As the new year arrives, we break out new calendars, make resolutions, and consider new professional or personal goals. We clean and declutter our homes. Websites also need to be decluttered from time to time.
What are we doing at RED to start the new year off right?
- Team members are setting new personal and professional goals.
- We are setting new objectives as a team.
- We are continuing to update websites we manage to use PHP 7.1 or above as it becomes available.
- We are auditing the websites we manage for any unsecure plugins, and reaching out to those concerned.
- As websites are ready for it, we are upgrading websites to use WordPress 5.0.x and the new block editor.
What can you do to prepare your website for the new year?
The new year is great time to review your website. Keep reading to see what we recommend you include in your WordPress website review.
What do I need to review on my WordPress website?
There are several things you will want to go over as you review your WordPress website to make sure it is up to date and ready for the new year. Here are our suggestions:
The Basics: If you do nothing else, do these.
- Back up your website.
It’s important to back up your website before performing any upgrades. It’s also important to run backups regularly, and store them off-site, so you can restore your website if anything happens. If you aren’t sure how to set this up, get in touch.
- WordPress software updates.
Keeping WordPress on a secure version is the most important thing you can do to keep your website safe. Keeping WordPress on the latest available version gives you access to all the latest features, too, including the new block editor.
- WordPress plugin updates.
If your admin area shows a lot of available updates, it’s definitely time to whip your site into shape. Leaving plugins un-updated prevents you from using new features. It also prevents you from benefiting from any speed updates the new versions may include, and most importantly, it leaves you vulnerable if some of the older versions have noted security issues.
- WordPress theme updates.
Themes are also susceptible to security issues and should be kept up to date. You may also notice speed and performance updates when you upgrade your theme. Afraid of losing your customizations? First, make sure you have backed up your website so you can restore if anything goes wrong. Next, make sure you are using a child theme. If you need help, just let us know.
- Test your site after performing software, plugin, or theme updates.
If you use a caching plugin or service, be sure to clear it. Log out of your website. Clear your browser cache, and/or use a different browser to check it out (ex: if you normally use Chrome, try looking at your site with Firefox.) Make sure any special features you have on your site still work, and confirm that nothing has changed visually.
- Audit all of your administrator, editor, and contributor users.
To find your list of users, click on “Users” in the left hand menu, then click on the “Administrator” link at the top. Click on “Editor” to see those users, and “Contributor” to see those. Should all of those people still have access? Remove any users who are no longer part of your organization. Should all of the current users still have as much power over your site? Read about user roles and permissions here, and then limit permissions for people who need access to certain areas but not everything. A user who is only adding content to your blog doesn’t need access to plugins, for example. The fewer unused administrator logins you have lying around, the less chance a hacker has of breaking into your site through those logins. To increase security, you can also do a password audit and insist on strong passwords for every user.
If you need help with backups or updates, let us know. We’re happy to help you bring your website up to date. If you want us to stay on top of your site’s updates and security on a regular basis, we can do that, too.
Organize Your Website. Your website should be easy for you to update, and easy for your visitors to navigate.
- In your admin area, are you able to find pages easily so you can edit them?
You need to be able to find your web pages quickly and easily to edit them or add new ones. Page order and a proper hierarchy can help you here. Keep in mind that if you change page hierarchy, you will need to put page redirects in place so you don’t lose your search engine value. Check with your web developer if you plan any web page level changes to be sure your links don’t get lost in the shuffle. Changing page order won’t affect your front-end links, though, so go ahead and renumber so your pages are in an easy-to-find order.
- Are your visitors able to find important information easily?
Think about what your visitors are looking for on your website. Enlist the help of volunteers to do some real-life testing to see if they are able to find the information they are looking for quickly and easily. If they have trouble finding the information they want, think about how you can update your site to make your most important information easy to find.
- Are your calls to action clear and easily visible?
You can test volunteers to see how quickly they can find the important elements of your website: donation buttons, email list sign-ups, and so on.
- Are your navigation menus easy to use?
Some navigation menus have a nasty tendency to vanish if you don’t put your mouse in just the right spot, leading to user irritation. Make sure your website menu is easy to navigate. Verify your menus on various browsers and devices. Are your menus easy to use on a desktop computer? On a tablet? On a phone?
