As many of you know, creating, maintaining and working with WordPress websites is one part of my online technology services. I’m often contacted to fix issues on websites that other web designers have built. Sometimes clients need things added, like sign up forms. Usually they contact me because things aren’t working the way they are supposed to, and they no longer are getting a response from the person who built it for them. These clients are often blown away when I explain that their website requires maintenance. It catches them completely off-guard, and they often complain that the person that built their website never once mentioned that fact to them. If you have or are considering a WordPress website for your business here are some things you should know.
WordPress can seem complex.
That’s not to say it’s necessarily hard to create a nice-looking website with WordPress. In fact, the ease of creating something professional looking is the reason there are so many people out there offering to build your website on the cheap. Unfortunately, many of them are all about creating the website and fail to educate the website owner regarding their new website. Explaining that WordPress is a framework and that it includes an array of ‘moving’ parts in the form of plugins and themes to allow for design and functionality. Each of these parts is responsible for a different aspect of the website. WordPress itself covers content, thus it’s role as a Content Management System (CMS). The theme is in charge of design, or how your website looks. Plugins are what add functionality from simple things like contact forms to complex things like page builders. Each of these parts work together to create your website. Whenever there are parts to a whole, like your website, each of those parts has the potential to break it.
Plugins and themes are created by tons of different people.
Just because a plugin or theme is available in the WordPress directories, it’s not a guarantee that it’s high quality or that it will play nice with the other plugins you may have installed on your WordPress website. There are certainly a lot of great options built on solid coding and maintained by the creators, but sadly that’s not always the case. WordPress is working hard to filter out the garbage now, but it’s still kind of a wild west situation. And of course, it’s not just the WordPress directories that offer plugins and themes. People can sell them directly or offer them on sites like Envato or Creative Market, where the WordPress powers that be have no control. It’s important to research a plugin or theme before using it. Sadly, not all people who create WordPress websites do or even understand this.
Updates are critical and can cause problems.
Recently I worked with a client who had ‘lost’ their signup form. They were unable to reach the web designer or the so-called WordPress expert that had stepped in to do a few changes recently. When I logged into the dashboard I noticed that it had been quite a while since any updates had been done to WordPress, the plugins or the theme. When I mentioned this to the client they were shocked and said the former web person had told them that they wouldn’t have to worry about any updates for a few years. A few years! The truth is, your should keep WordPress and the plugins and theme updated at all times. The reason updates happen is to fix bugs and even more importantly, to keep everything secure. Not doing updates is asking for trouble in more ways than one. You risk your site not working correctly because you’re using outdated versions. More importantly you are risking the security of your website and possibly opening yourself up to hackers.
…the former web person had told them that they wouldn’t have to worry about any WordPress updates for a few years. A few years!
So why would any WordPress ‘expert’ tell a client they didn’t need to worry about updates for a few years? Probably because they didn’t want the clients to do the updates and risk ‘breaking’ the site. It can happen. Sometimes an update doesn’t play nice with some of the other plugins you have installed. More often, updates can conflict with custom coding the ‘expert’ may have written. Especially if they don’t follow best practices like creating a child theme. Any ‘expert’ that worries more about their work breaking than the security of the client website is no expert.
WordPress itself is developed with security in mind. Overall it’s a very secure platform. That said, it’s still important to keep security in mind when creating a WordPress website. From keeping things updated, creating strong usernames and passwords to installing security plugins, there are steps that must be taken to protect your website.
Hosting matters, and all WordPress website hosting is not created equal.
Some WordPress web designers don’t stress the importance of a good hosting service. Many times, they go with what the client wants, which is usually the cheapest option. They never explain that WordPress may run extremely slow on some hosting services, or that some hosting can cause loading issues and more. Great WordPress hosting is available out there, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. It should however be suitable for WordPress. Some hosting services say they are ready for WordPress, but are far from it and perform horribly.
Just because you can DIY or hire someone cheap, you often get what you pay for.
Unless you know the ins and outs of WordPress, expecting to get a professional looking, highly functional website by doing it yourself is unlikely. And hiring someone to create it for you on the cheap is most likely asking for the type of problems I’m called in to fix on an almost daily basis. When hiring someone to build your WordPress website, there are more important things than the price. Do they offer support after the build? Do they have tutorials or training on how to create posts, new pages and/or change copy on your pages? Has the need for maintenance in the form of updates been explained? They don’t need to educate you on every detail of your WordPress website, but they should offer you the basics.
There are many reasons that WordPress powers so many business websites. It’s relatively easy and inexpensive, as well as extremely flexible as far as functionality is concerned thanks to the availability of plugins and themes. It’s scalable, so it can grow and change with your business. It is also SEO friendly and makes content marketing /business blogging a breeze. Overall, it’s an excellent choice for your small business website, but keep the six points above in mind and you’re on your way to success with your WordPress website.
*some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning if you purchase after clicking through one of them I may receive enough compensation to get a Cold Brew Pistachio Almond Fudge coffee at Dunkin’ rather than brewing a cup at home.