We don’t hide our love for the WordPress platform here at Lieberman. It provides the building blocks needed to create some masterpieces of web design, and it’s a tool we proudly have years of experience in providing for clients. It’s accessible, customizable, and, well, downright pretty. Even if you have never built a website before, it is the go-to choice for millions for the foundation of their digital marketing strategy.
There is, however, a cautionary tale to tell. As forgiving as it may seem, there are many things you can do to a WordPress site to really bog yourself and your users down with poor experiences, bad SEO practices, and an overall bad time for everyone involved. Part of what you have to accept when working with an open-source solution is that, yes, sometimes things break or aren’t as user-friendly as we would like them to be.
Do not panic, however. Take a deep breath and think peaceful thoughts. Every WordPress site is its own special snowflake of optimizations and setup, but there are a few general principles that apply across the board. By keeping these things in mind as you work with the day-to-day operations of your site, you can make things a lot easier for yourself and your audience.
1. It starts with the WordPress Theme
The editing power of your WordPress site will exist in the theme – the visual display settings for your site that are either purchased from an online store or downloaded from WordPress itself. If you know what features you want your website to have, make sure that your theme can support it before you try and fit a round peg into a square hole. Often times, as the community becomes more experienced and has time to learn the tools, the features you desire will come packaged with the theme. Investing in a good theme, whether it’s off the shelf or a custom WordPress design, is the first step to becoming at peace with your setup.
2. Attention to detail will be rewarded
Give everything a descriptive title, from the overall site to each individual post. Make sure your images all have alt tags and titles. Tag posts in a way that makes sense and allows people to find similar content, and use categories to keep that content together for users to easily find. Not only will this keep things organized for you going forward, it will pay dividends for your organic search rankings. By taking advantage of WordPress’s architecture and making sure every post and page gets its due process, you will find it easier to reap the platform’s benefits.
3. Just because there’s a plugin for it, doesn’t mean you should install it.
The plugin functionality of WordPress is a blessing and a curse, and can both unleash the true potential of your website and turn it into an unusable mess. With thousands of options to choose from, make sure you do thorough research before adding any plugin to your site, regardless of what it does or however small it may seem. I have seen sites with more than 30 plugins that just wreak all sorts of havoc on the user experience of the site. Outside of the cream that has risen to the top (we are particularly fond of the Yoast SEO plugin, for example), practice due diligence before clicking the “Install” button.
4. Be strategic with your menus
The great thing about the menu structure of WordPress themes is that you can put any site, in any order, and with any label in the space provided. With that opportunity, however, comes the chance to waste the potential of helping your audience get to where you want them to go. If you know the content you want to emphasize or the sites that your audience specifically needs when visiting your site, be sure that the menu is clearly labeled and easy to use.
Overly complex menus can also hinder the performance of your website. The WordPress menu system is heavy on database queries and is one of the most inefficient elements of WordPress.
5. Prepare for the worst, just in case.
Odds are, no matter how careful you are, something will either break or not work the way you would like it to work. This is a fact of life. It is also a fact of life that there is a community of developers and users just like you that span the globe, using the same tools and running into the same problems you are. No problem is unfixable as long as you are backing your site up, but that requires you to back up regularly. If your host doesn’t do this for you, we can help set up a solution that will give you true peace of mind.
If you need a new site, it’s hard to do much better than the WordPress platform as a starting point. With the right team working with you and these guidelines, you can achieve website zen, not to mention success and measurable return on investment.