What is a high quality WordPress website?
Quality can be subjective and hard to define, but it doesn’t have to be if you have a set of guidelines.
I guess all website designers like to pride themselves on the quality of their web design skills, but unfortunately, being good at design doesn’t mean they are good at setting up a high quality WordPress website.
So, what does quality mean to you beyond the design?
Quality can be split into two areas. The quality you can see, and the quality you need measure. Just because something can’t be seen doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect the quality.
Here is my list of what makes a high quality WordPress website.
- It is bug and error free
- It loads fast
- Images are optimised
- You have website caching enabled
- The plugins are reputable, well supported and maintained
- There is no plugin overuse, i.e using plugins when not necessary
- There are no broken links
- The website is very secure
- The website is easy to update
- The website is easy to maintain
- The database isn’t full of unused / unwanted data. e.g spam comments or unused images
I’m going to give explain how you can make some basic checks to see if your website has been set up with these quality factors in mind. It is not a definite list of checks, it is only designed to give you an indication of the quality.
1. Is your website bug and error free?
The only way you can check this is by visiting each page and testing out all your functionality. Look out for error messages that may appear on the screen. Check your forms send ok. There is no quick way round this.
I recently worked on a clients site that was fairly new (less than 12 months old). The designer had built it and left it full of errors.
- The email sign up form wasn’t connected to her Mailchimp account (in fact it was connected to the designers account)
- There were lots of broken links
- A plugin had gone obsolete and no longer worked
2. Does your website load fast?
For your users to hang around on your website, you want a load speed of less than 3 seconds. There are lots of online tools you can use to measure your website load speed. One I use is www.gtmetrix.com.
Check your speed in this tool and note down the problems that are causing your website to load slowly. The main culprit is often uncompressed, large images and no website caching (See next checks).
3. Are your images really large and uncompressed?
Using the Gtmetrix tool (see link above) to test your site load speed you can tell if your images are too big because you will get error messages about them. Your images need to be sized properly for the space they are filling, and they need to be compressed. I wrote a guide to resizing and compressing images, if you have never you heard about this you will find it useful.
I have improved the site loading speed on many sites and large images are the biggest problem. Some web designers don’t understand that images need to be correctly sized and compressed and they need to be in the correct format. I’ve seen PNG files everywhere when they should be JPEG.
4. Do you have website caching?
Caching your website pages means they get downloaded faster. If you don’t have any caching on your website or on your hosting server, then your pages need to be reloaded from scratch each time someone visits your page. There are lots of plugins that can help cache your site. Some are better than others. I will use different plugins depending on how a website has been built. I use Swift Performance Pro or WP Rocket at the moment to speed up my clients sites. I say at the moment because I am under no illusion that it will be the best forever. Plugin features and quality can come and go so I do have my work cut out staying on top of it.
5. Are your plugins reputable and well maintained?
I have seen web designers use some very sketchy free plugins that have stopped being supported by the plugin developer. This leaves websites very vulnerable. Check your plugins by going to the information section for each plugin and checking the following:
- The star rating
- The last time it was updated
- The compatibility with your version of WordPress
It needs to be compatible with a good start rating. It doesn’t always have to have been recently updated but if it is not just be warned, if it hasn’t been updated for the last few major releases of WordPress then it highly likely the developer has stopped supporting it and it will soon be obsolete. This causes security and performance issues and it is highly recommended that you replace it.
6. Does your website rely heavily on plugins for it to work? (Plugin overuse)
Some people go plugin crazy because with WordPress you can have plugins for everything! This is even more so with web designers who ‘needs’ to use plugins for everything. Sometimes, just a line of code in your child theme can mean getting rid of a plugin, or just correctly setting up a plugin can eliminate others. For example. Choosing RankMath SEO plugin over Yoast means you don’t need a redirect plugin. Setting up a security plugin properly means you don’t need to add a separate plugin to limit login attempts. (These are all examples of plugin over use I have seen).
I recently simplified a website that needed 10 plugins just to function! This doesn’t have to be the norm! When I finished with the site it only relied on 2 and that was because the client really insisted on a couple of fancy (non essential) features.
7. Do you have a child theme?
A normal theme can’t be customised. If you add or modify the code in any way, the modifications will get overwritten when the theme is updated. This is managed by creating child theme. A child theme lets you add modifications to a main theme, e.g Divi but they don’t get overwritten when the ‘Parent’ theme is updated. Even if you don’t need a modification right now, you may in the future, so having a child theme future proofs your website. A child theme is a sign that your web designer understands the importance of a child theme and they cares about the future of your website. For an experienced WordPress designer they take less than 10 minutes to set up.
8. Is your website secure
You should have at the very least a security plugin installed on your website. If you don’t, then your website designer has really left your website very vulnerable. Download the free plugin WordFence or Ithemes security and make sure you read the instructions on how to set it up. There are a lot of other security issues that should be addressed past what a free plugin can do. Download the plugin ‘Security Ninja’ and scan your website. It checks for 50 security issues. Some are really hard to implement, some need a bit of custom code added to your website files (remember that child theme I mentioned earlier), some can be fixed easily by following the instructions. Even if you don’t want to make the security improvements yourself, just look at the report to see how vulnerable your website it.
9. Is your website backed up?
Your web designer should have explained how you can keep your website backed up. If they told you to rely on your hosting then they told you bad advice. It is good practice to keep a backup of your website that is independant of your hosting server backup. You can back up your website for free using a plugin called Updraft so if you don’t have any independent backups of your site, do this now.
10. Have your WordPress settings been set up properly?
Check your WordPress general settings. Make sure people can’t register on your site if you don’t want them to.
Check your WordPress discussion settings. You want to manage the spam comment on your website quite tightly so make sure you have ‘comments must be manually approved’ checked.
Check your WordPress Reading settings to make sure Google can crawl your site.
11. Do you know who your admin users are and why they have an account?
If your web designer has employed people to help them build your site they might still have admin accounts. You should remove any accounts of people who don’t need one.
Go to the Users settings and delete any account you don’t need.
12. Do you have unused images taking up space on your server
Sometimes a web designer will upload a theme to your site, including the dummy images. These take up lots of space on your server. Take a look through your media library to identify if this has happened to you. If you have lots of random images you don’t recognise, make sure these are all deleted.
Building a WordPress website so it is easy to maintain and stays error free takes a fair bit of skill and knowledge that some web designers just don’t have.
You can identify whether your web designer has the skill by including a few specific requirements in your project brief.
Without them, you might end up with a poor website build that will cost you more in the long run!
So, did you check your website? How did you do? Is it as high quality as you thought?