Building a WordPress Website: How to Avoid Common Pitfalls

A man standing in front of a tall concrete wall with his shadow on the other site and arms upraised. Words: Building a WordPress Website: How to Avoid Common Pitfalls

Are you building a WordPress website and having trouble getting it done?

Do you keep running into pitfalls and roadblocks and wonder if you will ever publish your website?

If so, you’re not alone. In fact, I’ve hit most of these pitfalls myself.

Whether you are building a WordPress website for a client or a business owner trying to do-it-yourself, I hope that this post helps you to move past common pitfalls that hold you back from getting your website done.

WordPress is versatile content management system (CMS), and you can do as much or as little as you want to with the platform.

While it’s touted as an out-of-the-box website solution, most people find that WordPress has a fairly steep learning curve.

So keep in mind you are in good company if you have fallen prey to any of the following pitfalls while redesigning or building a WordPress website.

Once you know which pitfalls are holding you back, you’ll be able to take corrective action and move forward.

1. You Have No Website Objective

Plenty of extremely popular websites exist solely for the purpose of sharing information without any thought of monetization. These types of blogs can by written by hobbyists, retirees, support professionals (think psychologists, counselors, doctors), and others.

But if you are a business owner, you will most likely want to generate leads from your website visitors and convert them to clients.

Whether or not you anticipate a revenue stream from your website, you still have expenses to keep it going. For example: your web hosting account, premium graphics, pay-per-click advertising, and your time.

So before you go any further, ask yourself the following questions and come up with clear objectives for your website.

What do you hope to accomplish with your website?

  • What information do you want to present on your website? Most WordPress websites have the basic five pages: Home, Services/Products, Our Blog, About Us, Contact Us. But what other website components will you need as well? A portfolio? A gallery? A directory? Think about what information you need to gather that will bring value to your customers and your brand’s unique selling proposition to the forefront.
  • Do you want to monetize your website? Will you be selling products and/or services on your site? If yes, you will need a way to securely process transactions. You have several choices at this point. One option is to install an SSL certificate and set up an e-commerce site. Another option would be to create an online store with a subscription to a site such as Shopify, Big Commerce, or Volusion. Thirdly, you can route the client’s payment through a third-party vendor such as PayPal. This is an economical solution for websites with few products or services.
  • Do you want to be an affiliate marketer? If yes, you will need to gather the affiliate links and product information. But try to minimize the amount of links to products and/or services you are promoting so that your website is not cluttered and confusing to your visitors. You will also need to explicitly state that you are an affiliate of the product or service you are endorsing so that others understand you are paid a commission should they decide to purchase from your link.
  • Do you want to be seen as an expert in your niche? If yes, it’s important to set up a search-optimized blog and write relevant and helpful articles on a consistent basis. Try to answer questions and comments that others leave on your blog as soon as possible.
  • Are you looking for brand exposure?If yes, it’s important to set up a blog right from the start, and routinely create website content that you can post to your social media platforms.
  • Will your website be a membership site? If yes, you can set up a recurring income stream by requiring members to sign up for a subscription. It’s a nice online business model when done properly, but requires a lot of intensive marketing to gain and retain your members. You should be clear about this objective before starting your website design.
  • Will you need a gallery or portfolio? If yes, you’ll want to find a theme that readily supports these components. Otherwise, you’ll have to rely on plugins to do the job. And plugin authors come and go, which potentially can cause your gallery to break once they stop supporting that plugin. While WordPress does allow you to create a gallery, I have had that functionality “break” when updating WordPress sites.
  • Do you want to capture your visitor’s emails? If yes, include a call-to-action to get them to sign up to a newsletter or free download.

2. You Can’t Decide on a WordPress Theme

I’ll admit ~ this is a BIGGIE. There are so many wonderful free and premium WordPress themes available, it’s overwhelming to pick just the perfect theme for your website. If you are having problems picking a theme, stop right now and go back to Pitfall #1: What is Your Website Objective?

What is Your Website Objective?

Until you understand what your website objective is, choosing a theme is kind of pointless. Why? Because there is a WordPress theme created for just about every type of business or niche. If you choose a bare-bones theme, then you’ll need to add plugin after plugin to create the functionality you might need for your site.

If you know what your objectives are, you’ll be able to more easily choose your WordPress Theme. Once you are confident your objectives are clear and are ready to select your theme, here are some points to keep in mind.

3. You Keep Switching Your WordPress Theme

Again, this is a pitfall that will assure you that you will NEVER get your website done. You may see a WordPress website with a theme that you like a whole lot better than yours. With the sheer volume of WordPress themes available, you’ll never get ahead of this one if you continue to fall prey to switching.

