12 Do’s and Don’ts for a Successful WordPress Website

Whether you’re running a multinational billion-dollar business, or you just like to blog about your favorite hobby, odds are WordPress is your online platform of choice, thanks to its flexibility, huge community support forums, and the fact that it’s free and open source.

If you’re one of the 75 million proud owners of a WordPress website, or you’re just getting ready to jump onboard and put up your very first site, there are some basics do’s and don’ts you should be aware of that can contribute to or hinder your success. Let’s look at 12 key issues designed to help you avoid pitfalls and instead launch you toward the website of your dreams.

Do Go it Alone

Instinctually, going it alone may sound like a don’t, but in WordPress world, it’s a definite do! The concept known as “bootstrapping” in the business world means going it alone without any investors.

Many top WordPress entrepreneurs recommend bootstrapping because it’s a perfect fit for the entrepreneur starting on WordPress. WordPress has robust community support and getting started with WordPress is very inexpensive (the platform is free), meaning you take minimal risk and the rewards are yours to keep.

WordPress’ thriving community of developers keeps the platform powerful, fresh and up-to-date. Bootstrapping is possible when you have a strong community behind you and plenty of talented developers. Many entrepreneurs have created a successful business from the sweat of their brow, their own skills, talents and ambitions. WordPress is the perfect foundation from which to build.

Do Create Client/Customer Benefits

Another one for the “do” list is to consider how to turn the features of WordPress into client/customer benefits. WordPress offers an impressive bundle of benefits that you can neatly package for the benefit of your clients/customers. Using WordPress allows for frequent updating and the opportunity to reach out to your customer base and make a fuss about the new thing you can offer them.

Some great examples of new features you could implement on your WordPress site include advanced security features, personalization options, multi-language support, support for a number of currencies and shipping methods and the addition of multimedia. With WordPress, users around the world can easily order products in a secure environment, choose their preferred shipping method, and pay with their native currency. Users can easily share your blog on social media, post comments and feedback, and personalize content to their interests. Do reach out to customers and subtly emphasize all the great features of your website that encourage them to choose your business over a competitor.

Do Seek Feedback

You’ll find many available plugins that allow users to provide feedback on your site via social media, in-app support ticketing, email, support forums and Twitter.

User feedback is an invaluable resource when it comes to building your business and you’re always better for seeking it than not. User feedback can help point to the tweaks and adjustments you can make to increase user friendliness, which makes users happier. Happy customers spend more money, especially when they feel you take the time to listen and address their concerns.

WordPress Contact Form Builder makes it easy to get add some feedback forms to your WordPress site. Remember, your users are on the front line navigating your site, which lends itself to valuable insights you may not be able to see. You can disregard comments that are impractical or irrelevant, but do take a moment to consider all feedback.

Do Provide User Support

The value of a good, solid support system can never be underestimated. You should be available to answer questions and brainstorm on problems brought to you by users. Better yet, try to anticipate those questions and problems before they arise. This communicates that you care about your customers. Little will alienate a customer quicker than poor support.

FAQ WD is a plugin that allows you to add an FAQ section easily to your website, providing an easy way for people to get answers promptly.

If a customer reports a problem trying to access a product, complete a transaction, or even a problem with the rendering of the site itself, you must be responsive and in a timely manner. Here again, the WordPress community can be your best friend and top adviser. You can find troubleshooting tips for nearly any problem users may encounter.

Do Get Involved

For WordPress startups, there’s great value in getting involved in the WordPress community. Take time to familiarize yourself with the multitude of themes and plugins available. Look over the forums at the many topics available, which often include invaluable advice on how to make you site better, best practices, chronicles of successes and failures, and suggestions for growing your online business. Seek out info from others on the best solutions for things like online forms, shopping carts, SEO optimization and security.

