WordPress is a great format for small businesses for a good website with some nice bells and whistles that are easy to add and adjust on the fly. There are a few words of caution when working with WordPress that I want people to keep in mind as they begin building their site. I encourage business owners to use WordPress, and a majority of my clients use it for their website, but there are some things to definitely add to your to-do list or at least be aware of going in. Below is a list of a few to keep in mind when jumping in.
Use Themes With Support
One of the aspects of building a WordPress website is picking a theme. There are many, many themes to choose from, and they are a basic site structure that you sort of fill your information into. It requires less custom coding (which I’ll get to in a moment) to use a theme. Themes are offered by different companies or designers and many have regular updates and support. Though you can’t be certain that your theme will have continued support, it is generally a good idea to pick one from a source that has a good history of quality and support. Every time there is a WordPress update, there is a chance for conflict with your theme that can make it crash the site. If you have a good relationship with your developer, they can help deal with these, but they are easier if the theme creator is regularly keeping up themselves. We all want that perfect website that does everything exactly the way we want it to, but sometimes it is better to weigh the risk and make sure you are using a stable format.
Be Careful With Custom Coding
As I mentioned above, getting your website to do exactly what you want is wonderful, and sometimes we get a little carried away with having our developer add all sorts of bells and whistles. This is all fine if you have a great relationship with your developer. There are definitely great and trustworthy ones out there, but if you don’t know them that well, consider that the more custom coding they do, the more difficult it will be to fix and update and make changes to your site down the road if you no longer have a relationship. If a WordPress update breaks your site, it is sometimes difficult to find a new developer that finds it worth their time to fix another developer’s custom coding. Most often, they will simply recommend redoing the whole site, and starting over. Again, a good relationship with a developer is good here, but a spot where choosing a cheap developer or one you don’t know can lead to a poison pill a few months down the road when WordPress updates and you potentially have your whole site crash and nobody can help you.
Frequent Site Backups and a Staging Area
This applies to any site, even if not in WordPress, but I recommend a hosting plan with as many backups as possible In an age with people trying to constantly hack sites along with the risks of sites crashing due to plugins or themes as mentioned above, it is important to have regular backups so that if something goes wrong, you can always go to this recent backup and not lose lots of work and information. I would recommend a hosting plan that not only has backups, but has a staging area so when you make changes to the site, you can test them somewhere before going live. Your developer can help you with this if they know what they are doing.
With the constantly evolving world of the internet, you will likely be adding plugins and widgets to your site over time. This is one of the benefits of WordPress, and again despite the warnings, WordPress is a great tool. However, the different widgets and plugins you add to the site need to work with each update of the site and WordPress. It is a good idea again to have a good developer to make sure you do regular updates to all of these things. Plugins, WordPress versions, security, should be updated on a regular basis. You should build this into your plan for your website. It doesn’t stop once the site is built. You need to take care of the site and keep it healthy. I have a network of trustworthy developers I work with that have a maintenance plan. If you have decided you trust someone to build your site, you should also do a maintenance plan including updates. If you have lost touch with your developer and need maintenance, give us a shout and we can connect you with a trusted developer.
Don’t let this post scare you away from WordPress. It is an extremely flexible and easy to use tool. I recommend it. You just need to go into it with a good understanding of the ongoing work involved in keeping your site healthy and working great, not just for SEO, but for simple functionality.