I’ve Inherited a WordPress Website – Now What?

Feb 15, 2018 | Troubleshooting, WordPress Wednesday

In this video Kori talks about what to look out for and what to do whenever you have inherited a WordPress Website. You will need to check plugins, if there are backups in place and if there are any security concerns.

Video Transcript

Hey ya’ll, welcome to another WordPress Wednesday. My name is Kori Ashton and this week I get to answer a question from one of our subscribers. Rebecca reached out and said, “Hey Kori, I have inherited a WordPress website, now what the heck do I do? Can you give me kinda of a punch list of what I should be doing.” And I know this is the case for a lot of us freelancers out there, a lot of the folks who are maybe trying to help a friend or family member, or you know, somebody who already has a website in place. Somebody else built it, somebody else put it all in WordPress and you have no idea how they built it or what you should even be doing the moment you first log in.

Domain Name

So, let’s go through a little bit of a checklist that I have, hopefully, this will give you some clarity of some things you can be doing to, to basically overall have success when you’re inheriting somebody’s WordPress website. Alright, so the first thing, I need you to have a game plan about is, do you know where the domain name, the www.webtegrity.com, whatever it might be. That domain name:

  • do you know where it was registered?
  • and who’s name was it registered to?
  • you also need to know when that domain name expires

Now, you might be saying “hold on, hold on. I just want help with the website.” Well, the address is part of being a great manager of that environment so you really need to know,

  • where is that domain name registered?
  • when does it expire and need to be renewed?
  • is it set to auto-renew, right?
  • and whose name is it in?

And you can find those things out by doing a Whois search and I’ll put the link to that in the description box below as well. You also need to know where this website is being hosted. Are they on WP Engine, are they on GoDaddy, Hostgator, where are they? Where do they live? You need to know that and you need to get access to that account because you will need probably potentially set up FTP access for yourself.

Staging Site

So please be sure, even very much out of the gate, early on in the process to go get access to these areas. You’ll also wanna see if perhaps the past developer of this project was generous enough to create a developer environment, or what we call as a staging site. So that you might be able to test some of these things that we’re gonna go through inside of that environment first versus working on a live website where you might have visitors there and you don’t want to interrupt anything there.


You’ll also wanna take note to see if the website is running a content delivery network, which is called a CDN or a secure server, so do they have an SSL in place. And those types of things you need to just kind of have on a checklist, yes they’re running Mac CDN, or yes they’re giving a CDN through the hosting company. Whatever that might be, or yes they have an SSL and it’s set to renew in December.

You know you’ll have to know those things again in order to just be a really good as a webmaster in a sense, right? Helping them with their website.


The next thing is backups in place. Do they have a backup running? Does your hosting company provide that solution, because they might, that’s another reason you need to know who they’re hosting with, because they might have some sort of automated 24 hour backup in place that allows you to easily access it. What I want you to know though is once you have that checked off and say, “Yes backups are in fact running.” I need you to for sure talk to your hosting company and ask them what is the process if I have to click restore because now you’re gonna get into the website.

I’m gonna show you some things that you’re gonna have to start doing in order to manage this site and what you don’t want to do is have to call up the owner of that site and say, “Hey I broke your website.” So you absolutely need to make sure you have a backup in place and that we’re not deleting anything, not losing anything. And you need to know how to restore it. Ask your hosting company, “Are you gonna charge me to click that button for me? What are the fees associated with this?” Okay once you have all that in place. Well let me say this, if you do not have backups running before you do any of the rest of this, I need you to go install a backup plugin, okay? And I will put a link to a video that teaches you how to do that. So do not move further past this video until you know for a fact that you have a backup and you know how to get to it. You need to be backing up your database and all of your files.


Alright, so the next thing I want you to do is go take a checklist or screenshot of what plugins are running. What are the active plugins inside of your dashboard? Now you can have inactive plugins sitting there as well, but for the sake of now, I’m more concerned about what active plugins are running. And then does the author currently support those plugins? So each and every one of those, I need you to go see, especially if there is an alert sitting there that says there’s an update that’s needed. So what we want to be sure is that okay,

  • is the plugin currently being supported?
  • is it still safe to use?
  • Do you need a license for it?
  • Is it a free plugin or was a paid plugin?
  • If it’s a paid plugin, do you have access to that license key?

