How to futureproof your WordPress website

futureproof your wordpress website

“Huh? I thought you did email marketing, Helen? Why are we talking WordPress?”

Yes, I do set up and update email marketing systems for clients, but that includes often includes tinkering around with WordPress, too. You don’t have to have a WordPress site as the entry point to your mailing list, but with the small businesses I work with, it often is.

So, if you have a landing page on your WordPress site, I might be setting up a plugin to tag subscribers as they fill in the form to join your mailing list. Or I can set up the products in your WooCommerce store so that buyers are placed on the correct list and tagged, then you can send them emails related to what they’ve bought.

If your WordPress site has been set up professionally and is and well-maintained, it’s usually straightforward for me to hook up (say) a membership plugin or e-commerce plugin with your mailing lists. If not it may take takes longer and therefore may cost you more.

It’s not just me though,  if you set up and maintain your own site you’ll find it less problematic if you set up your site well and keep it up to date. So with that in mind I’m going to share some things you can do to prevent problems with your WordPress site, giving you the best possible chance of many years of trouble-free marketing.

It’s not quite future-proofing, but it’s as close as you can get.

Keep themes and plugins up-to-date

This sounds obvious, but up to date plugins and themes are important to keep your website secure and running smoothly. If you have a site that’s a few years old, also look at the the date your plugins were last updated. If the developer hasn’t done any work on the plugin in a couple of years you may have the latest version, but that version of the plugin may not be compatible with the changes made to WordPress or your theme since then.

Keep your plugins down to a sensible minimum

It’s tempting to add an absolute pile of plugins to your website – after all they give you cool features and many of them are free! But it’s best to only add plugins if you really need them because:

  • They can slow down your site
  • The more plugins you have, the more effort it is to keep them up to date. Usually that’s easy, but occasionally one will cause problems, which brings me on to…
  • …The more plugins you have, the greater the chance of plugin conflicts. Plugins don’t always play nicely together and the more you have, the harder it is to work out which one is causing the problem.

Use good-quality plugins wherever possible

This can be a little tricky, but consider buying plugins from a reputable developer that’s been around for a while, rather than one that hasn’t. Yes, it can be hard to tell the difference, but search online for reviews, check Facebook groups containing customers who use that plugin and if there’s a free version, look at the reviews at WordPress.org/plugins. There are many plugin developers who are looking to make a quick buck and won’t update the plugin over time, which is a problem if an aspect of your business comes to rely on what your plugin does.

Be wary of plugins or themes that use a lot of shortcodes

A shortcode is something like this [ wp_eStore_cart ] where you type the code in a page or post and the plugin knows it needs to insert something e.g. a ‘buy’ button or a new column in that spot.

A few of these are fine, such as the one above, but when your site is peppered with them it’s a real pain if you want to switch that theme or plugin to another one later on.

Check the skill-level of your web designer

This is another toughie, both because it’s hard to know for sure how good your web designer is and it can be awkward to ask. Someone who isn’t ‘very techie’ will often be fine for a simple blog or brochure site, but once you get more complex features like e-commerce and membership sites they could depend on a lot of plugins and shortcodes to get the job done. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get a bad site that doesn’t work, just that it may cost you less in the long run to pay someone to set it up professionally than to pay more for maintenance later. (See this post for more on that.)

If you’re looking at your site now and feeling nervous…

Don’t worry if you’ve got a WordPress site that has some (or all!) of the things I mention above. It doesn’t mean your site will crash and burn before your eyes! Try to follow the advice above from now on, and see if you can gradually switch over to fewer but better plugins over time.

And if I can help at all, just let me know.


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