WordPress 101: Attitudes to Avoid (Part I)

So you’ve got yourself a WordPress website. Don’t worry – that’s a good thing! WordPress is said to rule the
web, powering a third of the 10 million most popular websites. And deservedly so: it’s free, easy to use, and
almost infinitely customizable.
Of course, with that flexibility comes the potential for errors, some of which may never occur to a budding
website builder. Again – don’t worry! That’s the point of this post and the next – to point out some common
errors and how to avoid them.
(Just a quick note: there are two flavours of WordPress – wordpress.com and wordpress.org. The .com
variant is a lot simpler and less customizable, unless you purchase a business plan upgrade. The .org version
is a far more flexible builder which, though free to use, requires you to host, build and maintain the site
yourself. Since we’re talking about things to avoid when building and maintaining your own website, we will
mainly focus on the second flavour.)
SO, here are a few things to watch out for when building your own WordPress wonder …

1. “What’s the worst that could happen?”

The number of times we’ve all lost our work on some project by not saving periodically, or everything on our
hard drive by not backing it up – these are painful memories. Remember that feeling when dealing with your
new website.
Back Stuff Up. Bad things happen to websites that are not backed up. Bad, bad things. Do it often, at least
after all major site adjustments and before all – repeat all – updates. Why before updates? Because there
is always the chance that something in the new update will clash with something else in your website. So, by
backing up before updates you have a contingency plan in place in case the worst happens.
But do you really need to do all those updates? Yes. Plugins, themes, even WordPress itself is often being
updated, most of which are plugging security loopholes that hackers will use if given the chance. Don’t give
them the chance.
How do you avoid these doomsday scenarios? Put a regular backup plan in place and make sure it works.
Some host platforms offer a complementary backup service – does yours? If not, there are many plugins and
offsite providers that can be used to set up scheduled backups. Whatever your preference, make sure to
choose one and do it often: you never know when your next click might be your last.

2. “More is always more”

While this is true of basic math logic and, say, popcorn, it is not true of WordPress. Tempting as it is to fill
your site with myriads of fancy bits and pieces, be warned: complications often = problems.
Plugins are a big one. But they’re soooo handy! we hear you cry. And they are! But not that handy. The more
glitzy plugins you throw in, the more your site will be dragged down by the weight of all the toys it’s carrying.
Plus, not all of said toys necessarily play well together and may conflict badly (think Toy Story 3). Can this be
avoided altogether? Not really; sometimes things just happen, man. Can it be helped? Definitely: Use fewer
plugins, more effectively.

Same applies to pictures – just because you took amazing photos on your DSLR camera and they’re so hi-def
you could cry, doesn’t mean they should be uploaded as is. Sadly you do have to optimise your images, or
else they’ll take an age to load each time. (There are plugins that can do this, or you could create a smaller
version in Photoshop.)
Finally, categories and tags. It’s easy to have lots of “useful” categories but few “annoying” tags; yet in
reality it should be the other way around. Think about a filing system: having every single file in its own
folder is just annoying, but having lots of cross-references linking similar ones up across folders is great. So:
fewer categories, more tags.
Remember that what visitors to your site really want is to trust you, and simple yet effective design is worth
more than all the toys in all the world. Another benefit of restraint is it allows for more responsive design,
which enables your website to adjust to any screen size – a design feature well worth investigating.

These are just two of the biggest pitfalls a budding website builder should avoid. The next post looks at
another couple – this time more focused on details that are commonly missed.

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