Make sure you read your theme documentation and explore all of the features included. Many times people new to WordPress are unaware of the shortcodes, page layout options, and other features embedded within the theme they have purchased.

Like most rules, though, there are exceptions. Some WordPress themes are just plain buggy (yes, even the ones you pay for) and you won’t really know that until you start working with one of them. It’s important to check out the reviews and comments from others who have purchased and used a specific theme. See what the theme’s rating is and what others are saying. Make sure the plugins you need to use are compatible with your WordPress theme.

Even if you’ve been diligent in researching themes, there are times when trying to get a theme to work will be more trouble than it’s worth. If theme author support is poor or non-existent, you may have to look elsewhere to find support or consider finding a new theme.

Am I fighting with this theme more often then not?

If yes, it is seriously time to consider a new theme. If the site does not display well on mobile devices even though it is sold as a responsive theme, you’ll have to figure out how to correct it. That may mean hiring a WordPress developer to solve the media query issues or back-end PHP programming. If that starts costing you more and more money, it’s time to find a truly responsive theme.

4. You Keep Falling for the “Shiny Objects”

Once you start building or redesigning your website, you’ll find a plethora of “must have” tools that you just can’t live without. But guess what? Tomorrow there will be new and improved versions. Whether it’s an email marketing service, paid-for landing page templates, social media scheduling tools, or something else, nothing can send you into the rabbit hole faster than the latest shiny objects.

It doesn’t matter whether they are”paid for” or free tools ~ the fact of the matter is it takes time to sign up for the “free” version, learn it, test drive it, and decide whether or not it works for your business. All of this to say the “Shiny Object Syndrome” is a time and money sucker, causing you to lose focus and taking you away from getting your website done.

Remember, those tools will still be there once your site is published. And adding a few shiny objects as website enhancements will keep your website interesting and current. So it’s okay to hold off on this.

What tools, plugins, etc. are essential for my website’s functionality?

What social sharing plugin will you use? Do you need email integration with a service such as AWeber or MailChimp? Do you want a live chat plugin to be able to answer questions in real time? What about a payment gateway? Make sure you know up front what functionality is critical to your website’s success.

5. Your Website is not a Priority

You might believe that you’ve made your website a priority, but if it’s been awhile and you still don’t have that website published, something else is taking your time (and/or money).

If you are doing your own website, you need to reevaluate your objectives and see what is standing in the way of getting it done.

If your web designer keeps putting your project on the back-burner, it’s time to decide whether you want to finish it yourself or find someone else to do the job.

You may argue that you have a business to run or that spending time on your website doesn’t pay the bills. Which can be very true.

If your website truly is not a priority, then this pitfall is a non-issue for some business owners.

Am I stressed because my website still isn’t published?

If yes, look for ways to set aside time each day or on the weekends to work toward completing your website. You should be passionate about your website, excited to see it taking shape, and motivated to keep it going.

6. Your Scope Keeps Changing

Scope creep.  It’s something that happens to the best of us, no matter how hard we try. Generally a web designer will set up a Scope of Work document to clearly outline what is included in your website package.

If you’re doing it yourself, you’ve most likely identified the pages and information you will present on your website.

Except as you start building out your site, you begin identifying other aspects of your business that you want to include in the site. Scope creep is a HUGE time-sucker and usually means that you shortcut defining website objectives. If that is the case, I’m sending you back to Pitfall #1. Figure out your website objective!

What is the absolute essential information to display when the website is first published?

Outline the pages, the information contained on each page, what graphics/pictures you want to show. Figure out your differentiators and make sure your visitors know what sets you apart.

7. Your Prospects and Clients Can’t Find You

Just because you built it doesn’t mean they will come. Unless your website is properly optimized for search engines, your chances of organic search traffic are slim to none. Unless you are pushing out your website content on social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, your prospects and clients simply won’t know you are there.

Your theme should be built for search. And there are some wonderful plugins such as Yoast to help you with SEO (search engine optimization). Tailor your content around the questions your prospects and clients are asking. Answer common questions with helpful blog posts, YouTube tutorials, downloadable white papers, and infographics.

When website visitors DO find you, make sure you respond to their questions and comments on your blog or social platforms.

Where are my potential clients hanging out online?

What forums, blogs, and social media platforms do your potential clients visit? Once you can answer this, you’ll be able to tailor your site for social media, mobile, and local search.

