So, you installed your WordPress site and now is ready to go next level? Congratulations! These are my top 11 essentials tasks/factors for running WordPress smoothly, avoiding mistakes and be prepared for what is coming ahead. Creating the site (WordPress or not) is just the very start of a journey. You will spend a lot more time on updating and adding content. So here a few tips I wrote inspired on today’s episode at WpWaterCooler.
Remember that if you decided to start a site and use WordPress you are bringing some responsibilities upon yourself, specially if you do not have the required skills and/or time to learn. But don’t be afraid of trying, testing, playing with WordPress. There’s a reason this CMS is the most popular today and since there are so many people using it, chances are there will be always someone that could help you.
- Decent Hosting. There are a lot of inexpensive hosting plans on the internet. But if you do not have the technical knowledge, I recommend you going to a Managed WordPress plan. It includes support and are a bit more expensive then traditional shared hosting because includes extra services, saves you future headaches and saves your time figuring out more complex stuff like server updates, security, backups and configurations. Recently Godaddy have improved a lot the quality of theirs WordPress Hosting and includes a sidekick plugin that is really helpful for beginners (don’t be fooled by theirs 3 stars average review, they are much better now to help you with the first steps).
- Good Themes. To start, use a simple WordPress theme to learn how they work. Premium themes will require you to learn features and read documentation. If you decide to buy a theme make sure you check how/what the theme support is before buying it and know that it will have a chance for the theme to be discontinued. Also, if you will have to do a lot of heavy lifting on the cosmetics (CSS) and and/or adding custom features, it’s recommended to use a child theme.
- Backup Plan. On the very first item I said Hosting Backup. But sometimes it’s an expensive option for shared hosting and they may not do real-time backups. Meaning you can run the backup task as you wish. There are pretty good backup plugins (both free and paid). Today over 777 plugins have backup capabilities, I found this list of free backup plugins to be very reliable. It may sound complicated but can really help you down the line. If you by any chance (very high if you are a beginner) do something wrong and break your site, you will love to be capable of restoring it to a previous working state.
- Google Analytics. Do you want to know how many people are visiting your site? Where they are from? How did they found your site? What pages/posts are the most popular? Then you must install a Google Analytics plugin or check if your theme has support to add the Google Analytics code to the header or footer of your site.
- SEO. By default pretty URLs (permalinks) aren’t enabled. You should go there and enable it because together with page/post titles and h1 tags they are part of SEO 101 (That will make easier for people to find your content). Remember that your site’s homepage isn’t actually the start pointing for majority of your visitors. They use Google and making sure you look good on search results will help a lot. I use and recommend Yoast’s SEO plugin. The free version is pretty powerful and if you want to go deeper should consider the pro version.
- Security. Because WordPress is the most popular Open Source project (50% of the CMS market share) it’s also the main target for hackers. Make sure you do read: http://codex.wordpress.org/Hardening_WordPress and https://github.com/rafaelfunchal/wordpress-security-checklist/blob/master/items.md
- Dev/Staging site. Are you planning on do a personal project (without testing a lot of things) or a business project? For business sites I highly recommend a development site. This can be a bit daunting and overwhelming at the beginning but highly recommended to develop new features, test plugins and make customizations. There are tools and plugins that help you easily create a copy of your own site to run on your computer. Desktop Server, MAMP or XAMPP will be required to have your site running locally and my favorite tool to duplicate sites is BackupBuddy, but there are other plugins to help duplicate your site easily (see item 3 above).
- Learn. “When the student is ready the teacher will appear”. This quote is 130 years old and still describes very well today’s modus operandi on learning online. I would recommend you join learning communities (paid like Lynda, TreeHouse or free like Facebook groups). Make sure you Google your problem (with different terms if needed) and learn netiquette before posting on these communities. Also, search inside the communities to make sure the question wasn’t asked before. Great majority of technical issues today are already solved by someone else that had the same problem before. WordPress Meetups and WordCamps are great way to learn and network. There are over 800 WordPress Meetup groups today and most definitely one near you.
- Updates. Another main reason I recommended item 07 (development site) is to test updates. WordPress core and plugins are constantly updated. This year alone more than a dozen times. Sometimes plugins conflicts with other plugins and themes, when that happen you will need to figure it out and fix the problem.
- Debug. When you get a blank page on WordPress it’s usually because of an error. To see what the error is, you must enable debug. Make sure also you learn how to read error logs and if you turn debug on production site, after fix the problem turn back off.
- Spam. One of the most annoying things is to get lots of spamming comments. This article on reducing spam is a must read.
What’s next? If you really want to go next level on WordPress development I recommend two great books on this post: http://emanuelcosta.com/blog/2015/09/01/gracie-brazilian-jiu-jitsu-and-wordpress/
Do you think I missed an essential factor? Should I go deeper on any of these factors? Please comment and I will get back to you. Have a great one!