A year of working with WordPress

I must admit that for a long time I found developing websites in WordPress really challenging, simply because it is quite different to the approach I’ve been used to.

Photo by Stephen Phillips on Unsplash

In the past I’ve created static HTML websites which I’ve managed for people and if they’ve needed a content management system I’ve used Perch which is lightweight and like most content management systems is easy to use if it’s set up properly.

Last year I got my head down and spent some time trying to get to grips with WordPress. During that time I’ve created full websites with it and helped people maintain their existing WordPress websites. Here are some of the things I’ve learnt.

Don’t go plug-in crazy

One of my main concerns about working with WordPress was around speed and performance and the amount of plug-ins I would need to use. Plug-ins are add-ons for WordPress that help with particular tasks such as adding a form or optimising images. I decided to choose plug-ins with good reviews from reputable developers and I only installed the plug-ins I felt were absolutely necessary.

You can set up WordPress to email you once a plug-in has been updated so you can check for any problems and I’ve found that really useful. I’m sure there are automated tools to help you do this but I’ve not looked into those yet.

Akismet can be your best friend

WordPress and Akismet work brilliantly together at keeping spam away from your inbox. If you’ve got a form anywhere on your website I’d say that Akismet is an essential tool, it will save you an awful lot of time and energy.

WordPress updates itself a lot

I must admit that I was a bit surprised at how often WordPress and its plug-ins update themselves, although given its popularity I probably shouldn’t have been. On the plus side the updates give me a feeling of confidence that the code is being kept up-to-date and hopefully nice and secure.

The media library is brilliant

The media library is something I really, really like about WordPress. Deleting images from the library removes them from your server which ultimately saves hosting space. In other content management systems I’ve used, assets like images stay on the web server even when they’re deleted from the library and to me that feels a bit wrong. Being able to set an alternative description (alt) for an image just once is another great feature particularly if you reuse that image on different pages of your website.

The admin panel still feels difficult

For the websites I’ve created in WordPress I’ve used the Advanced Custom Fields plug-in (ACF) to create a custom page builder. ACF works really well but there’s still something that makes me feel uneasy about the WordPress admin panel. It doesn’t feel very friendly and I think it could be quite distracting for a lot of people. Maybe that’s just because I’ve been spoiled with the interfaces of other systems.

Summary

I can’t help but think that most of the criticism WordPress gets happens when it’s not set up or maintained properly. I did some work on a website recently that had thirty eight plug-ins installed and some weren’t even being used. A lot of the tasks those plug-ins were installed for could have been handled with some really basic code.

I’m fairly early into my adventures with WordPress but I quite like it. Although it was primarily designed for blogging it works remarkably well as a fully fledged content management system.