WordPress remains one of the most popular systems to use when creating a website. User-friendly with thousands of plugins, themes and accessories, it enables you to create a website just as you want it.
You can use website builders or code it or anything in-between. But to get the most from your WordPress website, here are 7 tips for 2019 to help you stand out.
Use a test environment to build
Before considering anything else, start with this tip – use a test environment to build your website.
The reason for this is simple – when you are building or changing your website, it is easy for something to go a little wrong and break your whole site. That could mean a loss of customers, problems for users and a generally bad experience.
A staging site is a perfect way to build or test your website without affecting what you already have. There are free apps you can download that let you test your site, or you can set up a sub-domain to create the site then move it to the main website address when it is ready.
Get familiar with Gutenberg
Gutenberg is the new WordPress editor that was introduced at the end of 2018 and replaced the Classic Editor. It uses a block building approach that is very different from the original way of creating posts and this has led to a few teething problems. But as it will be the default editor in around 2022, it is definitely worth familiarising yourself with it.
You can also use that testing site as a place to try out Gutenberg, get familiar with it and see how it works. When you try it on your live site, make plenty of checks as some people have had problems with compatibility issues when they make the switch.
Keep plugins and themes updated
This might not seem like ways to make your site stand out but the key to this is understanding that site speed and security are ranking factors with search engines. And one of the top ways that sites are hacked is due to out of date plugins or themes. These can be exploited by hackers and your site turned into something terrible that effects potential rankings for a long time.
Not only that but by updating, you get access to the latest features that the people behind these themes and plugins have created.
This may be fixing issues with the new Gutenberg editor, adding new features or simply making existing features better. The plugins and themes are one of the major benefits of WordPress, but their upkeep is also one of the big responsibilities of it.
Have a responsive site
As Google make the shift to what they call ‘mobile-first’ it is important that your site is responsive and mobile friendly. This means that whatever size screen or device type a visitor is using, they will get the full benefits of your website.
The majority of themes and plugins are already mobile friendly and will automatically change depending on the device the visitor is using.
But if you have customised your site in ways away from the default options it is worth checking that your customisations are mobile friendly.
Strong and safe hosting
One of the top reasons for visitors bouncing away from a site is that it takes too long to load. Another is that it comes up as being not secure and therefore risky – even when it isn’t really. The reasons behind these two problems are all to do with hosting for WordPress and if the host has included an SSL certificate.
The speed of hosting is crucial for the speed of the site. There are hundreds of hosts with all different pricing plans, some very inexpensive and others seemly very costly. But it is like buying a house – the bigger the house with more features, the more it costs. Hosting is similar – you want to have dedicated hosting for a quicker site then you have to pay more for it.
Site security is another big factor in that bounce rate. If you don’t have an SSL certificate on your site, then Google will flag it as unsafe and warn people. This may cause them to abandon efforts to visit your site and affect its ranking.
Cut back on unnecessary plugins
Another element that slows down your site is having too many plugins that aren’t necessary for the function of the site. It can be tempting to grab a plugin for everything, but some are resource heavy, inefficient and really not needed.
Carry out a regular audit on plugins, use free tools to check which ones impact the site the most and remove any that you don’t use or double up on other plugin features.
Get involved with the process
Finally, if you are hiring out the design or renovation of your website, don’t feel like it is something you can’t be involved with. A site is a reflection of you, and you want to ensure it does this. Work with your web designer to help them create a site that stands out, tells your story and has excellent functionality.