Because in order to click that update button, you might have to have that license key. You’ll have to know when that license renews. These are just little quick tips that you might want to go look at and if you’re running an e-commerce part, or a shopping store inside your WordPress website, you’ll probably need to go in there digging around and find out who the payment gateway is, is it authorized .net, is it PayPal, who are they using and again, do you have log in permission to that account in case there’s a break in the payment process while we’re doing these other steps, okay? So go do your diligence there.


The next thing is, what theme is running, so jump over into appearance, click on themes, get in there and go find out what theme is running, again is it currently being supported by author, click on the tab that talks about the theme. Go over to the author’s landing page. Be sure that there’s still selling it and that there’s an updated version that you can be using. Check to see what version you’re running, so do you need to update your theme? And if its a paid theme, I have a video that can teach you how to update that safely, I’ll put all these videos in the description box below. If its just a free theme that’s just in the repository, you should be able just from your dashboard to click update without any sort of breaks. You will wanna be sure though to confirm whether or not you’re running a child theme and of course that will be there in that dashboard, so that you’re not deleting or messing up any custom code that might’ve been done by the previous development team. So then here’s the big deal. This is the big one. Are all update current? SO you know its kinda of scary when we reopen that dashboard you kinda don’t wanna look in there and see how many plugins are running and how many updates are needed, because you know if they’re running an outdated version of WordPress, that clicking update could absolutely break things.

So I want you to be very, very cautious. We know we have a backup in place, we know how to get to that backup, and click restore if anything breaks. Ideally, we’re doing all this in a staging environment, not even tinkering around live sites, that would be incredible. But right now, its time to deal with all of your updates. So the way I process this and I have a video that specifically talks step by step on how to update your website. I’ll put that as well in the description box below, but I want you to do plugins first, then your theme, then your core. And if you watch the video, I’ll explain why I have that process in place.


Once you’ve done all of that, then we can go have a little bit more fun now that you’ve know nothings broken, pressure off, woo! Now you can go on searching around, taking a look at your pages. Can you easily access all of the content that lives on the homepage? How would you make changes if the owner asked you, hey can you make this change or add this slide or into the slideshow, you know? Take off that coupon. Go in there and start tinkering around and just seeing okay what is my access point to all of this content. Are the inner pages built with a page builder? Do I know how to use that page builder? And go get yourself familiar with those things. Widgets, what lives inside of your sidebars? So again, going to appearance and going to widgets going in that area to see, OK how did the previous developer use widgets in this website and just kinda open up each drawer, if you will, and figure out what lives in each little section.


Then go look here, menus, appearance menus. Dig over there and see how are your menus set up? How are they assigned? Are there a ton of menus? Where do those live? Again, just again just try to familiarize yourself to be able to make faster changes if the owner says, “Hey can you add a new link to my drop-down menu.” You’ll know how to get in there and do that.


And then finally, the last thing I want you to take a look at are the users. So, drop over into settings, go into the users area and I want you to see how many users are there, what type of roles are they assigned to, are they old developers that don’t need access anymore. Always remember that fewer people logging into a website, the more secure that website is. So please, please be sure to delete, remove, reassign users and minimize who has access. Especially admin access to your website, if that makes sense.


The last thing, if you want to deal with anything else on top of this, is just to be sure that you have some sort of security in place, whether you’re running Sucuri, the free version or some other type of plugin that you’re running specifically for added security to the website. I got tons of videos listed down below to kinda help you through each one of these steps. I hope this does help you, Rebecca thanks again for sending in the question. And if you have WordPress questions, give me a tweet, send me an email, connect with me, leave a comment below. I’ll try help you out with a video. Hope you’re having a great WordPress Wednesday. Bye y’all.

Are you working on a #WordPress website that you inherited from another developer? Here’s a quick checklist to get started with confidence.