How Not to Hurt Your Visitors When Using the WordPress Maintenance Mode

It is a common practice to set your website to maintenance mode when updating major sections of the website such as trying to fix a problem or running an updated version of a plugin. For several reasons which could be to fix a white screen of death problem, boost security against hackers and several others, we often update our own website and will automatically switch to the maintenance mode once an update is running.


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Visitors to your website can be turned off in such cases when you will have to set your website to the maintenance mode. If you are updating your live and hosted website then users are more likely to return if they know what is happening. With most common content management systems like WordPress, Joomla and WHMCS, there is the option to activate the maintenance mode allowing you to make the necessary changes without being noticed by visitors and non-admin users.


What is Maintenance Mode?

Generally, the phrase, maintenance Mode, is a term that had been used when you need to take your regular site offline to perform updates. The updates can be on your software of content. So for example, when WordPress needs to update itself, a plugin or a theme it has a built-in maintenance mode it uses to display a message to visitors that your site is down. Or say you have redesigned your site and you need a few hours to implement the new design. In this case you would use a maintenance mode plugin to put you site into maintenance mode so you can access the site to make your updates but your visitors would get a custom message about why it’s down and when it will be up again.


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WordPress has two versions of a Maintenance Mode

WordPress Built-In maintenance mode – designed to do core, plugins and themes updates. When WordPress puts itself into Maintenance Mode to perform updates you cannot access both the front end or the admin back-end. WordPress returns a default message that says: “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute.” This message can be customized. The second is the plugin maintenance mode - which involves using a custom plugin to set your website to maintenance mode.


When should I Use a Maintenance Mode Plugin?

You should use a of plugin when you need to perform updates to your site and you don’t want your visitors to see the site in an incomplete or transitional state. These plugins should return something called a http 503 status which tell Google and other search engines that the site is down for maintenance and to come back later for indexing. You should not keep your web site in Maintenance Mode for an extended period of time or it could hurt your SEO. Here’s more from Google on how to handle it which most plugins take care of the details as explained in the article.

One thing you should never to is use a maintenance plugin when your site is Under Construction or Coming Soon. This will prevent Google From indexing your site. Here’s more on the difference between those modes.

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WordPress Maintenance Plugins

There are plenty of great maintenance mode plugins you can add to your website that will let your visitors know what's going on and when to return or where else they can go for more information. If visitors think your site is broken or is in bad shape they might not return but by placing your site and pages in maintenance mode you can easily alert them.

WP Maintenance Mode

Free high functioning plugins are always a welcome pleasure. WP Maintenance Mode will add a simple splash-style page that gives your website's coming soon page style. Its easy to use settings let you change colors, upload new images, add countdown timers, social links and contact forms. Once you set up the design, general and modules areas your "down for maintenance page" will be attractive and engaging without too much work on your end.

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When you maintain and upgrade your site you will still want the benefit of knowing a few key statistics. Maintenance plugin has the Google Analytics functionality you need. You can enable "503 Service temporarily unavailable”, set a temporary page with authorization and edit it for your specific needs. A big brand presence website will benefit from adding a logo, changing colors and using a full screen background image. Even if your performing maintenance you can still maintain your brand image and look professional with a quality page that mimics your style.

Ultimate Coming Soon Page

Create a Maintenance Mode or Coming Soon Pages that works on any theme with the Ultimate Coming Soon Page plugin by SeedProd. Use a good background, some basic content and add features to connect with your visitors over social media and through email. If you are ready to trick out your coming soon page this plugin has all the features you need to make it stunning with solid advanced options that make it fully customizable. It is built on HTML5 and CSS3 and operates smoothly on the latest coding languages for a full professional and well organized maintenance mode page.

Easy Pie Maintenance Mode

Let your users know you aren't down but you are hard at work with the simple to use Easy Pie Maintenance Mode plugin. You won't be bothered with any configuration or settings needs. You only have to install and activate it. Add your images and a few lines of simple text and your coming soon or maintenance page is good to go. This is a bare bones free plugin but it is fully responsive and you can add custom CSS to the preset themes.

