Having a website online for the world to see is a powerful tool and method of building business. However like any tool, if it’s not correct for the job then it’s just not going to work! Having a site that’s not correctly configured can lead to slow loading times, poor mobile performance and ultimately drive away customers! I know from personal experience that building a site that works and works consistently takes time. Therefore taking my own website as an example, this brief guide should not help you with useful plugins but also tell you what to avoid when building or designing a website.

Website Must Haves

The creative platform you choose to run your website is properly the most important thing to consider. Whilst there’s loads of free platforms, if you’re wanting that flexibility, having something you can control over design with custom CSS and HTML is extremely useful. My first site was built on WordPress.com. This was when I didn’t have a true understanding about hosting my own website or how CMS systems work. With a WordPress.com site, WordPress themselves host your site on their own web space and server. You can pick a theme to use from an online selection however, without paying for the premium services it can be quite restricted. Website URL’s, custom coding all require a paid service.

The main reason why I decided to switch my site over to being being self hosted was because I wanted that greater control and the ability to run plugins. However it’s not as easy as ticking a button and now you’re site is self hosted. There’s a some major things to consider –

  • Purchasing a domain name - your website URL which your customers or clients are going to type into their browsers
  • Website hosting - basically your very own slice of the internet....saved on a server somewhere
  • Wordpress theme - the most important part of the site. A poor theme can mean a poor user experience, so choose your theme with your customers in mind

Make sure to keep your website URL short, snappy and easy to remember. The longer the website address the more the customer has to type. Also if you’re creating a quirky business name then try to keep it some what simple. The last thing you need is a customer trying to type your website address and then typing it wrong, failing to find your site and moving on. For myself I just used my name and what I’m about. Simple, to the point and easy to remember.

For website hosting this is where it gets a little more complex. Now there’s hundreds upon hundreds of blog posts and articles comparing and commenting about different website hosting, so I’m not going to start another! After looking through the various articles I settled for Siteground and their GrowBig package. Almost a year on and I’ve never had any issues or trouble with them as a provider. The online support is quick and you actually speak to a real person. All I would say when looking at hosting would be do you research, as cheaper hosting is cheaper for a reason!!

Finding the right Wordpress theme isn’t an easy task. Looking at sites such as Themeforest, they have over 10,000 themes on offer! A minefield to sort through. Do you need WooCommerce support for a shop? Are you looking for a portfolio design or a clean responsive site? Try to think about what your end product is going to look. Using the search feature on Themeforest you’ll be able to narrow your results. Since switching my site to self hosted, I’ve had two Wordpress themes. My first theme was Loom, which at the time I really enjoyed. The style, design and function was brilliant. However a year on I found that I was trying to create pages that the theme wasn’t able to build. Currently my latest theme on this site is Uncode, and I love it!! However no theme will tick every single box right from install, so making sure they offer a decent support service. There’s plenty of custom CSS on this site to create the site you see today. So bare that in mind when building your site.

Wordpress Plugins to Aid Performance

So now you’ve added your content to your site, designed the pages and happy with the overall feel. However the loading time is slow, your SEO isn’t quite right and you’re wanting to squeeze out some extra website performance. How can you do this?? Sometimes this might require web dev work, however picking the right 3rd party plugins can sometimes be the answer. However the same as choosing a theme, which ones to use?! Below I’ve listed a few that I use on my own personal site, from SEO to caching. Using these plugins together can really help with your website speed.

Yoast SEO by Team Yoast

Yoast SEO

If you’re building a website and want to be found through search engines, having good SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in place is a must. What is SEO? Search engine optimization is the process of affecting the online visibility of your website or a web page in a web search engine’s unpaid results, often referred to as “organic” results. Therefore to affect your SEO a plugin such as Yoast SEO is definitely needed!

Yoast is such a powerful plugin, here are a few of the useful tools and control you can use within Yoast, to help your website –

  • Keyword optimization
  • Google preview of your web pages
  • Control your robots.txt, .htaccess files as well as clean permalink URLs and sitemaps
  • Create meta desciptions for your posts and pages
  • Build perfect page titles
  • Link your Google Search console, directly into Yoast and Wordpress

I wouldn’t build a site without some sort of SEO plugin and Yoast seems to have it all. Plus with over 15,00 5 star reviews and 1+ million installs – there really isn’t a better Wordpress SEO out there!

Imagify by WP Media

Imagify

If you’re like me and your site has a lot of visual content in the way of photography, images and logos then you need to make sure the file size of this content isn’t huge! The larger the image size the longer it takes to load and the more impact it’ll have on your sites loading time. There are few things you can do before uploading your images into Wordpress. Save for Web within Photoshop or Lightroom is one. However, although these methods do compress the images file sizes, there was always more I could compress and strip out of the file size! This is where Imagify can help. Basically, the plugin dramatically reduces image file sizes without losing quality, making your website load faster. Sounds simple right? That’s because it is!

You upload your web-ready image to Wordpress as normal, then Imagify will compress your photo on upload. As long as you have this set to do so within the main settings. If you want to compress your previous media content, there is a bulk optimiser to compress all your older content. Press play and the plugin goes to work.

There are two versions of this plugin, a free and paid. The free only allows you to compress 25 MB of images (about 250 images) per month, whereas the paid has various plans on offer. Depedning on how much content you upload to your site.

WP Rocket by WP Media

WP Rocket

Speed and loading times are important on every site. If you’re leaving your customers or clients waiting for a page to load and it’s taking longer than 5 seconds 80% of the time they will just leave! A caching plugin works by saving dynamically generated HTML files and serving them from the cache (reusing previously generated data) whenever a request is made, rather than loading all of the PHP scripts from WordPress every time you hit refresh. The result is that your site loads far quicker for all its visitors. Think of a caching plugin like a compressor for your pages. Making them smaller and lighter to handle and load.

After using a few different caching plugins I have finally settled for WP Rocket. Yes, it’s a premium plugin and compared to some it might lack some customization. However, WP Rocket just works right on install. The initial setup for this plugin is quite simple. Rather than having to view pages of pages of tick boxes, WP Rocket currently has 6 tabs of user control. Ranging from Basic to CDN and Advanced options.

I’ve had WP Rocket running for about a year now and compared to others which I was never 100% happy with the results. WP Rocket has delivered on what a caching plugin should do, compress and speed up your site. For example, below is a side by or WP Rocket turned on and off. As you can see the plugin really does work!!

The scores might not seem massively different at first glance. One thing to remember is that all of my images on the site have already been compressed. Without this compression, it would impact the Pagespeed score quite dramatically.

So remember that all of the above, combined together will help to create the perfect scoring site!

Need a Website?? Get in Touch!

As you can see from this rather long article, there’s quite a lot work involved to produce a high performing site. Sometimes there’s a quick fix or plugin to help however, trying to sort every issue can take time!

If you’re in need of a website build, help with your current or have a general web question – get in touch. No question will go unanswered and I’m here to help. Look forward to hearing from you soon!