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Journal

Tips to fine-tune your WordPress website

By in Journal
5 min read

Creating a website is not only about design and content, it’s also about functionality. In one of my first articles “Getting started. Challenge No. 1: the website”, I gave you some tips and insights on how I set up my WordPress site choosing a domain, a provider and a hosting service. I also talked about fonts, colors, and images and gave you some links that will help you in creating your own website. Today, I will share with you some valuable WordPress tips to fine-tune your website.

Help?

Do you know what widgets and plugins are? In the beginning, I didn’t. I had no idea what they are and what they do. I even had problems connecting my server with my hosting. Fortunately, I am a member of a network of German-speaking young professionals here in Barcelona (it’s called NeDeNa). We have a WhatsApp group and I posted a message that I needed urgently some help. Some minutes later, I had a positive reply and a WordPress date the next day. My savior was someone who runs also several WordPress pages and is a former logo designer. (He, in fact, told me that people make a mistake when they try to have a great logo right from the beginning on. He recommended to wait until the project got live and to see where it is actually evolving.)

Plug-ins & Widgets?

Next to connecting my hosting to the server, he also gave me some valuable tips on plug-ins and widgets. A short explanation for those who are not familiar with these terms:

> Plugins are software components that add specific features to your WordPress site. Like in a web browser, you can add search-engines and virus scanners which you can customise according to your needs. They are normally for free, some have in-app buy options.

> Widgets, on the other, hand are software applications that have a limited functionality. They are as well for free and can be easily installed within your web page. Widgets connect to another website to source the information for your website. For example, clocks, the daily weather information or the social media feeds displayed on your website are widgets. There are hundreds of them and you need to think about which information you want to display and search for a suitable widget.

When you search for plugins and widgets, have a quick view on the reviews and the last time they were updated (choose one that has been updated recently). You can also see some screenshots to have an idea how they translate in the back- and front-office of your website.

WordPress tips

WordPress tips! MUST HAVE plugins

There are several plugins that are essential for running a functioning WordPress site. You can easily download them for free in the plugin section of your back office. Just click add a new plug-in, search for the name or the functionality you want, download it and, important, activate the plugin. Most of the plugins were recommended to me by the guy that helped me to set up my WordPress site. I trust his experiences and will pass you the information. Next to a short explanation, you’ll see which plugins I installed.

  • To not get hacked so easily you need a Firewall > Wordfence
  • To get a backup of your data on a regular basis, and to be able to restore it (in case your sites get hacked or your servers shut down), you need a backup plugin > Updraft
  • To get your website a more prominent place in search engines like Google, you need to optimise them and write better content (SEO) – this plugin will guide you in doing so > Yoast
  • To resize, optimize and compress all of your images so that your website loads quickly and doesn’t take all the space on your server you need an image optimizer and compressor > WP Smush
  • To set up different contact forms so to get easily in contact with your readers, and at the same time, to be protected from spammers, you need a contact plugin > Contact Form 7
  • To be protected by notorious and quite creative spammers that put their ads for Viagra & Co in your comment sections or contact forms, you need an anti-spam plugin that screens all messages and prevent them from getting published on your site > Akismet (Contact Form 7 already comes with the Akismet plugin)
  • To allow faster loading times enable gzip > Check and enable gzip compression
  • To allow secure connections from a web server to a browser for, for example data like usernames, passwords and credit card information, you need a SSL certificate that encrypts the data transfer (to see if a site is secure and has an SSL certificate, just look if the usual ‘http’ has an ‘s’ – ‘https’) > WP Encrypt (it’s for free and gets you automatically new SSL certificates – they have to be renewed every 90 days). Then you need only to install the Really Simple SSL and it’s perfect!

It’s really important to have an SSL certificate for your website since it not only secures all the data, but it also increases your Google Rankings. Furthermore, it builds trust with your readers and improves conversion rates. If you don’t have it, browsers may display a red message with ‘This site is not secure, do you want to continue at our own risk?’. I am sure it’s worth investing a few minutes to install and activate this plugin.

WordPress tips! RECOMMENDED Plugins

These are some additional plugins that will help you in your endeavor:

  • To see how many visitors your site has, from where they come from, and which posts among your content are the most read etc. you need a tracking plugin > Google Analytics
  • To add a guestbook to your pages where readers can leave messages and feedback not linked to specific posts on your site, you need guestbook plugin > Gwolle Guestbook
  • To update your readers regularly via newsletters and mailings, you need a mailing list plugin – MailChimp
  • To link your contact form to MailChimp you need the Contact Form 7 MailChimp Extension
  • To display photos from your Instagram account > Instagram feed
  • To get an overview over your posts, to efficiently schedule and promote them on your different social media channels, you need an editorial calendar > Nelio Content
  • To integrate feeds from your social media and to display the obligatory EU Cookie Law Widget > Jetpack

Once installed you can customise them as you wish. It will take some time but once it’s done, it’s done and you will save some time and nerves for sure.

The last tip: install WP Super Cache plugin to increase the loading time of your website and test it via Uptrends!

Widgets

A lot of my plugins came already with widgets such as the Instagram or Twitter feed. My WordPress theme had already pre-installed widgets like ‘Recent Posts’ or the ‘Categories’ widgets. You can also add different menus, text boxes, maps, and a widget to ask people kindly to sign up for your newsletter.

***

I hope this article helped you. I will for sure use it myself in the future. I am planning to also build a website for myself. I want to become an entrepreneur/freelancer myself (I will offer communications and consulting services).

If I can help you with anything let me know.

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