10 Time Saving Website Mistakes To Avoid

After a client recently asked me to review their DIY business website, I started thinking about the first websites I ever designed (oh I wish I had kept some screenshots!). If you are building your own Content Management System website, get started with the top 10 things to consider.

Looking for answers about building your own website?

1. WordPress.com verses WordPress.org

Finding the right website platform for your business can be incredibly overwhelming. List out both your short-term and long-term goals. If your long-term goals aren’t going to require the extensive custom features that a self-hosted WordPress website offers, you are probably better off with using a service such as wordpress.com or Squarespace.

2. Child Themes

If you decide to host your own site, installing a child theme is recommended. This is a set of “styles”, essentially. It will allow you to edit the core files such as the CSS (styling sheet) and still be able to update the theme without affecting your customizations. What if you built your own blog or site and didn’t install a child theme? As long as you didn’t change any code (for example, the php or css files in the “editor”), you should be ok to upgrade your theme without loosing changes. Even if you aren’t planning any custom code, it’s a good idea to install a child theme from the beginning, in case you decide to later.  If your theme doesn’t come with one, you can use something like the One Click Child Theme plugin to create one.

3. Photo Sizes

Large image sizes will slow down your site speed which will affect SEO and conversions. If you aren’t using an image cache plugin (that will size these down for you), you can use something like Adobe’s Free Online Photo Editor. Take note, you can resize image dimensions in the WP image editor, but that won’t change the file size. Read more about optimizing images for your website. Protip: Make a cheat sheet with all the correct dimensions for your website (and social media) in the beginning. Optimize and scale your images before you upload them. Protip: Use Shift+Command+4 on a Mac to do a screenshot of the different parts of your website and write down optimal sizes. Some general suggestions to get you started:
  • Full Width Slider images: 1920(w) x your choice(h)
  • Widget images (can vary depending on your widget size): 470(w)
  • Blog post images that take up full content body: 800(w)
  • Featured images (thumbnail): 250-287(w)
  • Facebook Featured Image: 470(w)
  • Twitter Cards: 280(w)
  • Pinterest: 735 (w)
Also, always use dashes instead of underscores to name your images!

5. H-Tags and SEO

You mean H-Tags have a purpose? Yes, they aren’t just about making your page hierarchy. It’s important to note that WordPress automatically makes the title of the page/post an H-1 tag. If you are using a CMS (content management system) site that does this, start your subheading with a H-2 tag and keep your pages optimized for search engines. Building good SEO (search engine optimism) is a whole separate topic, but if you can think of a few words people will use in a search, use these keywords in your “alt tags” and H-tags.
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6. Google Site Speed Verifier

Google’s site speed verify is a fantastic tool, and it is free! My recommendation is to use it on any theme demo you are considering. It’s a great way to test the speed of the theme before you buy it. Starting with clean theme is the first step to a fast website. Test your site: Google Site Verification

7. Twitter Cards & Social Media

If you are wondering why your website links don’t look the same on Twitter as your competition, it might be because your website doesn’t have social cards set up. For WordPress, something like Yoast can be a good option because it also enables all kinds of SEO settings. There are also other plugins available, as well as ample instructions online for getting this set up with code. This will allow you to control how your page and post titles, descriptions, and thumbnail images show up on social media.

8. Email List

Email lists are not dead! My advice would be to spend time building your email list. You’ll want to put up an email opt-in form into your site right away, but take note that it won’t magically do anything on its own. Take advantage of the many creative, effective ways to build your list through your website.

9. Google Analytics

At some point in your business you may want to investigate how your website is performing. Google Analytics is a free service that allows you to track and explore extensive user data. Even if you don’t plan on digging into that data anytime soon, make sure your website is being tracked by a Google Analytics account. That way, when you are ready to take a look, you can compare data from this year to past years and learn what is or isn’t working. [Boost Your Digital Marketing Strategy with Google Analytics]

10. Bloated Themes

The best advice I received was from a WordPress consultant that told me to “buy a simple theme and build the features independently”. If you need to do anything complex, like e-commerce or memberships, “bundled themes” often won’t actually provide all the features you are really going to need. One the most highly used WordPress theme providers right now is Elegant Themes.

A Final Note

I love the complexity of designing and building a journey for the website user. This divides my interests between both design and development. It is my hope that this article will be a helpful resource to those researching the internet for answers.

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