8. You are a Perfectionist

I am so guilty of this, I even wrote a blog post about it on my personal website. Suffice it to say, sometimes 90% is good enough. Accept the fact that there is no such thing as perfect. Understand that there is no way to stay totally on top of technology and trends. Refer to Pitfall #4 and stop yourself before it’s too late.

Sure, you can belabor design choices such as font style, size, and color. You can agonize over graphic choices, your logo, your bio, and page formats. These elements are all important, but they don’t need to paralyze you.

Unsure about which comment system to use? Disqus or CommentLuv? What social sharing plugin to use? Make a decision and implement it. If it doesn’t work down the road, you can always try something else.

Can I accept less than 100% in the short term to keep my website going?

Seriously. If you are a perfectionist, you may feel like you are compromising. But business owners who are stalled because they are trying to reach the highest of standards will end up facing frustration more often than not.

9. You Don’t Have a Good Backup

You might wonder why this is a pitfall. Simply put, if you don’t have good backups and your website gets hacked, it’s back to the drawing board. That means starting all over from scratch. Even while you are in development mode, make sure you are backing up your website and storing the backup file offline. Periodically test your backups to make sure they are complete.

And if your website gets hacked, it’s time to improve your website security moving forward.

What backup tools will I use?

There are plenty of free and paid-for backup solutions but my favorite is Updraft Plus. Do your research and make sure to take regular backups of your website.

10. Your Website is Hosted on an Over-Crowded Server

If you find yourself unable to log into cpanel or the WordPress dashboard, it’s time to consider a new hosting provider.

If you can’t get to your website, how will others?

Page load speed is an important Google ranking factor and slow-loading sites can turn away your visitors. These situations usually get worse before they get better, so take the plunge to find a better hosting provider before you publish your site. You’ll save yourself a lot of headaches and time.

11. You are Trying to be Everything to Everyone

You can’t be everything to everyone. But you can be everything to your buyer persona; that is, your ideal client. It’s important to understand who that ideal client is and target your marketing message to that demographic.

When you try to be everything to everyone, you fall into Pitfall #7, and that just holds you back.

Who is your ideal client?

Target your website, blog posts, and social media content to that one ideal client. When you cast too wide a net, you risk not reaching just the right prospect.

12. You are Afraid to Hit “Publish”

Yep. The website is done, you’re good to go. But whether it’s fear, uncertainty, lack of confidence or any of the above pitfalls, you simply are afraid to hit “publish.” It’s human to worry what others will think. It’s okay to wonder whether your work is “good enough.” But the alternative is to do nothing, and that never feels good, does it?

Whether you are publishing your website or a blog post, hitting the “publish” button is never easy for most people.

But you’ve come this far and worked hard to create your website ~ so why stop now?

There is nothing more to be said. Just do it! 🙂

In Summary

In this post we discussed the importance of thinking through your website objectives and scope. Building a WordPress website is exciting, but it can get frustrating rather quickly if you don’t have a clear vision for it. Design elements are important, but they should be a natural outflow of your branding and vision.

You will most likely hit one or more of these pitfalls when building a WordPress website. It’s important to not let it paralyze you. Rather, see the pitfall for what it is, take corrective action, and keep moving forward.

Better yet, if you are just getting started, avoid the pitfalls before you fall into one of them. Really know your website objectives, understand your short and long term goals, and stay focused to keep your website project moving.

Are there any other pitfalls that I’ve missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Image Credit: Fotolia

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Michelle PhillipsRegex SEORobin StrohmaierMichelle PhillipsNancy Babcock Recent comment authors
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Regex SEO
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Can you elaborate on 12th point? What if everything messes up after you hit publish?

Robin Strohmaier
Guest

Michelle, great article! I am so guilty of # 8 and the perfectionist trap. You are right… we need to choose something and we can always make the change down the road.

Michelle Phillips
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Michelle Phillips

Thanks for your feedback, Robin. It’s good to know I’m not alone with the perfectionist trap! There’s always something more to do tomorrow, and that’s a good thing because it keeps our content and our sites fresh. Appreciate you taking time to leave a comment!

Nancy Babcock
Guest

Michelle, excellent list of objectives to consider before beginning a website design. You are so right with #1: have an objective. After going through the recent design process, pinning down what I wanted the site to deliver helped make other decisions. One other thought, spend time doing some research on website design trends and templates; good to build for the future (even though the techno future changes so frequently)!

Michelle Phillips
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Michelle Phillips

Great thoughts, Nancy! Thanks for reminding me about doing upfront research on web design trends. It really does help a business owner clarify objectives and needs vs. wants.Appreciate you weighing in! 🙂

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