WordPress has certainly changed the world of web design and today it powers over 34% of websites on the internet and steadily growing.
WordPress is an extremely popular tool, it definitely requires a steep learning curve but when used incorrectly can have a negative impact on websites online presence.
Having worked with WordPress for over 10 years and taking over projects from previous web developers, I’ve come across a number of issues & mistakes which are commonly made.
In this article we’ll look a common mistakes made during WordPress web development that if avoided can impact user experience, search ranking and overall online success.
1) No using Child Theme
A child theme inherits its style and functionality from a parent theme which is used for site customization’s. When installing a theme in WordPress, it’s important to create a subfolder in the WordPress theme directory typically named ‘Child Theme’. This folder commonly has a file named functions.php which is used to extend functionality and style.css which is used to customize elements on a website.
Why is a child theme important?
WordPress themes require updates much like the WordPress core files and plugins. The updates add security patches, optimized code and additional functionality.
If a child theme is not installed and updates were previously made to the parent theme files, then those changes risk being overwritten upon theme updates.
2) Installing too many plugins
As mentioned previously, plugins can extend functionality on a website by adding code/files to the website.
Unfortunately WordPress developers can often times become “plugin happy” and end up installing too many plugins which can result in slower site performance or potentially conflict with existing plugins.
I also often find that unnecessary plugins are installed which could have otherwise been avoided by simply using existing themes functionality or adding basic code. For example:
i) Installing a Google XML sitemap plugin when YOAST is already installed which creates XML sitemap.
ii) Installing a redirect plugin when basic 301 redirect entries could be made to the .htaccess file.
ii) Installing a plugin to add CSS/JS code to the website when most modern themes already provide this ability.
3) Not paying attention to site performance
Site speed is extremely important as it can impact how users respond to your website. Think about what you do whenever you land on a page that takes too long to load. You probably leave and go to another site?
This complete disregard for site performance can be costly for businesses as potential customers leave for competitor’s websites.
Fact is, site speed can increase bounce rate (percentage of visitors who leave after viewing 1 page), search engine ranking (yes, Google considers it a ranking factor) and conversions (sales/leads).
Tips to increase WordPress site performance
i) Install a caching plugin. WordPress has several WordPress plugins such as Super Cache, W3 Total Cache and WP Rocket which can dramatically increase page speed by compressing files.
ii) Choose a good hosting company for your WordPress web site. When it comes to hosting you typically get what you pay for and being on a good server can have a drastic impact on loading time.
iii) Optimize images. Many web designers make the mistake of uploading high resolution images which require more time for your browser to download. This in turn impact page loading time.
You should aim to get your website to load within 3 seconds. You can test your loading time by visiting https://tools.pingdom.com.
4) Not installing Google Analytics
Not installing Google Analytics may not be something that is related to WordPress but often neglected and misused by amateur web designers and crucial to building a strong online presence.
Google Analytics is a free online tool that allows you to to better understand website traffic and user behaviour. By using collected data, site owners can make calculated decisions on improving their website, campaigns and measure results.
Often times I see additional plugins installed to add GA code when it can simply be placed in the header file of the theme.
TIP: CAOS and WP Rocket are two plugins which allow you to host Google Analytics files locally which can further improve page speed.
5) Not using Google Console
Google Search Console (or know to many as Google Webmaster Tools) is another free online tool provided by Google which allows site owners to monitor, troubleshoot and maintain your sites search presence in Google. In simpler terms, it allows you to manage how Google sees your website.
With Google Console you can submit your websites XML sitemap to let Google know which pages you’d like to index in search, find out which search queries are leading visitors to your website, website issues such as usability, crawl issues and receive alerts if any problems are encountered on your website.
This tool is not only misused by completely neglected by many web designers altogether.
6) Choosing the wrong theme
Choosing the wrong theme can impact the development, management, style, performance and overall success of your website.
Often times web developers will choose a theme simply because it fits their niche. IE if they’re building a website for a dentist then they’ll pick a theme for dental offices.
WordPress themes have evolved quite a bit in the last 10 years and several are flexible enough that they can be used as a framework to achieve almost any design concept.
Popular themes like DIVI and Avada are the two of the top selling WordPress themes of all time largely due to their flexibility and feature-rich capabilities. They also require a learning curve as they are also often misused by web developers.
7) Poor choice of plugins
There are over 50,000 plugins available for WordPress.
It’s impossible for web developers to know every plugin available. There are probably hundreds plugins that allow you to build contact forms.
It’s important to choose the best plugins for your clients to meet their project or budget needs. For example I may use Contact Form 7 for startups but Gravity Forms for medium to large projects.
Choosing the wrong plugins can negatively impact site performance, conflict with existing plugins or worse, break your website.
8) Ignoring WordPress Security & Spam Protection
Having your website compromised by hackers is not something you ever want to experience.
From DDOS attacks, code injections and spam bots, these are issues that are more common than some might thing and extremely important to safeguard your website against.
9. Not setting up permalink structure
WordPress uses a default permalink structure when creating page URL’s that includes post ID’s and isn’t exactly user-friendly.
While this isn’t the most difficult task it is one that should be set prior to launching a website or it can lead to a massive headache and require a lot of time if you decide to make this change in the future.
I typically just use the post name when setting the permalink structure to keep URL’s shorter and only include the title or keywords.
Although WordPress is easy to work for web development common mistakes can often lead to compromised user performance, search ranking and online success.
For business owners, these common WordPress mistakes often made by inexperienced web developers can be quite costly which is why hiring a professional WordPress developer is important.
As a web developer these points can help you step up your WordPress web development game and provide your clients with more superior service and help avoid future headaches.