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Basic WordPress Tricks Every Designer Should Know

WordPress, while designed to be simple and user-friendly, can present a learning curve for those who don’t work with it every day or are just starting out. As WordPress experts, we’ve compiled some basic tips and tricks for designers. Read on for our quick list!

Be Picky With Your Plugins

WordPress plugins are great because they can extend the functionality of your site. Some of them, however, can be problematic and cause performance issues on your site. So when you’re browsing the Plugin Directory, make sure and be picky about which plugins you decide to install.

If you’re not sure about a specific plugin’s level of quality, just do a little research. Try looking for user reviews or ratings online. And when in doubt, you can always do a little testing before and after installing a plugin to see how it’s affecting your site. 

Make sure you always test new plugins, themes, and other software using a staging or development site. Looking for a safe and free option? Try Local

person sitting at a desk staring pensively at a computer screen

If your site is a little sluggish, we also recommend using a plugin called P3 Profiler to see what’s going on under the hood. Pf Profiler checks all the plugins on a site and generates a report detailing the percentage of load time each plugin is contributing to. This helps isolate possible issues—leading to a solution and (hopefully) a faster site!

Don’t be Just Another WordPress Site

One of the most attractive parts of building sites with WordPress  is how easy it is to get started. But this simplicity can  also be a pitfall for some designers, as it becomes easy to sink into a repetitive pattern, leaving a lot of WordPress sites with a deja-vu quality. 

So, don’t be just another WordPress site.

This is one of our biggest tips for designers of any experience level, and it should be taken both figuratively and literally. Designers should always try to push the limits of their sites, but as the first order of business, they should be sure to remove the subhead “Just another WordPress site” from their site titles. (If you don’t, it’s a pretty clear sign that you’re a WordPress beginner.)

Upload Media the Right Way

A designer never wants to hear their clients complain about the speed of their sites, which is why it’s important to consider how each site is constructed. 

Images, while incredibly important to the aesthetic makeup of a website, can also  cause quite a bit of drag when it comes to site speed. Therefore, it’s crucial to pay special attention to how images are uploaded, optimized, and deleted. For this, we highly recommend the Enable Replace Plugin.

The Enable Replace plugin is used to replace an image in the media file without the need to delete, rename, and re-upload the image. This eliminates at least some of the margin of error that can occur when optimizing images and helps keep sites functioning at a high level.

Use More Readable Permalinks

Permalinks are the permanent URLs that point a user to a specific page within your website. The standard format for permalinks on a WordPress website looks like this: https://wpengine.com/?p=123.

This is easy for computers to read and understand, but not super great for humans.

We suggest designers change their permalinks to something more consumable, like: https://wpengine.com/sample-post/.

By using the post name structure (or a custom permalink structure with %postname% included), your site will use the headline of an article in the page’s URL. Not only is this easier for human consumption, but it also comes with added SEO benefits—a gift too good to pass up.

overhead shot of hands typing on a macbook sitting on a white desk surrounded by an iPhone, a notebook, and a cup of coffee

Add a Favicon to Your Site

Going back to tip number two, we have another great way to avoid being a cookie cutter WordPress site. A favicon is the small logo either sitting next to the URL in the browser bar or on the tab itself (depending on your browser). It may be little, but it is a great way to customize your (or your client’s) website.

To upload a custom favicon, go to Appearance >Customize and choose the Site Identity section. Under “Site Icon,” you can upload a square image, at least 512 pixels wide and tall. Then hit “Save.” 

A favicon adds site and brand recognition to your website, and it really is that easy to add to your site (we promise!).

Save Time and Headaches by Utilizing a Child Theme

Beginning a WordPress site often starts with choosing a theme that’s close to what a client has specified. Yet, it is rare—or even impossible—to find a theme that perfectly fits a client’s site  requirements right out of the box. It can be tempting for designers to modify this “parent” theme to their specifications, but that’s not always a great idea. Instead, designers should consider a child theme.

A child theme allows designers to use functionality they like from a parent theme, while also being able to modify the pieces they need without limiting the possibility to update in the future. In essence, creating a child theme is an exercise in  foresight—it allows for greater customization now and in the future.

Utilize WordPress Roles

For the same reason the United States Postmaster General doesn’t have nuclear launch codes, WordPress developers need to be careful about the  abilities they give their clients in the WordPress dashboard. Educating clients on how to use their website will help, but another tip is to hide specific options from certain users.

Utilize  WordPress Roles and Capabilities to hide menu options that would allow basic users the ability to blow up your site in a single click. Be the gatekeeper for things like themes, menu organization, widgets, etc.

By locking down these functions, it not only protects your site from inexperienced hands, it saves you the headache of fixing the site. We  also recommend leaving notes and/or instructions for clients to better define exactly how the site best operates. Once again, this tip saves you and them in one fell swoop.

overhead shot of a well-organized desk, including speakers and multiple tchotchkes

Have Super Solid WordPress Credentials

WordPress is an incredibly popular content management platform, and because of this, WordPress sites see their fair share of cyber  attacks. 

While keeping WordPress core up to date, (as well as your plugins and themes) can mitigate many WordPress security vulnerabilities your WordPress password is also an important t line of defense against hackers, many of whom use the modern equivalent  of medieval battering rams (i.e. guessing passwords repeatedly) until the door to your site breaks down.

Having a random, convoluted password might sound like a hassle, but it is much easier than the alternative option (cleaning up a compromised site). Usernames are similarly-fragile pieces of data , and should be treated with the same concern as passwords.

Another way to boost your site’s security is to hide your WordPress login page. Many attacks come by way of bots programmed to add “/wp-admin” at  the end of a website’s URL to get to the proverbial castle door and attempt to knock it down. By installing a plugin such as  WPS Hide Login , you can change your login page to anything you want, such as “/helms-deep” to hide from the orc/bot attacks in the best possible fashion.

Give Someone a WordPress Site, They’ll Use it and Break it. Teach Someone to Use a WordPress Site, and They’ll Cherish it Forever.

Like the old proverb, it is much easier for a developer to feel confident in their creation’s future if they know their client is adept in its functionality. If your client doesn’t quite know what they’re doing with WordPress, use some time and energy to teach them all about it.

Like Jerry Maguire would say, help your clients help you. They will appreciate the expertise, and you will appreciate the blessed silence that follows. The less your clients need your help, the happier they’ll be. 

Constantly Seek New Information

At WP Engine, we’ve been lucky to assemble the Justice League of WordPress experts—all of whom use their superpowers as one to bring good to WordPress (and the world). As a result, we’ve amassed an treasure trove of of blog posts and educational resources that are perfect reading for the designer at any stage of their WordPress journey

For more experienced designers: What tips have helped you most in your WordPress development career? What do you wish you had known when you were just getting started? Comment below!

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