Why We Created the SiteCare Score

SiteCare has been helping businesses with their websites for nearly 20 years. In that time, we’ve seen every possible bad configuration you can imagine.

How about the time we found an entire Magento shopping cart installed inside the WordPress wp-admin directory?

Or the time that we uncovered nearly a TERABYTE of backups nested in another (corrupted) backup?

We can’t count the number of times a new client contacts us with a website that was built just a few years ago and has been neglected ever since. Without continuous care, that once-perfect website is now archaic, vulnerability-ridden, and extremely fragile.

It’s easy to blame, complain, and be cynical when battling website technical issues daily. Occasionally, one may want to launch their computer directly into the sun. It’s a natural impulse.

Why do bad things happen to good website owners?

Over the years, we’ve managed thousands of websites in various states of repair. We’ve tried all sorts of tactics to make a wide range of WordPress websites fit into easy-to-understand management plans.

But here’s the reality: Every WordPress website is unique. They’re all different. They have separate constraints, requirements, levels of care, features, functionality, and website owners all have varying tastes and preferences.

WordPress is messy, in a beautiful way, if you’re willing to tilt your head to the side a bit.

After years of trying to improve and automate our WordPress management services, and failing in various ways, we chose a different approach. We started to ask why and how WordPress websites ended up in such a flawed state.

  • Do website owners simply not care about the health of their websites?
  • Are the majority of WordPress developers truly careless and apathetic?
  • Are all WordPress plugins really put together with bubblegum and hope?

That’s a pretty bleak and cynical outlook, so we began to ask questions of our clients.

Getting curious about website neglect

Instead of asking why websites are the way they are, we started to wonder how they got that way:

  • Do website owners understand that neglect will eventually put their online business at risk? Do they know proper site management is essential after launching a new website?
  • Do developers know that they’re taking shortcuts? And are they doing it out of necessity to meet demanding deadlines or constrained budgets?
  • How can people discern good products from bad when search engine results are littered with affiliate marketing and bunk recommendations? Is it the website owner’s fault for following the advice of online personalities they should be able to trust?

After years of boots-on-the-ground experience, client surveys, and watching user patterns, we understood that education and awareness were the key. Without those two elements, healthy, well-preserved websites wouldn’t be achievable. Even if we figured out a way to automate every part of the management stack.

We needed to bring the biggest threats to a website to the forefront, and help website owners see potential risks. Then we could pair that risk with practical advice about how to stay ahead of those risks. With enough awareness and education, we’d be able to shift the tides of mistrust, anger, and frustration.

We wanted to be part of the solution, not part of the noisy, persistent problem.

So we got to work…

Establishing the framework of SiteCare Score

Before we could write one line of code, we needed a methodology to follow. It needed to be simple to understand, and the path to healthy WordPress needed to be clearly defined. Think of it as a training plan. Just like people can’t run a marathon before they walk a mile, a WordPress website needs a solid technical foundation before it can scale traffic, include complex features, or begin to be discovered in search engines.

We developed the SiteCare website hierarchy with the idea that no website should advance to the next level in the pyramid without mastering the level below it.

Site Health: A WordPress website needs to adhere to the WordPress technical requirements, ensure they’re running modern, well-supported, plugins and themes, along with several other basic website standards.

Security: WordPress needs to be hardened and secured in a way that prevents bad actors from taking websites hostage, defacing it, or using the site to generate spam.

Performance: Once a WordPress site is healthy and secure, we can work to make it blazing fast.

Extend: In order to expand the functionality and features of the site, we want to make sure the prerequisite stages of Site Health, Security and Performance are meeting best practices.

Optimize: This is the stage when we optimize for search engine visibility, improve usability, and enhance the user’s website experience.

Screenshot of a Slack conversation discussion how a very simple graphic took 20 years to create.

With our framework and methodology in hand, we set out to build the SiteCare Score plugin.

The SiteCare Score plugin journey begins

With our hierarchy guiding the way, we knew that we wanted to focus on Site Health first, because that sets the foundation for a successful WordPress website.

WordPress core provides a great API to help uncover Site Health issues. However, when we presented the information from Site Health to clients, they often found it confusing and didn’t know how to interpret the information.

They were constantly asking, “Ok, I understand there’s an issue, but now what?

It became clear that we needed more of an alert system than a list of specific technical issues. The specifics matter, but website owners need a way to keep their finger on the pulse of their website health without looking at technical issues every day.

Thus, the SiteCare Score was born. The SiteCare Score is a single, easy-to-understand metric that gives website owners a snapshot of their website’s overall health and performance. Ranging from 1 to 100, it combines the results of all the Site Health checks with additional tests curated by the SiteCare team. This allows site owners to quickly assess if their website is performing well, and to track whether it’s improving or declining over time.

The SiteCare Score scan report with Alert, Fail, and Pass ratings.
The SiteCare Score scan report with Alert, Fail, and Pass ratings.

And to continuously monitor your improvements (or degradations), the SiteCare Score plugin keeps track of all of your scores and makes them easily viewable from one screen.

WordPress dashboard screenshot of the Score History page. 3 columns and 10 rows of scores with a variety of site health scores.
WordPress dashboard screenshot of the Score History page

Then, if the website owners want more granular details, they can quickly see which elements are passing, needing attention, or failing, along with some helpful tips for how to address the issues.

SiteCare Score Plugin Video Demo

Watch a 3-minute video to see how to get started with the SiteCare Score plugin so you can take your first measurement today.

What’s Next for the SiteCare Score plugin?

We have a number of exciting features on our roadmap, and just like our clients, our plan is to continue to move up the pyramid.

Our next focus will be adding some of the following features before we move into the security level of the pyramid:

  • Scheduled scans: Choose a time interval to have your scans run automatically.
  • Dashboard and admin bar widgets: Bring your SiteCare Score to the forefront and keep track of it without browsing to the scan history page.
  • Enhanced recommendations: We’ll take our suggestions further and make them even more intelligent.
  • Bulk Actions: Turn awareness into action! If the SiteCare Score plugin flags that you have 12 inactive plugins, why not delete them all with one click?

We’re thrilled to have this plugin available as a free download from the WordPress plugin repository. Leave a comment or contact us with any plugin feedback or suggestions you have. We want to make SiteCare Score your accountability partner for keeping a happy, healthy WordPress website.

P.S.: If the SiteCare Score plugin uncovers an issue you didn’t know about or don’t know how to solve, check out our SiteCare plans or contact us, and we’ll be more than happy to help get you on the right track.

Ryan Sullivan Avatar
Chief of Staff

7 min read

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