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Tips for a smooth WordPress start

New to WordPress?

If you start off right the chances are you will carry on right. Charge in with a bullish snort and you could end up with a lot of damage in your new shop! WordPress is an absolute gem especially for the beginner, it’s easy to learn, lightning fast to install and so tempting to get started straight away without too  much thought. Here are a few basic tips to help you get off to a good start. Not comprehensive but good habits to adopt.

Tip 1 – Learn a little WordPress first

I’m not saying take to your room for months of isolated swatting up but do take a little time to learn how WordPress works in very general terms. If you’re used to html and css static sites, coming to WordPress; a database driven system can throw you somewhat … it certainly did me!

There are thousands of books, articles videos and forums online so make use of some them. YouTube is great for dipping your toes in the water. It’s a lot easier to follow a personal guide onscreen  than to plough through a rather dry and techy book when you’re gagging to get started! Better still make yourself a general annoyance to anyone who already knows what they are doing. Sitting alongside an expert can teach you a great deal especially if you set yourself a task and have your mentor guide you through. Hands on is the instinctive way to learn so be a pain… ask questions … relentlessly! You don’t need to know it all at once… just get an overview and that will help you get to grips with the detail later.

Tip 2 – DON’T EVER use the WordPress default “admin” username…. EVER!

The WordPress default login username is “admin” and I wouldn’t be surprised if even my cat knows that let alone some malicious tyke in their lonely garret intent on destroying your newly fledged creation! The WordPress login is your front door and it’s the first barrier most hackers will try to break down be they human (ha!) or robot. They will of course sniff out easy pickings with “admin” and if you haven’t taken the trouble to change that then yee-haw they’re half way there already. A few minutes running a programme through password permutations is all part of a day’s work for these types. So PLEASE create a unique, memorable and ideally unfathomable username. Your birth date won’t do I’m afraid neither will “1234”. What you need is a jumbled string of random numbers, letters, upper and lower case and symbols etc. for an Enigma worthy password. I know nothing is unbreakable but anything is better than spoon feeding Mr McHack with “admin” and “password123”. If you’re at a loss to come up with the ultimate cryptic clue WordPress even gives you a built in generator.

Tip 3 – Change Permalinks

Permawhats I hear you say. Permalinks are different ways to name or number your site pages. Strangely WordPress default page permalinks are hieroglyphic to say the least e.g. /2017/01/01/the-full-and complex-name-of-my-page. How about….. /contact-us. Is that better? KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). Get the permalinks right at the outset because changing them later will upset Google and for that you shall certainly pay in the listings race!

wordpress web analytics

Tip 4 – Know what is happening on your WordPress site

Google provides many freebies and goodies and one of the best is their Google Analytics. This neat system will tell you a lot of very useful information about your website. It will tell you who has visited your site, for how long, from where, which pages they looked at, where did they exit your site. and so on.  Google Analytics will report all your visitor traffic, even while you sleep.
When you spend a small fortune on an advertising campaign or place an unmissable offer on a page you will want to know how did it do. Was that full page advert costing a mortgage worth the investment? Did I get the number of visitors I expected or did it flop? Having that insight will guide you on future strategies. Without site traffic feedback you are working in the dark.

Tip 5 – Don’t skimp on WordPress theme quality

There are thousands of WordPress themes available, many free and others to be paid for (Premium). While price doesn’t guarantee quality, reputation and reviews will help you to filter out the glossy dross. What you should be looking for is function, flexibility, customization options, compatible with WordPress latest editions, code compliant, responsive (of course) and well-reviewed and received. The average premium theme will cost you around £40 but get a good one and it will pay for itself many times over. Get a poor theme and you will spend more time on the help (ha!) line and at the hair loss clinic than is to be recommended!

backup wordpress

Tip 6 – Ignore all other tips if you must but – NOT THIS ONE

WordPress is database driven. That means every time you look at a site page, it has actually been put together on the fly, the header, the body, images, text, video and the footer. Your page is created from data stored in a database. It’s not like the good old days when pages were html files, images were in neat folders and you could save everything neatly and complete on a disk.
If you don’t have a site and database backup you are dicing with disaster because sooner or later the odds are that you will experience the cold sweat and knee buckling nausea of a site crash. If you don’t have a backup you are well and truly up that infamously malodorous creek without propulsion!

You might get hacked, you might inadvertently mess up some vital code, you may install a dubious plugin, your server might fall over, there are many and devilishly confounding ways that things can go “clunk” so please, please, please ALWAYS BACKUP your complete site especially after working all day long on updates only to lose the lot in a gut churning crash.

Here at artworks, if you host with us you are protected with a lovely freebie BackupBuddy worth £80 per annum. Use it or lose it so goes the saying.

Tip 7 – Updating WordPress and plugins isn’t just a nicety

Ignore update notifications at your peril. They are there for very good reasons and instead of seeing them as a chore see them as life savers,  gifts from above to help you stay up to date, enjoy new features and repair those gaps in the fence where the nasty hackers worm their way in. Hackers love lazy people who let update notifications pass and light up the dashboard like Blackpool Illuminations month after month. These people are just asking to be nailed. Whenever you see an update available backup your site and then follow the update process. It only takes a minute and it will help keep you safe. Fail to update and again you are giving Johnny Rotten McHack easy access to do their worst.
I can pretty well guarantee that whenever I’m called in to “fix” a site I will, more often than not, discover an array of “update me” lights blinking pointlessly across the dashboard.

Tip 8 – Don’t use a billboard to display a thumbnail

You can upload any image of any size and WordPress will crunch it for you to display as a nice neat thumbnail BUT lurking behind that tidy facade is a huge file eating up your website storage and worse still, devouring your visitor’s data allowance as they are forced to download all that excess flabby file size. You can be sure this is the case when you see an image loading one line at a time as you drum you fingers in boredom.
It’s crucial for the efficiency of your website, the speed of your page loads and the economy of resources to prepare your images properly before uploading them to your WordPress library. Make visitors wait for an image to load, waste their mobile tariff and they will leave … never to return.

Optimising images is really quite easy and can be done with free software like Paint or The Gimp. If you really can’t do it yourself then get your friendly, local neighbourhood designer (me) to do it for you.

Summary

Follow these simple tips and you will find the whole WordPress experience a lot more enjoyable, trouble and stress free.

Need more help? No problem just call Paul on 07788 931 511

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