WordPress pitfalls take you by surprise. They’re like the hazards that Pitfall Harry encountered in the 1980’s hit video game Pitfall!. Harry encounters tar pits, quicksand, crocs, scorpions, and brick walls. He swings on a vine over the crocs but if he encounters a brick wall, precious time is wasted, and he has to backtrack.

We started developing WordPress sites back in 2011 when our tech and writing team consisted of two former sales guys. We followed several podcasts and scoured the web for the best way to get a website up and running. Back then we figured cheap was good so we charged less than $4,000 per website.

Despite reading all those ‘Top 5 Mistakes…’ type blog posts, we learned some hard lessons by falling into the WordPress pitfalls. We’re here to help you avoid similar pitfalls. So, read on.

The Scope Creep Scorpion

When you’re scoping out a project, you don’t need a 10-page document with tons of legal lingo. You just need to be clear on what’s included and what’s not. Otherwise, brace yourself for the scorpion sting! Start by answering a handful of questions:

  • How many pages are you designing?
  • Are you providing professionally written copy for each page or is the client responsible for that part?
  • How many edits are included? What’s considered to be an edit? Simple text?, Simple graphic?, A complex set of instructions?
  • How many words per page?
  • Do you have a timeline?
  • Are you getting paid half upfront and half upon completion? If so, make sure you have dates included such as: ‘Half paid at completion or by August 5, whichever comes first’.

The Hosting  Tarpit

Not all hosting platforms are created equal. If you have a simple site with 4 – 5 pages it may not be as vital. But if you’re developing a robust content marketing site with over a hundred images and expect fast upload times and flexibility, having poor hosting will feel like trying to move a freight train through a tarpit.

Despite all the similarities between web hosting solutions and website maintenance providers, two major differences stand out: Cloud performance and Responsive WordPress Expert Support.

Faster Cloud virtual machine (VM) performance will lead to a better website experience for users, so, do your research and look at reviews.

We recommend Liquid Web due to their responsive support, fast server performance and flexibility for growth. Their 24/7 phone and chat support connects within a minute or two.

Plugin Quantity Quicksand

We started down this plugin road because we didn’t know how to accommodate all of our clients’ needs. We thought, there’s got to be a plugin to solve that problem. And, presto, we found dozens! But, as much as we love WordPress, one of the major pitfalls is the overwhelming smorgasbord of options. And, much like the buffet experience: when you overeat, you can’t run as fast.

Oh, and watch out for the quicksand. Not only will your site run slowly, it will also become vulnerable to attacks or break.

Even a complex, well-designed and highly functional site runs well on seven or eight plugins. We’ve taken over the maintenance of sites with 30, 40, even 80+ plugins.

If you’ve ever played Jenga you can picture how a site with 80 plugins could topple. The code from all the different plugins starts to compete against each other. It’s like a patient on eight different medications trying to address one or two problems. Eventually, your body, even your head will sink deep into quicksand.

Here are our recommendations:

WordPress Theme Builder – Divi

Security – Wordfence

SEO – Yoast or RankMath pick one only

Additional security for SSL – Really Simple SSL

Caching Plugin – WP Fastest Cache

Break through the Brick Walls with a New Mindset

What’s holding you back from developing a better website and collecting a bigger paycheck? Success leaves clues. Find those clues and use them to break through any obstacles in your way. Three approaches we’ve adopted over the years can help you have a breakthrough year.

  1. Master Kaizen. it’s a Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement. It was first developed to eliminate waste, reduce defects, and increase productivity for Toyota. Why not for web design and your digital marketing strategy? Many of us have run into brick walls and had to backtrack. But, over the years, with the commencement of each new project, the process and results get markedly better with kaizen. If you are embarrassed by some of the work you did even a year or two ago, that’s a good mindset to have. Unfortunately, clients and colleagues who have been with you for the ride might have a tough time letting go of the assumption that last year’s work will equate to similar quality and execution this year.

  3. Steal like an artist. Author of Steal Like An Artist Austin Kleon warns that he does not mean ‘steal’ as in plagiarize, skim or rip off — but study, credit, remix, mash up and transform. Creative work builds on what came before, and thus nothing is completely original. Homework: find five or six websites that are clearly top level or possibly award-winning websites to review thoroughly. Here’s a list of 40 award-winning website designs to choose from. Find one design that could inspire a mash up version for a client project you’re working on. Now, create an award-winning site that isn’t a copy of the site but the best version of your work with a sprinkle of inspiration.

  5. Put people first. Use AI tools and all the techniques and technology you can employ, but remember that you’re a human writing and designing websites for humans. Who’s it for? Listen to what your customer’s customer has to say. Capture and illustrate those comments and create with a human perspective in mind.

We are rooting for you. Make it past the WordPress pitfalls, collect bags of money, gold and silver bars, and maybe even diamond rings like Pitfall Harry.