I our line of work, we get the chance to look into the dashboard of many different WordPress sites for businesses of all sizes across a variety of industries. For the most part these sites are well maintained, but occasionally we do see room for improvement. There are a handful of WordPress tips you can use to keep your site running well, both in terms of speed and security.
Use a Child Theme
This step should typically be done during development of your website, but it can also be performed after the fact. All WordPress sites run off of a theme which dictates the layout, typography, and just about all other visual elements of your site. Sometimes your theme is exactly what you want your website design to look like and no customizations are required, but the majority of the time there is some modifying of the theme happening. This is where a child theme can really save you from a lot of headaches. Child themes are a separate set of files that leverage your theme, but allow you to make modifications that don’t affect your parent theme.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of running a child theme is the ability to keep your parent theme updated without losing any customizations. For example, let’s say you changed your footer copyright info to display your business name instead of the theme name. Without a child theme, when you perform an update of your parent theme your footer will revert back to displaying the theme name. However, with a child theme in place, the parent theme can update while retaining all the customizations the designer made because they are stored in different files.
For more information on child themes and how to develop one, check out this article from the folks over at Elegant Themes.
Keep Your Site Up-To-Date
When you log in to your WordPress dashboard you should always check for available updates. It is important to keep your site up to date, not only to get the most out of new features, but more importantly to keep your site secure. WordPress lets you know of updates for your theme, plugins, and WordPress itself both at the top of your dashboard and along the left hand side of the page as seen here:
Clicking the update button at the top of the screen will take you to a page where you can start updating your plugins, your theme, or your version of WordPress. There are a few things to keep in mind when applying updates:
For Plug-Ins: Sometimes updating a plugin can cause conflicts with your theme, but the majority of the time you won’t experience any issues.
For Theme Updates: If you have not installed a child theme, some of your customizations are likely to disappear when you update your WordPress theme. If you choose to keep other themes in your WordPress installation you should update them as well, as some theme updates might contain important security updates.
For WordPress Updates: Before you update the WordPress platform, you should check with your theme developer to see if there are any theme updates to go along with the WordPress update. Applying an update to a theme that isn’t built for the new version can have adverse effects throughout the entire website. For these reasons we also suggest backing up your site using a tool such as BackupBuddy to make sure you can get your site back up, should the update cause any problems.
Use Unique Usernames and Passwords
Like all CMS-based websites, people are always trying to hack WordPress sites. There is no rhyme or reason for who they target or why. The most basic step you can take to avoid this happening to your website is use unique usernames and passwords.
For usernames, avoid using “admin” or the name of the website itself. If your website is www.cloudscapeyoga.com, do not use “cloudscapeyoga” as a username. You don’t need extremely complex usernames, just stay away from things that are easy to guess.
WordPress now includes a password generator which will produce very strong passwords. The disadvantage to using these passwords is that they are nearly impossible to remember. If you choose your own password, be sure to mix in some capital letters, special characters, and numbers to make it harder to guess.
To lock things down even tighter, you can install a security plugin such as All-In-One WP Security & Firewall.
Maintaining your WordPress site can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. There are hundreds of plugins designed to improve and monitor performance, security, and other components of your site. Follow the steps outlined above to get you off on the right track.