A great WordPress (WP) website consists of much more than a great design. It is responsive, concise, well-supported, and runs at high speeds. Continue reading to learn about important things you want pay attention to on the backend of your site to ensure it’s performing at its best!
Keep WordPress, plugins, theme, and PHP versions up-to-date
- This is critical for site security as well as performance improvements.
- Many WP plugins and themes, as well as WP itself, release security updates frequently; some may be critical.
- Web hosts can sometimes discontinue PHP versions or force PHP version updates; your WP system must be up to date to work with the PHP versions available.
- There is automatic updating, or manual updating, or a combo. Choosing your updating plan involves weighing convenience against risk. Automatic updates can seem more convenient, but plugin conflicts might cause your site to break. Therefore, we recommend having your development team manually update (see next bullet).
- Manual Updating: manual updating reduces the risk of your site or something on it breaking without your knowledge. Since you are on the site while making updates, you can view and test after applying updates. If you detect issues or site errors, you can quickly roll back to a pre-update backup, minimizing impact to live traffic. If you don’t detect any issues, you know your site has been updated safely and is good to go.
- Automatic Updating: automatic updating applies updates to your site as soon as new versions are released. This can be enabled for some of your site’s components, or even for everything on the site. This requires no manual effort and allows you to know your site will always be running the latest versions. Sounds great! However, automatic updating involves increased risk. Since you never know when updates are applied, you may not know if something broke until your users and clients start filling your inbox and voice mail with error reports. Then, you will have to scramble to find a backup that’s stable (made before the site broke, and you might not know when the site broke) and roll back. You may lose user or editorial content that was added since the backup was made, and you may have to recover or recreate that content.
- With Automatic updating, you need an automated backup system that saves full backups, and you need to know how to restore your site from one of the backups (roll back).
- Note: updating the PHP version is a web server setting and can’t be set to auto-update. Your hosting provider will apply security patches to PHP versions running on your server; however, choosing a different PHP version is a manual process.
Keep plugins to a minimum
- Choose a hosting provider and service level that matches your site’s needs:
- Heavy traffic sites need better (more expensive) hosting, or even dedicated server(s) (which is most expensive).
- Another consideration is SEO scoring — faster sites get higher rankings.
Choose a theme that is very popular and well supported
- Choosing a rarely supported theme will cost you in time, money, and site issues down the road — in most cases, you will need a complete site rebuild with a new theme in the next 3 to 4 years.
Choose plugins that are very popular and well supported
- For the same reasons as choosing a theme above.
- Choose plugins that offer premium or pro (paid-for) versions, even if you only use the free version. If the developers are earning money from a plugin or theme, then it’s a good indicator that it’s a team who developed it, not a lone person writing a plugin in their spare time (who will then abandon it when the spare time goes away, as programmers often develop small free plugins to use as resume items and other such reasons).
Apply caching and code optimizations
- These can be plugins; additional caching can be provided by higher-end web hosts and third-party CDNs (content delivery networks).
- WP Optimize, or Auto-Optimize + WP Super Cache plugins will improve your site’s performance.
- Be careful not to install multiple optimization plugins. Plugins that try to do the same optimization tasks can and likely will conflict, causing site errors, inconsistent behavior, or at best just wasting server resources.
Test your site with website speed and performance tools
- This can give you a lot of insight into how well your site performs.
- This can also point you to fixable trouble items, like image sizes that can be reduced, etc.
If you’ve got an in-house team that knows WP, you’re all set. If not, developing a WP website takes a team of experts who are in step with the latest website design and development Best Practices. Need assistance with any of this? Connect with us!