Do Practice Proactivity

How users perceive your site is critical to your success. From the earliest stages of your website development, you have to anticipate what is most effective in wooing your customers. That starts with just making sure everything works. Check, recheck, and then recheck again before going live. Test all your links, visit the website on all the popular browsers, test out responsiveness to mobile, read and reread all content and get a second set of eyes to read it all again. A markup validation tool like the W3 Validator can check for the efficiency of coding. Check for broken links using Broken Link Checker. Look for undefined functions with Plugin Check. By the time a customer first visits your site, it should be running flawlessly. If you take a proactive approach, it will.

Do Have Faith

Maybe your adventures with WordPress started as a hobby and now you’re thinking about whether it could truly turn into a moneymaking enterprise. There’s a lot of competition out there, to be sure, but entrepreneurs on the WordPress platform continue to see meteoric rises in their success. You have to ensure you’re good at what you do, that you practice tenacity and persistence, and that you’ve put in the legwork to ensure you’ve designed a solid error-free website. Once you’re confident of all this, do hit the launch button and have some faith in your abilities and the comprehensiveness of WordPress.

Don’t Procrastinate

There will be times when you don’t feel like making updates to your site. Creating content, promoting on social media, writing a new blog post – it can feel like a lot of work sometimes. However, these are the things that will drive new users to your site, and keep steady eddies returning. Don’t put it off for tomorrow, because after a handful of tomorrows, you’ll find your site stagnating and sinking like a stone in SEO rankings. So, all together now…NO PROCRASTINATION!

Don’t Steal Others’ Work

DO not copy someone else’s work, paste it to your site and call it your own. If you want to share someone else’s work, you must give them the credit by linking back to the original website. You can even include an excerpt of someone else’s work on your site, while including a link, and build on that work with ideas of your own. They key idea here is great content can be shared from another site, but don’t misrepresent it as YOUR work. It can come back to bite you , even in the form of litigation.

Don’t Use Copyrighted Images without Permission

Images are a key piece of any website and you may spend hours and hours searching for just the right images for your website. However, you need to stick with photos available from the public domain, and if a picture is copyrighted, you must get permission to use it or you could potentially face legal consequences. A great source for stock photos at little or no cost is Istockphoto.

Don’t Get in Over Your Head

Unless you’re a techie, chances are you may need some assistance with highly technical aspects of running a website. WordPress has a plethora of plugins designed to help you optimize for search engines, update your site, track user stats, analyze host performance and more. The good news is, with minimal effort, nearly everyone can master these skills with the use of plugins. However, if you find yourself overwhelmed and confused, turn to the WordPress community for help or consider hiring a developer to help you out.

Don’t Forget Business Requires More Than a Great Product

You have a great product to offer, maybe many great products, and you have a great platform on which to offer it. However, remember that your business is more than the product(s) you offer. You also have to consider intangibles such as branding, customer service, support, documentation and building a strong team. A theme or a plugin is a part of that, but YOU are the man or woman behind the curtain. You will create the face of your website and attend to all the back end details that are critical to success.

Don’t Just Set it and Forget It

WordPress is such a simple business model that there can be a tendency to think that you can just set everything up, launch, and sit back while the magic happens. While this may true to a point, never forget that WordPress is an evolving model with constantly evolving products and services, and your business should be prepared to evolve right along with them. Don’t hesitate to add new features when it would benefit your website. Upgrade when you need to keep up with changes experienced by your user base, such as new browser upgrades and such. Shake it up with a few subtle changes in design that may add interest. It can never get stale if you’re always keeping it fresh!

These do’s and don’ts are designed to assist in your journey with WordPress by providing you with some ideas designed to help you avoid those digital roadblocks that can leave you idling, while seizing onto ideas that can put you in the fast lane. Every day is an opportunity to build on your success, and the rights tools and guidance will help you create a foundation designed to endure.

Web developer Richard Sutherland has been working with WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and other content management systems for over a decade. Graduating from Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University in 2000 with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, Richard has held a number of prominent website development roles at major companies such as Samsung, ASDA and Prudential.

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