One of the reasons I like customizing and maintaining WordPress websites I did not originally design/develop (in addition to creating new WordPress websites), is that I get to see how other designers and developers work. One of the drawbacks however, is that a simple 1-hour task, can end up taking all day if the website I’m working on is in bad shape. And they usually are.
Most small businesses couldn’t care less about the backend of their website, but they should. That’s because they DO get what they don’t pay for, such as:
- Poorly Developed Themes
- Poor Coding Practices
- Buggy Plugins and Scripts
- Hacker-friendly Websites
- Lousy Hosting
Number 1: Poorly Developed Themes
Most predesigned Themes try to be all things to all people. That means, they typically include features you’ll never use. And these features often cause conflicts with other things, like plugins. Some of these features may even fail to work altogether and slow down your website.
For example, a new client came to me with a website that uses a “page builder” to simplify the process of adding columns, buttons, sliders, and other features to their web pages.
But when I attempted to modify the site, the buggy page builder would not allow me to save my changes.
A few hours later, I found a way to get around this by avoiding the use of the page builder altogether, but went on to spend a considerable amount of time wrestling with the Theme for control over the CSS (the part that defines the appearance of the site). This “no-coding-required” Theme turned a very simple project into a complicated one that cost more than it should have.
Number 2: Poor Coding Practices
Developers are often faced with unrealistic deadlines and budgets— all of which make it harder for us to keep up with, and utilize, best coding practices. But this type of behavior makes it harder for the next designer/developer to work on your website. Try finding a paragraph in a large novel that was handwritten on index cards, then strewn across the floor, and you’ll get the idea.
For example, while creating an e-commerce order form for a new client, I discovered that the rock-solid plugin I (and so many others) rely on for this purpose, behaved oddly.
After hours of troubleshooting, I realized that the developer of this WordPress theme forced WordPress to use a very old code library that was hosted on another server— which, by the way, is a terrible idea.
That’s because this particular library (jQuery) is already included in WordPress. Simply tell WordPress to use it, and you’ll always have the latest, bug-free version.
Number 3: Buggy Plugins and Scripts
Many developers and clients rely heavily on free WordPress plugins, and why shouldn’t we? This “don’t-reinvent-the-wheel” approach saves clients thousands of dollars on relatively sophisticated features— as long as the plugin developer continues to support it. On the other hand, sometimes new features are introduced that later conflict with the design of the website.
For example, one of my clients relies on a free event calendar plugin that conveniently adds a variety of features, including the reformatting of a standard page with very little effort.
When the plugin was updated, the page/calendar lost all of its formatting. So, my client opted to revert to (i.e., continue to use) the older version of the plugin, rather than properly fix the issue— which opens the door for more conflicts and security weaknesses.
Number 4: Poorly Maintained Websites
Many small businesses rely on the “what you don’t know, won’t hurt you” philosophy, until their website gets hacked, or a plugin update takes down the entire website.
For example, a client hired me to fix an SEO issue. That is, when visitors clicked to their home page from Google’s search results, they were redirected to a strange page.
As it turned out, their website had been hacked, which could have easily been prevented by properly monitoring the site. Having a recent backup could have made the job a lot easier as well, but they didn’t.
A year later, this client hired me to work on their site again, and I discovered that they hadn’t made any backups in over a year!
Number 5: Lousy Hosting
Many small businesses choose the cheapest hosting company they can find. Their websites go down more frequently; are less secure; and have no staging environment for testing website changes.
For example, most client’s hosting plans do not include a test environment.
This means they pay more money to have me set up a temporary testing environment on my server, and have me push the changes to their live website manually.
There are so many reasons NOT to do things this way, but my recommendations to move to a host like WP Engine often falls on deaf ears.