One of the easiest CMS engines to learn is WordPress. They have a free service where newbies can sign up to learn the system without committing to a full domain name. Once you get a personal server there are many additional benefits, however it can become more confusing to manage an entire WordPress website. Thankfully there’s a ton of resources online for learning how to utilize WordPress to its fullest potential.
In this guide I want to share a few tips for managing your own efficient & speedy WordPress website. The system may seem confusing at first but it’s really easy to learn with a bit of time. Practicing the backend will make everything else a lot easier to grasp, and this includes customizing plugins or theme files.
Mastering the Admin Panel
Each individual section of the WordPress admin has a lot of features to master. Even just the posts & pages section has a number of boxes which are typically hidden by default. This is the same for almost every part of the WP administration panel. You can toggle these interface boxes from the “Screen Options” tab located in the top right corner of most pages.
But even more important menus to understand are located at the bottom of the navigation list. Appearance, Tools, and Settings have a lot of sub-menus which are essential to use WordPress properly. Some WordPress plugins will append their own menus onto the navigation so it helps to know how the default functionality works.
Because WordPress is constantly releasing newer versions you have to keep yourself up-to-date on the latest changes. There are plenty of websites online which talk about WordPress updates and how you can utilize new features to their fullest potential. All of the various settings & menus will be important whenever installing a new WordPress website.
I would recommend creating a sandbox environment where you can demo these menus to see how they influence the WP installation. Try using a local PHP/MySQL server on your machine or even create a hidden subdomain on your own website to install a generic copy of WordPress. Then you can change settings or install new plugins/themes for a test run without damaging your live site.
The more you interact with WordPress the easier it will be to solve complicated problems or error messages. All you really need is Google and some good researching abilities to find a solution. Most problems have already been discussed on the WordPress support forums or similar forums like WordPress Stack Exchange.
But as you get comfortable with PHP errors you won’t always need to search Google for a solution. Even if you never plan to write your own PHP code it helps to understand what certain errors mean and how to read through existing theme files. Most problems will stem from a small bit of code in your theme or some activated plugin, so there may not always be a solution online.
Another part of debugging is trying to fix problems on the frontend. For example if your page titles are not working properly, or if the sidebar widgets appear empty when you have them setup in the admin panel. These kinds of problems often require checking many solutions to ultimately unearth the culprit.
WordPress News & Blogs
I mentioned earlier how there are so many blogs directly related to WordPress resources. The post content often includes a myriad of topics like premium themes, news updates, tutorials, or even reviews for new updates or plugins. If you want to familiarize yourself with WordPress spend a bit of time reading through any posts that catch your interest.
WordPress has grown into a large CMS with so many different topics. Custom Post Types are one broad area that requires a lot of research to fully comprehend. But working with a large CMS offers great solutions if you know how to use them.
Also since the team is frequently putting out updates you might find yourself falling behind the curve quickly. Spend a bit of time each week or each month just reading through interesting articles. Over time you’ll find certain blogs that you really enjoy and might continually visit for helpful information.
Here’s a small list of WordPress-related blogs to get you started:
Keeping it Clean
It’s easy to get caught up in all the fancy new plugins and features within WordPress that you might end up clogging your website. This is when you’ll notice database queries lagging and overall page loading times increasing. Try to use a minimum number of plugins without too much duplicate functionality. Also keep your theme files orderly and easy to read.
One of the biggest reasons for a slow-loading website is a reliance on too many external files. Plugins often require their own CSS/JS files which get included into each page as a separate HTTP request. This is how so many websites end up bogged down and running very sluggish over time.
An efficient WordPress website just needs to be streamlined. This makes publishing content easier and maintaining the website a lot more straightforward. This doesn’t mean you should avoid complex themes or multiple CPTs for the sake of simplicity.
Just be sure to organize everything so that you can easily understand how it all works and where to locate problems as they occur.
I’ve included some helpful articles and online webapps directly related to WordPress management. These tools range from cheatsheets to code generators, along with other nifty content for WP enthusiasts. Be sure to bookmark your favorites so you don’t forget about them!
Aside from mastering the administration panel WordPress has a lot to offer technical webmasters. If you can learn some basics to PHP coding it’ll be easier to customize themes, write your own plugins, and rebuild your own functions.php file. I hope these tips can provide a solid base for anyone pursuing WordPress as their primary CMS.