There will be many people whose New Year’s Resolution is to make a WordPress website. Whether it be for a new business or as a hobby, it will be beneficial to take the time to consider common new site owner pitfalls that we see all the time.
10. Using copyrighted images
It is very tempting to make your new website look snazzy by “borrowing” images you find on the Internet. After all, if you can right click and download it, it is free, right?
Wrong! While you may easily download that amazing image for your header background, it certainly isn’t yours to use on your own site. You may think “my site is so small and insignificant, nobody will ever know!”. The fact of the matter is that there are many businesses whose sole purpose is crawling the Internet for copyright violations, and you may get a shockingly hefty bill from a lawyer when you least expect it.
9. Not enough content
Few things are more embarrassing that launching a website with half the pages saying “Coming Soon!” or, even worse, “Loren Ipsum…” because you didn’t get around to writing the content for those pages. Double-check every page to make sure the information is complete and accurate, or else you’ll be perceived as a total amateur.
8. Not enough thought given to data collection
If a major component of your site is to collect user data via forms, newsletter subscriptions, memberships, etc. be sure to think carefully of what the data should look like and what it will be used for. As we have discussed elsewhere small mistakes at the beginning (such as using one field for name instead of separate first and last name fields) can lead to major headaches down the road. Unless you really enjoy tediously manipulating spreadsheets, take the time to do it right the first time.
7. Not establishing a proper email management system
Have you ever considering doing business with a website like “Super Professional Roofing Contractors” and their business email is listed as “firstname.lastname@example.org”? It doesn’t exactly say “professional and trustworthy” (regardless if you like the Packers or not).
Virtually every hosting provider will have a method to self-host a professional business email, usually for free. Take the time to set up and learn how to use this system prior to launching your site. Better yet, consider using a service such as Google Workspace as you can then take advantage of all the powerful tools Google has to offer like cloud storage, virtual conference calls, a calendar system, etc.
6. Skimping on hosting
It is very tempting to start out with the cheapest hosting plan available. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for. Before you commit to any provider, consider the following:
- Does it have the latest version of PHP? (Older versions of PHP are not secure, and are increasingly incompatible with the latest versions of WordPress)
- How much storage does it allow, and is that sufficient for growth and hosting a secondary development site?
- Does it have regular security scans?
- Does it include an SSL certificate?
- Does it have helpful, on demand support?
If the answer to any of the above is No, proceed to look elsewhere.
5. Using unsupported plugins and themes
Not all plugins and themes are created equal. Be sure to do your homework, compare plugins and themes, and ask questions before taking the plunge. One of the most important things to look for is when the plugin/theme was last updated. If the plugin/theme hasn’t been touched in 6 months and the support forums have been unanswered for a long time, perhaps you are getting yourself into a bad situation. An unsupported plugin can turn into a headache at best, and a security emergency at worst. Additionally, migrating from one theme to another is a massive hassle, so make some good decisions up front.
4. Not using good payment methods on an Ecommerce site
If your site is using WooCommerce or some other method to collect payments, carefully consider how you will be collecting those payments. It may be tempting to use PayPal Express due to its ease of set up for most applications, but it can put you in a difficult situation pretty quickly, especially if you are trying to sell subscription products. Take the time to carefully review all possible options, and go through the process to set up something that will make life easier for you down the road.
3. Not thinking about Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
A website isn’t very worthwhile if nobody can ever find it. Consider SEO best practices from the very beginning so you don’t have to go back and rewrite the entire site. SEO is a massive subject with an almost overwhelming amount of advice available, so ignorance is certainly not an excuse to not be practicing it. If nothing else take advantage of the hugely popular and free Yoast SEO plugin to get you going down the right track.
2. Designing for Desktop only
Since the majority of website visits these days are through mobile devices, it is imperative that your site looks and functions very well on a mobile browser. Your uncle may have built a state of the art website in 1997 using frames and scrolling marquees, but ignore his advice when choosing a theme. Be sure when picking a theme to view it on as many devices as you can to make sure the site will work anywhere on anything.
1. Being in a big rush to launch
Probably the #1 issue that leads to stress, panic, and poor results is simply launching a site before it is ready. Test, review, and test again until you are sick of it, and then do it some more. Better yet, enlist some trusted friends to try it out as well and ask for constructive criticism. Someone looking at the site for the first time can point out some very obvious things that you may be oblivious to, such as “This button doesn’t actually seem to do anything” or “I have no idea how to get to page x without knowing the URL beforehand”. These little checks can be very revealing and will save you stress and potential embarrassment post-launch.
Hopefully these tips above will help you on your quest to build a new WordPress website. Have a great and prosperous New Year!