When people start a WordPress website or blog, they generally don’t have a lot of information about the best way to begin. Most people start off on their own or listen to bad advice from “WordPress experts” or a friend who has a website and thinks that qualifies them to give you advice.
So, what are the biggest mistakes people make with WordPress?
Designing for yourself
One of the biggest mistakes of Web design is designing for yourself instead of your users.
Your website is a blank canvas, but don't be tempted to put things on it that aren't relevant to your visitors. You might like a flowery background image; your visitors probably don't. You might also like different coloured texts all over the place, but that's so 90s.
Choosing a bad theme
Your website might look great to you and your visitors, but Google and other search engines see things differently. They see the raw code (HTML etc.) that’s lurking behind the scenes. Crappy coding can also leave your site more vulnerable to hackers and malware.
You could build your new website thinking everything looks good and performs well, but you could be very wrong. That’s why I only use and recommend WordPress themes from DIY Themes (Thesis) and Studiopress (Genesis). I’m not saying there aren’t some really good themes out there.
And, if you’re looking for a good free theme, Generate Press seems to fit the bill. There are also some other very popular themes that aren’t badly coded, but are bloated with functions and extras that can slow down your site.
Some of the most popular themes on the market at the moment are Avada (over 260,000 sales), X Theme (over 120,000 sales) and Listify if you want to build a directory.
Filling it with unnecessary stuff
When people first install WordPress, they probably see a lot of Whitespace; lots of room to put stuff. When creating your site, don’t be tempted to fill every space with a widget, photos, sign up forms, pop ups and other distractions. People want to buy stuff from you or learn something.
Make sure that what you’re selling, promoting, teaching or saying is very easy to find. Don’t clutter your site or blog with distractions.
Installing too many plugins
How many plugins is too many?
One more than you need is the simple answer.
I once worked on a client site with 55 WordPress plugins installed on it. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The site wasn’t using half of them and 10 or more weren’t necessary.
Too many plugins will slow your site down, and fill it with clutter. Before installing a plugin, ask yourself if it’s really necessary. Is it useful for your users? What value will it add?
Installing bad plugins
When you do decide that a plugin is necessary, it’s important to install the right one. There are thousands to choose from, but many of them are no longer updated. Plugins need to be updated to keep up with the latest WordPress version.
There are a few things you can look for to check if a plugin is current and can be trusted.
- Is it up-to-date?
- When was the last time the plugin updated?
- Is is compatible?
- WordPress plugins need to be tested on the current version of WordPress to make sure it’s compatible. If it hasn’t been tested on the current version, give it a wide berth.
- How popular is it?
- Its popularity will help you decide if it’s any good. Plugins that have been downloaded thousands of times should be good.
Not optimising your website
If you get all of the above right, you’re nearly there. But we still need to make sure your site performs well.
Is it fast? If it takes over 2 seconds to load, it’s not.
Are large images slowing it down? Uploading images without optimising them will slow your site down and also use more bandwidth on your web host.
Using cheap shared hosting
When you start out, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to go cheap. Why spend big bucks if you’re just getting started?
If you go cheap, go with Bluehost or Hostgator. If you’re based in the UK, Guru Cloud Hosting is highly recommended.
You can do everything right with WordPress, but pick a crap host and you’ll lose.
Other things to consider
Does your site use SSL?
You can see the Green padlock in the browser. That means this site uses encryption. Google wants you to do the same.
Are you mobile friendly?
This goes without saying really.
The world is going mobile, so if your site isn’t ready it will lose out. Google has changed their search engine to a mobile first model, which means that websites that don't work perfectly on smartphones and tablets might move down the rankings.