins you’ll need to budget for each year. Having a plan for your plugin licenses means you can always update your site regularly, and it will continue to perform at peak efficiency.
Updating your plugins is essential to website security. Make sure that you have control of your licenses, just in case something happens to your agency or developer. This will give you the flexibility to ensure your site is always up to date, and in your control.