Helpful Hints for Businesses Getting Started with WordPress

Historically, there has been little in the way of industry standards when it comes to developing websites for small businesses. Older sites may have been coded from scratch with barebones HTML, while newer sites are generally built from low cost commercial themes by web designers and developers of varying experience levels. While many small business sites fall victim to haphazard development standards, site owners are often reluctant to upgrade them, citing busy schedules and tight budgets. In some cases, they are simply unaware of how out of date their websites have become.

Enter the mobile era, where smartphones have eclipsed desktops as the primary platform for accessing websites. Dilapidated, non­-responsive websites are no longer an option, unless business owners are willing to sacrifice half of their sales to avoid rebuilding their sites. Add to this the need for companies to manage their own website content, keeping it up to date in the face of changing markets and competitive pressures, and the need for a stable, responsive content management system becomes ever more pronounced.

For many small businesses, the answer to this dilemma is WordPress. Statements like the following, taken from the WordPress website, create a rosy picture of website development using the WordPress framework:

"(The simplicity of WordPress) makes it possible for you to get online and get publishing, quickly. Nothing should get in the way of you getting your website up and your content out there. WordPress is built to make that happen."

There is a lot of truth to this statement, but it can also create a false sense of security for site owners looking to employ WordPress for the first time. Yes, a well developed Wordpress site can do wonders for your business, equipping you with robust functionality and an easy to manage platform for updating content. But it must also be carefully assembled by a professional developer, and maintained regularly to remain up to date and secure. To this end, Brainstorm has assembled the following helpful hints for small business getting started with WordPress:

1) Work with an Experienced Developer

Don’t just hire a friend. While WordPress offers numerous templates for non­developers, those are generally not sufficient for most commercial businesses. WordPress sites, though seemingly simple, is build from complex PHP code, HTML and CSS markup, javascript and other code. Customizing these templates to meet the needs of your business is actually more complicated than a standard HTML website ever was. The ease of use is not in building the site, but rather in comes maintaining an expertly crafted WordPress site within the parameters defined by your developer

2) Research Themes Thoroughly

Many WordPress sites are built from themes, which can be found on site such as… You will quickly notice that there literally thousands of beautiful themes out there. Don’t just pick the prettiest one. Many of these themes are quite difficult to work with or they may contain out of date code and features. Select a theme that is both popular and well-

supported, not simply pretty. If you followed out first recommendation and hired a quality developer, she’ll be able to tell you which themes are worth working with.

3) Decide on How Much Control You Really Need

Content Management Systems such as WordPress took the internet by storm because they allowed non­technical site owners to maintain their own sites at a reasonable cost. Your developer can build your site in such a way that you can control early any aspect of it. However, intricate the level of control can be costly to develop into a site. It can also be unwieldy for the non­technical person maintaining the site and it may generate errors in the process. Best then to decide on what exactly you need to control and what you don’t. In many cases, site owners need only to update text, add images to galleries, or upload products within a predesigned cart. Clarify exactly what you want to do, communicate your requirements to your developer, and allow her to build what you need, without adding bloated editing capabilities. It is always best to leave sophisticated editing to your developer…

4) Get to Know Your Plugins

There are innumerable WordPress plugins on the market. You want to make sure that the ones your developer has chosen are popular, well reviewed and well supported. Plugins are independent programs subject to the same vulnerabilities as other software on the internet and as such require constant updates. Poorly supported plugins can fall behind the times and develop vulnerabilities that threaten the security of your entire website. Therefore, choosing the right plugins is a must. It is also wise to select only those plugins you need, rather than installing a hoots plugins that sound amazing but whose features will go largely unused.

5) Don’t Take Hosting Lightly

WordPress is a complicated CMS framework with robust functionality and many moving parts. For this reason, low end hosting packages may not be sufficient to handle even a very standard WordPress site. Most WordPress sites can run even on a $5 monthly shared hosting package, but the tradeoff is often speed and overall performance. Sometimes a moderate upgrade to your hosting package can dramatically improve site performance. Other times, a more significant upgrade is required. Once again, an experienced developer will be able to recommend an appropriate hosting solution based on your site’s functional requirements.

6) Make Sure Your Site Is Updated Regularly

The WordPress framework is frequently updated, as are WordPress plugins, as we’ve already mentioned. This means that your webmaster needs to keep pace with updates and install them on your website. Neglecting this crucial task can lead to vulnerabilities to your entire website the data it contains. Ask your webmaster how they plan to manage updates. They may offer a site maintenance package that includes updates and standard troubleshooting in the unlikely event of host attack or other emergency maintenance.

WordPress is amazing. It is Brainstorm’s CMS framework of choice for nearly all of our non­-ecommerce websites. But without proper handling and care, it can become just as problematic and unwieldy as the website technologies it was designed to replace. By following the helpful hints above, you can seriously reduce hassles and headaches when re-­platforming with WordPress.

To find out more, email or call us at: 631.367.1000 Visit our work page to view some of the sites we’ve developed with WordPress.

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