People ask me questions about WordPress from time to time. Probably because I’ve been working with it for over a decade now and helped moved plenty of folks over to it from their old & messy websites. WordPress is my goto for any website for any reason, mostly because it’s easy. You do still have to do some stuff to make it work well, but it’s not too scary, promise.
The technology has evolved a lot in the last few years, and it’s much more usable than ever before. Also, WordPress integrates with pretty much every other thing you could want (social media, product sales, communities, etc.). The setup is not hard, and with the resources in this article you can probably do it yourself, regardless of your previous geekiness or lack thereof.
For the not-so-geeky among us, here is my advice on how to transition your decade-old website to something less embarrassing (and more importantly, easier for YOU to make updates with!)
- Prioritizing content/ideas before you start designing/visioning is really important. Consider this a ground-up do-over, and only migrate content that your visitors care about — as evidenced by the fact that people other than you actually looked at it in the last year. You may not know how to see the analytics for your website as it is right now, but this is VERY worth finding out. It’s also a good test, because if you need help with this part, you’ll probably need help with the rest of the project. It’s a good idea to have a bonafide geek to call anyway, and now is the time to find them and let them save you from making as many beginner’s mistakes.
- Knowing specifically WHO your website is supposed to attract and exactly WHAT your visitors are supposed to do there is even more important. Ironically, your website should not be about you, but instead about your visitors and what they want to do. I’d guess that’s: A) clients/media looking to hire/cover you [hint: make it easy for them to meet their deadlines]; B) potential customers who are interested in you & your work [hint: you want them to sign up for your email list so you can follow up with them]. These days, it’s highly unlikely that anyone will randomly discover you via your website. They’ll more likely have heard of you first, then go there for more supporting information. This also means that if you want to get your product discovered, Amazon/iTunes/etc. are the way to go, though these require additional strategy (sad but true!).
- Work within the basic WordPress/Jetpack setup whenever possible. Going outside the core product with lots of plugins/add-ins/themes may work fine at first, but it gets confusing and leads to instability over time. Plus if it’s simple, you can get anyone to work with your WordPress site and they’ll understand it right away. You like this. This saves you time and money…
- Design functionally, not visually. Good websites change a bunch based on the device displaying them, they are not an artistic statement requiring a full-size computer monitor to be appreciated. Believe it or not, phones are used to access websites more often than computers now. So don’t get picky about how things look. I know you want to, but really, just don’t. It’s kind of like rearranging the food in your refrigerator for a dinner party. Maybe someone will look at it, but most people won’t, and nobody cares much. Everyone wants to be served something they can eat. Focus on delivering tasty content to people that makes them want more, and make it easy for them to tell other people and easy for you to invite them back later.
- Keep backups and stay on top of the security updates. Seriously, this is critical. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, it can be mostly automated. But because most of the web runs on WordPress these days (and with good reason!), it is frequently attacked. I’ve had sites hacked to pieces and redirected to all sorts of nasty things because I left them alone for too long. Update once a week (it’s simple) and you need not worry. I recommend an automated weekly Dropbox backup of all files and the database. Get a geek to help setup it up and automate it for you, then TEST it. When they can delete your website and you can restore it within a minute or so — without their help — then you will feel truly empowered! Restoring from a backup is not just of the geeks anymore.
If you’re interested in spending your valuable time becoming more geeky, here are the three free-ish WordPress training sites that I’ve heard good things about:
- http://wpbeginner.com/ (designed for beginners and free)
- http://wpapprentice.com/ (beginner through advanced, free to begin)
- and of course Lynda.com has a bunch of good stuff (free trial, subscription-based thereafter)
I hope this helps! Sorry, I don’t do website work for other people anymore. Though if you have questions, please use the contact form below to let me know so I can post additional answers for you. All the best!