WordPress is easily the most popular website CMS in the world today. Powering over a quarter of all websites, it’s popularity can also mean it can be overwhelming when you seek answers to your WordPress questions. So, to save you time and confusion, we’ve summarised the most common questions here, along with our recommendations based on over 10 years of working with WordPress.
These recommendations don’t come with any guarantees (sorry!) and may be rendered obsolete by future WordPress upgrades, however they are also based on commonsense so should hopefully stay somewhat timeless and relevant.
1 – Less is more
Sorry to kick off this list with a cliche but this is such an important point I don’t even care. Probably one of the biggest WordPress sins we see when we take over a site. The site looks like your nanna’s overgrown backyard, neglected for the last few years. Layers on layers of website changes – plugins, themes, many out-of-date. With so much going on it’s no wonder there are issues and it’s difficult to troubleshoot.
The key is to keep your website as streamlined as possible, running as lean as you can make it. As tempting as it might be to just add another plugin or theme, left unchecked that will lead to major headaches and repair costs in the future.
So while you may dislike his music Phil Collins had some good advice: Think twice before adding another plugin (I’m pretty sure they were the words?).
2 – Stay up-to-date … but not too up-to-date
If you’re still running WordPress 3.1 then Houston we have a problem. Your website is probably crawling with malware and hacked files. We need to burn it to the ground before it infects the rest of the internet. Ok slight overreaction but old versions of WordPress or plugins can make a website less secure. Newer versions may offer more features as well as staying compatible with the latest protocols or server software. However…
It’s sometimes a good idea to hold off updating to the latest version of anything right away. Allow at least a week (unless you’re actually waiting for a specific fix or change) until updating. Software developers, in their haste to release, are known to overlook bugs in the initial roll-out.
Updating WordPress (or plugins) is easy to do – simply login to your dashboard and select or click the items you want to update. A word of warning: avoid updating a theme unless you are certain it doesn’t contain any customisations (as they will be overwritten during the update).
3 – Do you really need that plugin?
It’s awesome that there are so many plugins available for WordPress that make it relatively easy to add new functionality to your website without all the hard work. Supposedly.
Unfortunately with little to no regulation of plugins, some are badly written and can cause more trouble than they’re worth. Check for good reviews, a high number of downloads and recent updates to make sure the plugin is reliable. But before you do any of this check that you actually need the plugin at all. Some entire plugins do something that could be taken care of with a line or two of code in the theme, saving disk space and loading times for your website.
If you’re unsure if you need the plugin feel free to check with us – we might be able to suggest a better alternative.
Remove/deactivate unused plugins: Some plugins are for short term use – when you’re done with them be sure to deactivate them so they’re not slowing down your site unnecessarily.
4 – Limit the size of your uploads
When editing a page you can use the Media button to add photos or file downloads (PDFs). Great, but if you’re not careful you can add massive files that slow everything down, upset your visitors and cause you to run out of disk space. So here are a few tips to help you avoid that:
- Resize photos and save as JPGs – As a rule of thumb website images don’t need to be more than 1000px wide (unless it’s a full width image on your homepage). Aim to keep all images under 200KB for fast loading.
- Save PDFs as Reduced Size PDFs – Adobe Acrobat allows you to save PDFs as reduced size, saving a lot of megabytes especially for photo-rich PDFs. Alternatively, use a service like Scribd or Issuu to host your PDF and embed the file.
- Don’t upload video files – Videos should always be hosted on a site like YouTube or Vimeo. This way you save on bandwidth, disk space, as well as enjoying greater exposure for your video. You can also embed unlisted YouTube videos if you want to keep them relatively private.
5 – Check your changes
Before you do anything on your site (upgrade a plugin, update a page etc.) it’s a good idea to have some sort of backup you can restore from if it all goes pear shaped.
After your changes check the website (do a hard reload of the page using the refresh button, and make sure you switch off any caching tools) for any issues.
If you want to be extra sure everything’s ok check the updated site on a mobile device, perhaps using data instead of wifi.
6 – A little knowledge can be
We don’t want to discourage anyone from teaching themselves how to manage their WordPress website but keep in mind that tinkering with your live site can result in issues you can’t fix yourself. If you need to call in the experts then it could be expensive.
If you want to experiment without the fear of destroying your official website, we suggest you create a dummy site you can play around with – try things out before attempting it on your live site.
What if you’ve broken your site? Don’t panic! It might be easier to fix than you think. Feel free to contact us for an assessment and how much the repair job will cost (it could be a free fix).
7 – Pay attention to security
Unfortunately in the tech world popularity generally means more security issues (the reason why Windows PCs were targeted by hackers more than Macs? There were more of them so it just made sense for them to focus on a bigger target).
WordPress can be a target for hackers if you’re not careful. Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself:
- Keep WordPress up-to-date – See above. It doesn’t have to be the latest version but try to stay within a few versions of the latest. Considering it’s a simple couple of clicks to update WordPress you really have no excuse!
- Try to only use reputable, up-to-date plugins – Limit your plugin use and keep them up-to-date. If you’re unsure about a plugin, feel free to check with us.
- Add an SSL certificate – A quick and easy update to your site to make it more secure.
- Use a strong password – …and try to avoid using a password you use for everything else.
8 – Keep it fresh
One of the great things about WordPress is that it’s designed to be easier to change than other systems – change the look (theme) or functionality (plugin or code files).
But you don’t even need to go to that extent to keep your website fresh.
Just keep the website pages current with your business – schedule a regular time to review your website; make sure everything’s working and it accurately reflects your business. Add or update pages (Pages menu) with new information that would be of interest to people searching for your product or service. If it’s time for a new look and you need some help just get in touch.
Your WordPress website is like a garden
How your WordPress website looks or performs is largely up to you, and how much interest you take in it. Like a garden, it might have had a good start, however the longer you neglect it the more unkempt it gets. This in turn might put you off doing anything because, like a wildly overgrown garden, you have a very real fear of what lurks underneath all the weeds.
The key is to not let it get like that in the first place. Take a determined, regular interest in your website and make it work for your business. The more you do, the better your return on investment, the more you’ll learn and the more your website will be a positive asset to the business.
And, of course, if you need any advice, we’re just a quick email away.
ps If you’re looking for some suggested website action items to get you started, check out this list.