Simple Maintenance

Keep your visitors informed and engaged while you get work done with the Simple Maintenance lightweight WordPress plugin. Decide which pages you want to update and activate the plugin. Its fully responsive HTML5 design won't leave your mobile users guessing where your pages have gone either. If you need something more customizable look at the Simple Maintenance Mode Pro plugin that gives you color, backgrounds, countdowns, e-mail capture abilities and search engine optimization.


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Which Plugin Should I Use?

There are many free plugins on that let you put your website into maintenance mode and display a custom message to your visitors. We recommend a few free plugin including Coming Soon and Maintenance Mode by SeedProd. This plugin lets you put you site in Coming Soon or Maintenance Mode and handles all the details of returning the correct http status code to Google so you preserve your SEO. If you want to collect emails or have a more customized maintenance page then Check out the Pro Version of the plugin.

Customizing the built-in WordPress Maintenance Mode Message

To customize the built-in message which by default says:

"Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute."

You just need to ftp into your WordPress site and upload a file called maintenance.php to your wp-content folder. Then whenever WordPress is updating users will see your custom message.

How to take a Site out of Maintenance Mode

It is either WordPress completes its’ updates and it takes itself out of maintenance or you disable the plugin. Sometimes, things can go wrong and it’s also possible for WordPress to get stuck in this mode.

How to take WordPress Out of Its’ built in Maintenance Mode

If WordPress gets interrupted while performing a core, plugin or theme update it’s possible for WordPress to get stuck in Maintenance Mode and you’ll just see a message that says “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute.” To manually take WordPress out of its’ built in Maintenance Mode you will need to ftp into your site and remove a hidden file called .maintenance This should then should return your site to the normal state.

How to take a WordPress Plugin out of Maintenance Mode

If you use a plugin for Maintenance Mode it’s possible for it to get stuck if you are using a caching plugin or your hosting has a caching layer. In this case you just need to clear the caching plugin’s cache or clear your host cache. Usually your host will have a button in the WordPress admin that says “Clear Cache” If you are unsure contact your web host.

You will find one of these plugins very useful and could actually be wrong not to use one of these plugins if your pages are down or your website is a work in progress. With these plugins, you will be able to alert your visitors to come back soon, present them with a sharp visual experience while directing them to your social media channels and collecting email. You visitors will still be engaged and impressed even though you may have a major website overhaul in progress behind the scenes

WordPress Maintenance Mode Issues?

There are two major issues associated with WordPress maintenance mode:

  •     You allowed update requests to pile up and attempted to update several things at once.
  •     The theme or plugin(s) you attempted to update is not compatible with your version of WordPress.

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How to Prevent Update Issues

Theme and plugin updates can break a site, so updating things as soon as they’re available isn’t always recommended even though those updates likely contain valuable security patches. Before you perform an update, back up your entire WordPress site. Don’t trust your host to do it for you because maintaining a backup is actually your responsibility and not theirs. Even where the assure you of maintaining the backup, do not trust that. Mae sure you keep a backup for your site.

Performing regular backups and performing backups right before you update things will keep you protected enough to update things promptly rather than allowing them to pile up. You should also stop using the bulk update feature and update WordPress, plugins, and themes one by one.

How to Prevent Compatibility Issues

New releases of WordPress versions are great, but they sometimes occur before developers have a chance to catch up. If a new WordPress version has come out recently, make sure the plugin or theme you wish to update is compatible with it. You can follow the developer’s email list, check their blog or ask them directly to stay up to date on this issue.

Similarly, if you’re on an older version of WordPress and only keep your plugins and theme up to date, you may start running into compatibility issues. It’s best to keep your site up to date by making sure you’re running the latest version of WordPress and checking to see that your plugins are all compatible with with the version you are running.. This keeps your site more secure as well.


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Issues with WordPress Maintenance Plugins

This is actually an entirely different issue, but it is related to some degree, making it worth a mention here. WordPress maintenance plugins allow you to put your site in maintenance mode so you can make minor and major changes to your site without expecting users to put up with them. The plugins allow you to use a custom maintenance page optimized for style and marketing purposes.

Unfortunately, some of these plugins fail to take your site out of maintenance mode after you request them to do so. The solution to this is simpler than deleting a file in your root directory. More often than not, all you need to do is empty the page cache if you’re using a caching plugin or deactivate/delete the plugin before emptying the cache. This should fix it the issue very quickly.

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