What I’ve learned about people from providing support to WordPress Users

WARNING: This is a rant. Read at your own discretion!

For the past 5 years my work has been focusing on WordPress, started a web development agency, then worked for mexican integrator, then moved to the web hosting world and now, at I work at a website security company called Sucuri.net.

It’s been a great ride and have managed to see several aspects from WordPress users, I have seen the n00bs, I have helped developers, I’ve crashed my head against the wall while working with Marketers and I have shouted to my computer while working with website owners who don’t want to do anything, but have everything fixed at the point of a click.

I wanted to write a fun article about the frustrations of providing support to WordPress users and below are some of the things I’ve learned:

People don’t read

WordPress is pretty well documented, any bug, issue can easily be resolved by doing a search on any search engine. But no, WordPress users rather call (wait online on hold music), email (expecting a response within 5 seconds after sending it) or chat (expecting the rep to solve everything with a single click).

In any of my previous jobs, I would get the customer email/ticket/chat, and I would try go gather as much information from the issue before start troubleshooting. Then I would check what the problem is, try to replicate myself, then analyze what might be causing it. If I was not very familiar with the issue a quick search online would be enough to find the issue. I would try to apply the patch/change suggested and if it would work would give the article to the customer for them to read and understand what happened. I would also provide a link with my suggestions on how to avoid the issue from happening. But the customer would come back a few days/weeks/months with the exact same problem, claiming the last person he talked to said it was solved but is still happening. Facepalm.

People sometimes don’t read, even when you ask them to because it would save them time and it would avoid them being hacked. But they do not read and do not want to be told to read. It worries me because I am a self taught IT guy, I love learning and trying stuff; I’m the kind of guy who can learn programming from YouTube or reading a book and hacking his way into things. It is so sad that some website owners can read entire books of marketing, Improve your SEO on Google and Pay Per Click Advertising, but they neglect to read a single page that will help them on protecting their brand, reputation and website.

If you are one of those, please, I beg you, read the links that your web advisor, web developer, security analyst, web hosting provider sent. And if you do not understand ask questions. We are here to help you, but we can’t do everything for you. Please help me so I can help you.

People don’t care about security

You can see that by the amount of websites that get blacklisted on Google each week. People just have websites done, they only care about being flashy, nice and have information there. I have not seen a customer on my web developer experience to ask about having a website secure and protected by hackers. They just don’t. You installed WordPress 4 years ago, and is working but suddenly, you have VIAGRA ads on your website and you see that a new administrator user has been added. You then get a call from a provider saying that they get a warning when they try to access your website. You then panick! You open Chrome and try to visit the website, and you too get the warning. You don’t know what is going on. You try to login to your WordPress using admin and 12345 as password and you see lots of pages and blog posts that you have not added. It is until then when you start thinking about security.

That story happens very often, it even happened to a colleague of mine in Sucuri. And it is until we make the mistake that we realize how easy was to take us down, and how easy would have been to prevent this from happening. You do not have to be a web expert or a security ninja to be able to have security put in place. You can opt for services like Sucuri, that provide a managed security service to protect your website. That way you can focus on your business and we will manage security and let you know of any issue that we see that requires your attention.

Visit Sucuri.net for more info!

People don’t care about what is under the hood

Customers pretty much just needs something that works and does the job. They don’t care if its WordPress or Joomla or Drupal. They don’t. They will trust the web agency or web advisor doing the work. Plus they would probably do a search online. They do not know about security, so it is the responsibility of the person or company doing their website to provide the proper guidance. Most of the cases they would choose WordPress over Drupal merely due to cost. They want the most BANG for the buck. And we can all relate to this.

However after the website is done, the customer must be advised that he needs to do maintenance to his website, which is just like a car, that needs some tune up to keep it working well, having all security updates in place to correct any vulnerability and make sure that his SEO and brand reputation is not harmed.

People blame 3rd parties instead

While working at Site5, I faced many customers that were angry because we didn’t stop the hackers from defacing his website. Which is funny to me and the perfect analogy I gave them, is like complaining to your land lord who rented you that house, when burglars break in and steal your stuff. Web hosting providers are responsible for the security of the servers, not for the security of the applications. They protect their servers from being accessed on their core, not on user accounts. I remember when Site5 started blocking IPs of people trying to access several times with the wrong FTP passwords, we had tidal waves of complains and just 1% of people really appreciated the security measure imposed.

In Sucuri, is a different story, people come with actual problems, websites infected with malware, hacked, or blacklisted and we need to help them. I work with customers and the first thing I need to clean a site is access to the website files, but many people do not know what an FTP account is and we provide them an explanation, and offer them to possibility of reading a tutorial on how to get the FTP account, or to simple give over his web hosting account login details so we can figure out the rest. At least 80% of the times, they would give you their web hosting account details, with the same passwords, and they do not change it after we use it. Which is very dangerous.

Once I am in, I have problem because some scripts are really really old, and they have tons of vulnerabilities, but upgrading them it causes hell, because it breaks plugins and themes, leaving most of the times the websites with the dreaded white screen of death. So I have to be careful about removing the infection. Reinstalling the specific WordPress version to make sure that we have clean core files. And finally checking the plugins and themes to advise which really need an update.

From time to time, cleaning malware breaks the functionality of a plugin or a feature of the website that I honestly overlook, and people come back reporting that, as a precaution we always take backups of everything we modify, so we can always roll back. Although there are very very rate times when the site was so infected and corrupted that the only choice is to update everything and we suggest to work with a developer or rebuilding the site and provide several suggestions on how to avoid this from happening again.

I try to do my best always, but sometimes, that is not enough. People whose website I’ve cleaned, do not read the suggestions, and get reinfected, and I am the one to blame for not doing my job right. Its like going to a physician because you had a cold after jogging under the rain, and after getting cured, go jogging under the rain again and then complain and blame the physician. We helped you, we cleaned the site, we told you how to avoid this from happening again. You didn’t listen or didn’t care and now we are to blame. But not worry, we will AGAIN, clean your site and AGAIN provide the suggestions hoping this time you will follow them.

That’s all folks!

These are a few of the things I’ve learned from working with people who have WordPress website around the world. Some have made me laugh, some have annoyed me at first, but from both I’ve learned and adapted my feedback to them so they can be better protected.

If you want to talk more about this, invite me for a beer and let’s hangout!

Published by Sal Aguilar

IT Pro that focuses in solving problems and providing solutions for customers.

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