WordPress hosts a great number of websites in all industries. Whether a small business, nonprofit, podcast, online store, or blog, millions have found success by hosting their websites on WordPress.
However, that doesn’t mean that everyone who uses the platform is a WordPress expert. With all the plugins and themes available, what is the best way to create a website that is both well designed and functions properly? Sometimes, you need a little support to accomplish your goals, engage your audience, and drive conversions.
If you’re a part of the marketing team for your organization and are navigating how to best use WordPress, you may decide to conduct research on your own to determine the best steps regarding your site. Or, you can partner with experts to gain valuable insights and alleviate some of the work.
We at Kanopi Studios have worked with numerous clients with their WordPress challenges, whether it’s general support or more direct guidance on regular WordPress maintenance. To help you with your own WordPress site, we’ve written this guide to explore the following support tips:
- Back-up your website regularly.
- Update system immediately.
- Prioritize user experience.
- Update content with the times.
- Make sure your site is accessible.
Your website is the virtual face of your organization or business — it’s worth it to take the time and make it the best it can be! Let’s dive in.
1. Back-Up Your Website Regularly
If you’ve worked on websites at all, you know what it’s like to accidentally delete an important element of your webpage. Maybe your internet flickered and you lost all of your work or maybe you were just a little too quick to hit the “delete” button. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.
Backing up your website regularly ensures that you’ll be able to restore content when this type of issue occurs.
It’s a best practice to keep a few different backups of your website. Three is a good number to start with, but more is always an option. This ensures that if one backup gets damaged, lost, or corrupted, you’ll have another option to work with. Of course, you’ll want to back up your site on the server, but you should also use external devices to store these versions of your site such as:
- Thumb drives
- External hard drives
- Local computers
You can either schedule regular backups to occur or conduct them manually. We recommend that if you’re working with an outside organization to help you with your WordPress support, that you check in with them to see what services they offer regarding backups.
2. Update Immediately
You’ve seen updates occur on your various devices and software solutions. Your phone probably notifies you regularly every few months with an update available for you to gain access to the latest software version. How often do you simply say, “I’ll do that later,” snooze the notification, and totally forget about it?
When WordPress updates come out, you should make sure that you’re updating to the latest version immediately. Don’t snooze and forget about the update notification. Why is this so important?
WordPress updates fix bugs, tighten security, and better protect your website.
When you fail to update right away, you’re leaving your website open to potential threats. This could leave the data on your site vulnerable to hacks and breaches. Therefore, make sure you update your site as soon as possible after you receive the notification for the update!
In addition to updating WordPress itself, keep an eye out for updates that become available for plugins and themes that you use to create your website content. These updates accomplish the same goal of tightening security for your site and ensure that all components work together. For instance, if you update your WordPress version but not your plugins, they might not be compatible anymore.
Of course, this shouldn’t be your only method of securing your website from outside threats. Make sure you’ve successfully implemented strong authentication standards so that your website password doesn’t present another weakness that others can use to penetrate your site’s data.
3. Prioritize User Experience
Put yourself in a user’s shoes for a moment. Imagine you’re conducting a simple Google search to find a recipe to cook for dinner tonight. You Google “healthy chicken recipes” and come up with a whole list of results. You navigate to the top result. The recipe it shows looks good, but you want to see what else the website has to offer that you could make for dinner.
However, when you go to look for other recipes, you can’t seem to find where they’re listed. You search and find ones for “southern cooking” or “beef stroganoff,” but nothing else that’s applicable to your craving for a healthy chicken dinner. Therefore, you navigate away from the site and go back to Google to try again.
The problem probably isn’t that the website has no other chicken recipes. The problem is that the navigation for the website is ill-suited for the user experience.
A good user experience (UX) directly impacts the conversions your website receives. If visitors can’t find what it is they need or are left confused, you’ll quickly lose their engagement and, therefore, their potential to convert.
Luckily, there are certain steps you can take to help support your UX on your website, such as:
- Test your navigation. Ask a third-party to find certain elements on your website and to time how long it takes them to find them. After they’ve completed this digital scavenger hunt, ask them for feedback about their experience. Were they frustrated at any point? Did it take too long to find certain information? This can help you learn where there are opportunities to improve your website’s navigation.
- Incorporate chatbots for customer service. Chatbots, whether operated by AI or by a dedicated person at your organization, are a great way to answer quick questions and to improve the user experience of a website visitor. If they are having difficulty navigating some aspect of your site, they can simply type their question into the chatbot in the bottom right corner of the site and receive a message with a direct answer or the link to the correct resource.
