Around Speak, we love Wordpress, and we build a lot of websites on Wordpress, but there’s a misconception that we hear from time to time: Wordpress is great because it’s free.
The truth: Wordpress is great, but unless you want a nightmare on your hands, it’s not free.
Here are some recommendations that will make your Wordpress-backed website the incredible experience it should be for you and your patrons.
Quality setup with respected plugins
When building your Wordpress website, the plugins you use matter. At its core, Wordpress is still a fairly simple and streamlined toolkit. If you want to bring functionality to your website, like calendars, location maps, contact forms, layout control, etc., you’ll need a plugin.
Plugins are built by the Wordpress developer community, so it’s worth doing some research into any plugin and the developer of that plugin. The easiest way to do this is to head to wordpress.org/plugins. When you find a plugin you’re interested in using, take a quick look at the details and ensure that the plugin is widely used, broadly supported, and well respected.
If we take a quick look at the details of this example plugin, you’ll see it was last updated a week ago, it has over 5 million installations and supports the latest couple of iterations of the Wordpress core (5.4 & 5.3). If you really want to dig into details about how the developer has supported the plugin over time, you can click on “Advanced View” to see how many support issues have been submitted (and resolved) by the developer over a given period of time.
This type of research is important because Wordpress plugins are a huge point of security vulnerability with your website.
Investing in a premium plugin that is actively supported by a dedicated development team is much less expensive in the long run than opting for a free plugin.
Of course, if you can find a broadly-supported, free plugin, that’s great! But don’t cheap out on your plugins. Investing in a quality setup is the first step to ensuring a long, happy experience with your Wordpress website.
Yes, you can get cheap Wordpress hosting for a few bucks a month, but when quality hosting makes a huge difference in your security and sanity. Our Wordpress hosting environment delivers what we would consider a business-class level of service and offers a good benchmark for evaluating other hosting arrangements. A few key points:
- High-speed: You should be able to count on load-time reliability
- Cloud-based: Your hosting implementation should be able to scale at need
- CDN-enabled: Using a CDN improves performance and content availability
- Secure: Our environment actively looks for and blocks suspicious behaviors and IPs
It’s a problem for you and your brand if your website doesn’t perform because you chose the least expensive provider, so make an investment in your Wordpress hosting platform — you’ll be glad you did.
Maintenance of the platform
Wordpress is constantly being updated, and these updates often contain key security and performance solutions. It’s critically important that you update your version of Wordpress as soon as possible after updates have been made available.
Do you remember just a few paragraphs ago when we discussed how important it is to choose high-quality plugins? They play a huge role in updates as well. When Wordpress issues an update, reputable, high-quality plugin authors and developers have already been testing their plugins in the latest dev version of Wordpress, so they will be ready to roll out plugin updates right along with the core system update (or very shortly thereafter).
Plugins that are not as well supported will lag behind, and the security vulnerabilities we mentioned earlier will become apparent as your plugins fall behind. This means that you might come to a point where you feel the need to choose between updating your version of Wordpress OR not updating so your favorite plugin keeps working (because it doesn’t work with the updated version of Wordpress). If all of this sounds a little convoluted and confusing, it’s because it kind of is. This scenario highlights the importance of good plugin selection right from the start.
Keep your Wordpress implementation updated, and keep your plugins updated along with the core system. The investment required here is time and vigilance. A lack of time and attention can lead to some pretty catastrophic problems.
A hand to hold (Support)
When something breaks (it’s a website, something will eventually break), do you have the expertise to fix the problem? Do you know how to quickly track down a bug, swap out a plugin, and/or make a database update? Do you know how to troubleshoot a load-speed issue? The beauty of Wordpress is that you can get a version up and running relatively quickly and inexpensively.
The problem with Wordpress is that you can get a version up and running relatively quickly and inexpensively.
You see, unless you have a dedicated team to back you up, you can run into an issue and have absolutely nowhere to go except to a place like a Wordpress support forum to see if a stranger might be able to help you out of the kindness of his or her heart. That’s not exactly where most of the organizations we work with can afford to find themselves.
If you’re a serious organization, it’s important to have a dedicated support team who can help you with issues as they arise: a team who doesn’t mind answering an email or phone call and who know how to help you track down what’s going on. You need a partner who can get you help at night or on a weekend before your big event. In short, it’s worth investing in a team who has your back.
Where does that leave us?
Why do we point out these key points of investment with Wordpress? Because it is a fantastic system with near-unlimited potential to make your website do everything you need it to do, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking Wordpress is free. If you’re a reputable organization, you should be investing in each of the above areas to ensure you are following security, performance, and support best practices.
If you haven’t been investing in your Wordpress environment, or if you find yourself in need of a new partner; heck, if you find yourself in a mess, we’d love to connect with you. Whether we are helping you reimagine your website from scratch or taking over the maintenance of an existing website, we can bring you peace of mind through a partnership that is focused on helping you get the most out of your website.
Postscript: a shoutout to secure passwords
It is extremely easy to see if a website is running Wordpress, and because it is such a well-known system, it’s easy for people to know exactly how to login to your website. The one bulwark against this type of intrusion is a secure password. The easiest way to generate a secure password is to use a password manager like LastPass, but regardless of how you generate and keep up with your passwords, please please please use secure passwords with your website.