Is it Time for a Redesign?
- Is your site starting to look outdated?
Like that sweater you used to wear, your website’s trendy style may also have gone out 10 years ago. If your website feels outdated, your visitors will notice, and that will affect their view of your organization. You want your visitors to know you are an active, modern, organization, so show them that through your website design.
- Do the colors and fonts still match your vision and the feel you want for the site?
If your color scheme, fonts, or layout haven’t been updated since the 1990s, maybe it’s time to consider a makeover! Your website is your display window for the world. Make sure your website represents you properly.
Mobile Friendly. Your website should be attractive on phones and other mobile devices.
- Is your website usable and attractive on mobile devices?
In 2019, this is not optional. According to StatCounter, nearly 50% of users navigate websites on their mobile devices, so being mobile-friendly is no longer just a nice option. People must be able to easily navigate your website on mobile devices.
- Is your website fast enough for mobile devices?
People need websites that load quickly and easily on mobile devices. Make sure your site is up to speed – literally.
Audit your Content. Make sure your website has current information.
- Is your content still up to date and correct?
Check email addresses, street addresses, employee names, and phone numbers.
- Are photos up to date?
If you have photos of the company owners, employees, or board of directors, are they up to date? Should you take new headshots?
- Is there any new information you want to share with your visitors?
Do you have any special events coming up? Have you developed a new product or program?
- If you don’t have a blog, could that be a good way to connect with your customers?
Regularly updated content also lets search engines know that you are invested in your website and interested in providing current content to your visitors, which improves your search engine rankings.
- If you have a blog, are your posts still accurate?
You can update old posts with new information, or remove old posts if they are no longer providing current & correct information.
- If you have a blog, are you adding new posts regularly?
If you don’t have the time to commit to keeping your blog up to date, and your posts are quite old, consider removing the date from them so they appear more timeless & less outdated. Another option would be to convert those posts to pages.
- Proofread your content.
Make sure there are no typos, and sentences are brief and clear. Try using Grammarly or Hemingway to ensure that your text is easily readable. WordPress SEO can help you ensure you’re meeting your search engine optimization goals through your writing.
- Remove or update any broken links on your website.
If your content is not up to date, and your site links to old or outdated links, this has a negative effect on your search engine rankings. You can use a link checker to verify your links still work.
Check Your Website’s Functionality. Does everything work as expected?
- Do all the functions and features work properly?
If your site has forms, submit them to be sure you are receiving notifications and you can submit them without any errors. If you have an e-commerce shop, submit a test order to be sure everything is working.
- If you are active on social media, do you have those links listed on your site?
Would you like a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram feed integrated on your site? Would you like a way to automatically post from your blog to social media, or vice versa? Do you want your users to be able to easily post your pages or images to Pinterest? Check with your trusted web developer about how you can add those items.
Check Your Website’s Security. Keep your site and your visitors safe.
- On today’s internet, your site should be using SSL.
This indicates a higher degree of trustworthiness to search engines like Google, and inspires confidence in your visitors. If you have not yet set up a security certificate, ask your web developer how to set one up.
- Are you using a firewall?
You can use a plugin or a separate service like Sucuri, but a firewall is an important step to help keep your site safe.
- Are you using any plugins that have been removed from the WordPress plugin repository?
Plugins are removed from the WordPress repository for various reasons, not just security issues. But if you don’t know for sure why a plugin was removed, you’ll be safest if you remove it from your website.
- Have the plugins you are using been updated recently?
The rule of thumb is that a plugin that hasn’t been updated in over two years is likely abandoned. This means you won’t receive further feature or security updates, and it may be time to look for another plugin to perform the same function.
- Is your user list up to date?
If anyone has moved on from your organization, you should remove their user account from the website. Don’t leave unused accounts lying around, waiting to be hacked.
Accessibility. If you haven’t considered this yet – it’s time.
Websites should be accessible to everyone.
People should be able to view and use your website despite any physical impairments they may have. There are ways to make your website more accessible. Use colors with high contrast. Make your font size adjustable. Use alt tags for your images. If this is something you’re interested in exploring further, get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.
Do you need help performing a website audit? RED is ready to help.