How to Avoid Getting Overwhelmed as a Startup WordPress Developer

Written by Mark Forrester on March 13, 2014 WordPress tips & tricks.

overwhelmed WordPress developerWhen first starting out as a WordPress developer, it’s easy to feel frustrated and overwhelmed. There is simply a lot to keep track of with regards to site customization and this can make it difficult to determine what elements you should use and what ones you should avoid.

You may even be tempted to use as many relevant plugins and widgets as possible, but doing so can slow down site performance. Slowing down performance is a major deterrent to visitors, so it all comes down to your best judgment. And that can put the pressure on.

The way to combat this pressure is to outline your priorities. These priorities are based on the needs of the client, the needs of the client’s audience, your ideas, and your needs as a designer. You know how you want the website to perform, the client has specified what they want, and now you have to put it all together. Don’t start hyperventilating — I’m going to walk you through it.

Outline The Building Process

Rather than overwhelm yourself from the start, take it one step at a time and consider each of your options. Then:

Educate yourself on the possibilities. For instance, you can place a contact form on every page by placing it in one of the sidebars. You can also take a template and make it unique with custom headers, custom footers and the colors that the client desires. You can even integrate social media so social networks and the website can work hand-in-hand to encourage visitors to interact. There is a lot that you can do and it is important to introduce these elements to your client so they are aware of the possibilities.

Listen to your client’s vision. Perhaps they desire a certain function. If that’s the case, you can check out WordPress’ plugins directory in order to identify plugins that will allow you to integrate their preferred function into the site. The good news is that most of everything your client has seen a website do online is available in the form of a plugin for WordPress.

Consider the audience. Before you meet with your new client to discuss options, it’s helpful to do a little research in advance to see what their target audience is looking for. This can help you in your pitch. Believe it or not, clients aren’t always aware of what they want. You coming to the meeting educated about their business and audience will create a sense of trust that you know what you’re doing, which can give you more control over site development.

Start the building process. With the client’s wants, the audience and your WordPress knowledge in mind, you can start building the site. However, you are going to have to identify the plugins and widgets needed to make the design complete. This is a methodical process at first, but you will become accustomed to the ones available that work best for you. You’ll develop a shortlist you consistently refer back to. Basically, many of the bumps come in the beginning, but you will get through them and WordPress web design will become much easier for you the more sites you build.

Integrating The Bells and Whistles 

Your quest for add-on features will typically start with the WordPress Plugin Directory and that can be rather overwhelming. There are so many options that it’s not uncommon to be presented with dozens you could use right away. The problem is that you can’t use dozens without slowing down the website. Plus, the more you use, the more you have to keep track of. There are times when plugin creators stop maintaining their plugins and that means you’d need to replace it. Too many plugins can make it difficult to identify problems, too, as turning off and on each plugin is often standard troubleshooting protocol.

Essential Plugins

There are some essential plugins that you may come back to every time you install WordPress. They include:

Google Analytics for WordPress

wordpress-analytics-wordpressThis is a plugin made available by Yoast and it will make integrating Google Analytics into your WordPress site much easier. Through its use of asynchronous tracking, pages load faster than they would through traditional means. In the meantime, you get a peek at how Google is viewing the website so all the necessary tweaks can be made for better performance.

W3 Total Cache

w3-total-cacheThis is a plugin that’s recommended by many web hosts and tens of thousands of websites use it, especially those that receive high traffic volume. It caches every element of the site, which reduces download times. And any time a site performs the way a user expects, the longer they are likely to stick around.

Alternative Cache Options

Here is a link to other useful resources for Cache plugins cache plugins resource

WordPress SEO by Yoast

This is an SEO’s best friend when it comes to WordPress design because you are able to optimize image titles, page content, XML sitemaps, meta descriptions, meta keywords, and more. There are also breadcrumbs, Robots Meta configuration, canonical link element support, permalink cleanup, and post titles can even be optimized. This is a plugin that every site needs to make managing SEO easier.

Contact Form 7

contact-form-7Every website should have a contact form on the contact page, at the very least. Contact Form 7 allows you to manage multiple contact forms across a site to make encouraging feedback (and managing it) a snap.

Optional Performance Plugins

To enhance performance and user experience, there are some additional plugins that can be considered:

WP-Polls

The type of website you are creating may warrant the creation of polls. Polls can be added in different ways — like through plugins — and there are many settings to choose from. The purpose of polls is to find out information about those visiting the site. It also prompts them to engage with the website, which can increase on-site time.

WordPress PopUp

wordpress-popupThis is a nice plugin that allows you to add a JavaScript “pop over” to the website. The popups can be displayed over a network. If you wish, you can have the popup show up on a per URL basis.

Antispam Bee

antispam-beeSpam can be a bit messy, but this anti-spam solution helps you better control the spam that may come across your site. This minimizes the manual spam management that you would have to do otherwise.

Conclusion

The above plugins are just a handful of the essentials and optional plugins that you can use to streamline a WordPress website. Just be sure to understand the purpose of the site, the audience being targeted, and the needs of the client before you start a new project. You should also think about what unique things you bring to the table. What do you have to offer? Considering all of these elements will ensure a smoother design process so you are not backtracking and making excessive revisions later down the road.

What was your first experience as a WordPress developer like? Whether painful or pleasant, we’d love to hear all about it!

Image source: Astronomy Humor

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8 Responses

  1. Steve
    March 16, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

    Good advice Tom. Your essential plugin list is pretty much in line with my regular choices. Analytics, Total Cache and Anti Spam Bee are always my first plugin installs along with WordFence and Wp Clean Up. Great article, thanks Tom

    • cheapstix
      March 18, 2014 at 7:52 am #

      Hey Steve, if you find yourself always installing the same plugins then maybe take a look at http://wproller.com/ might save you some time.

      In regards to the article, it seems to be ‘how to select some decent WP plugins’ rather than anything about being an actual developer. The conceptual advice (consider you clients needs etc) is good, but broad, advice, but installing plugins doesn’t make a person a WP developer. Given the title I expected this article had some solid advice for the important things to focus on when diving into WP development.

      Also presenting “all the options” to a client can often be the worst thing for a project – they get caught up in bells and whistles rather than the site’s core purpose.

      • Mark Forrester
        March 18, 2014 at 7:31 pm #

        Good feedback and duly noted. Perhaps we can follow up with another post addressing more specifics in terms of WP development tips & tricks.

  2. Nick Cobb
    March 17, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

    Nice to see QuickCache (it’s always been my favorite cache plugin) and WordFence get mentions here. A couple other security-related WordPress plugins I depend on are Stealth Login Page (http://wordpress.org/plugins/stealth-login-page/) and Apocalypse Meow (http://wordpress.org/plugins/apocalypse-meow/).

  3. mimografix
    March 17, 2014 at 10:41 pm #

    Apply that for yourself, we are still waiting for the Woo Booking plugin but no body of your team say samething about time that we have to wait…

    • Mark Forrester
      March 18, 2014 at 7:28 pm #

      We’re in final stages of beta testing and hope to launch in the next month!

  4. Nick Cobb
    March 18, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

    Was something wrong with the comment I made yesterday? I find it odd that you decided to moderate what was intended to be a helpful comment. Apocalypse Meow and the Stealth Login Page plugins are excellent. “Are blog comments worth the effort?” Clearly not.

    • Mark Forrester
      March 18, 2014 at 7:29 pm #

      Apologies Nick. It was held in the “pending” comments queue due to it containing two links.

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