- Streamline user actions. If you want visitors to complete an action on your site, make it as simple as possible for them to do so. For example, if you want people to subscribe to your blog, don’t ask them to provide more than the essential information for them to do so. If you request them to enter their phone number, address, and reason for subscribing, you’re providing that many more opportunities for them to abandon the form and leave your site.
This is true for all websites, whether you’re a part of a nonprofit trying to increase donations, a blog enticing people to subscribe, or a small business looking to make a sale. If site visitors don’t have a good experience, they won’t convert and they won’t come back.
Instead, focus on incorporating specific UX elements into your site to create a smooth and engaging experience for all visitors. If you’re unsure about what good UX looks like, check out examples from other top sites, especially those with an apparent audience to whom they’re appealing. For example, this resource lists some of the top college websites.
College websites are a great place to start because they have the obvious audiences of students, prospective students, and families. Put yourself in the shoes of those audiences and start exploring to see what it’s like!
4. Update Content with the Times
How often do you search the web for something and come across a site that is obviously outdated? Probably fairly often. You can tell when a website is out of date when the content is old and the design is not updated with the latest web trends.
Don’t let your website get to this point! Outdated web content turns readers away from your site.
According to this Kanopi website maintenance guide, the best approach to ensure your content doesn’t end up out-of-date is to take a continuous improvement approach. With this approach, you make small changes on your site over time rather than completely overhaul the content when you start to notice that it’s becoming out-of-date. This extends the life of your site and helps you avoid the expense of complete overhauls every few years.
As you update your content, be sure that you:
- Keep your audience in mind. Creating user personas and mapping the user’s journey on your site can help you better understand what their experience looks like and ensure your UX while making updates. The last thing that you want is to make an update that actually harms the UX on your site.
- Test any new features. When incorporating new features or new tools on your site, always make sure they’re working properly during updates. For instance, if you add a chatbot to your site, make sure you receive the messages from it in a timely manner and can respond quickly.
- Consider SEO. Search engine optimization (SEO) best practices are not only designed to get your website in front of more people, but can also help you make sure you’re meeting the needs of your audience. For example, by identifying the keywords that your audience is most interested in, you can be sure you have content on your site that addresses those topics comprehensively.
You have an option to either implement these improvements yourself or to work with a dedicated website agency that can help implement them for you. Website agencies can create concrete plans for massive overhauls (if you’re due for one), then identify the small opportunities for improvement over time as you continue working with them. They can also create a plan once your partnership ends to ensure your website is never entirely out of date.
5. Make Sure Your Site is Accessible
Your website is the central hub of information for your entire digital marketing strategy. When you post to social media, you likely link your readers back to content on your website. When you send emails to your audience, you might guide them to another page on your site where they can learn more about the information in the email.
Think of your digital marketing strategy almost like a spider web. The center of the web is what holds everything together and connects all other aspects of your marketing. Then, the other strings hold that central resource up and lead back to the center.
Accudata’s digital marketing guide explains this phenomenon by saying,
“Through these multiple channels, your audience is greeted with a variety of advertisements and other marketing communications. Then, these multiple impressions push audience members to convert.”
The multiple marketing channels you use lead users to convert on your website. However, if your website is not accessible, you won’t be able to maximize these conversions no matter how effective your digital marketing strategy is.
About 26% of individuals in the United States have some type of disability. Some people are getting older and having difficulty hearing or seeing online content and others may have been born with a disability making it difficult to access online content. No matter how they come across your marketing materials, when they arrive at your site, they should have no trouble reading your website’s information.
Therefore, your website should be sure to comply with the various online accessibility regulations and guidelines. For example, make sure your content is:
- Perceivable. All users can access the information on-screen.
- Operable. Users with assistive technology can also access the information on-screen.
- Understandable. Readers can make sense of the information they find on your site.
- Robust. The site is robust enough to allow for all users to have an equally great experience.
These are just some examples of the guidelines available for web accessibility. Having a third-party review your site to ensure you adhere to these and other accessibility standards is an important step in your WordPress development.
WordPress has robust capabilities to create beautiful and highly engaging websites. However, sometimes, you need a little support to get there. You can obtain this support by conducting research or you can invest in a firm that will help you make the most of your online content. Good luck!
As Founder and CEO of Kanopi Studios, Anne helps create clarity around project needs, and turns client conversations into actionable outcomes. She enjoys helping clients identify their problems, and then empowering the Kanopi team to execute great solutions. Anne is an advocate for open source and co-organizes the Bay Area Drupal Camp. When she’s not contributing to the community or running her thoughtful web agency, she enjoys yoga, meditation, treehouses, dharma, cycling, paddle boarding, kayaking, and hanging with her nephew.