In the early stages of a new business, I understand that most solopreneurs can’t cash flow the design and development of a professional website. That’s okay. But it’s not an excuse to do it completely wrong. If you’ve done some DIY work on your website, you still need to use some professional guidance. That’s where I come into play.
WordPress is a great platform for businesses who believe in themselves. You see, WordPress has huge potential. You can take your simple blog on WordPress and after a year or two of readership growth, turn it into a paid membership site. No heavy lifting and reworking or moving of your content and images. Trust me, that process is a disaster, even with a professional involved.
Even if you don’t intend to morph into a membership site, I’m sure you have a goal to become profitable enough to be able to hire a professional, right? If not, we’ve got some business priorities to discuss, but that’s for a later time. When the time does come to work with a professional, WordPress is the place to be. Did you know that over 25% of the internet’s websites are built with WordPress? In fact, it runs 32.2% of the world’s websites! Within other content management systems, like Wix, Shopify, and Squarespace, WordPress is still widely in the lead with 59.4% of the market share. Jumla follows in 2nd place at only 5.9% of the market share. 
So if I haven’t convinced you by now to consider WordPress due to its wild popularity, and it’s flexibility, how about its price? It’s FREE-99. That means zero cost to you. Sure, you’ll have your other website costs, your domain annually and your hosting. But those costs usually run around $150/year total.
At this point, I’m assuming you’re using WordPress, you did a DIY site, using one of the free or premium themes you’ve found, and know there are a few things you missed, but what exactly are they? 🤔 Here ya go, a simple, WordPress friendly checklist to ensure you’re at least getting website guidance from the professionals.
Mobile Responsive Design
This is the quickest red flag of an amateur website job. Look at your website on your phone, like really look at it. The menu is a constant area for issues, and they most often happen on phones or tablets. Be sure your logo doesn’t overlap your menu, and that you can get to all your menu items on a phone. Test your menu and click on every single item. I know, you already know what those pages look like and what they say, but look anyway.
You need to put your eyes on every corner of your website, on multiple devices. Look at images and text at different screen sizes.
Just because you picked a theme or website builder that claims it is responsive, doesn’t mean it can think on its own. Sometimes you’ll have a small image, that is trying to display at 100% width on a tablet, making it fuzzy. Check the source of the image (use your web browsers inspector tool), and see what the source size is. Consider uploading a larger image, but not too large, we don’t want our load time being affected negatively here.
Check all your contact forms. Ask your mom to test the contact forms, or your 5-year-old son (yes, he probably knows how this works). Check the success messages and the emails that are sent to the user. Oh, you don’t have an email sent to the user? Are they expecting one? Step through every piece that your customers would. Does it all make sense?
Check the Details
Is your footer updated? Lots of free themes will insert their theme name or some random unrelated text in the footer of your website. Be sure to check that the year and your name are in there. “Copyright © 2019 Your Website Name” should be present somewhere in the footer.
If you built your website yourself, odds are that you test a few different plugins before finding one that solved your problem. Go back and delete those old ones that you may have inactivated, but are still listed under Plugins.
Do the same for your themes. The only themes listed in your themes should be your currently active theme, the parent theme if a child theme is active, and one of WordPress’s default themes, Twenty Seventeen is the most recent. I keep this theme around in case I ever find a bug and need to do a quick troubleshooting session to determine the issue.
While you’re minimizing, go through your pages. Although you may have some extra and test pages that aren’t in your navigation, that doesn’t mean they are all hidden or private. If you aren’t actively working on content or design for those pages, delete them ALL. You’ll only confuse yourself later if you keep them around “just in case.” The Minimalists have a great quick essay on Just-in-Case and the concept applies to your website as well.
Odds are that if you’re ever going to come back to that concept for a page, or the contact form, you’re better starting fresh with your new insight, rather than trying to step back into your former self’s mind. That’s always a struggle.
While you’re working on the site, and remember what each plugin or form does, write it down. This doesn’t have to be fancy, just open a Google Sheet, make a column for the plugin names, and in the second column write about what and where that plugin is in use.
If you added any custom CSS or code, add a section that describes what code is where, and what it does. Along with adding those notes in a Google Sheet, go back into your custom CSS and add a comment before that CSS snippet and describe where and what that code modifies. You’ll thank your former self later.
Along with the details, be sure to jot down your big picture site details like your hosting, and domain details. Knowing where and how to access your site files in case of an emergency is a huge relief. When a blank white screen is showing on your site after an updated, that is not the time to start looking for your login info! 😩
Every so often, go through this list. As you become more familiar with your website, how to maintain it, and with design in general, new fixes will be made obvious. Don’t beat yourself up about any issues, but if you can’t solve them, ask for help. So many people in forums, in Facebook groups, and elsewhere online are so willing to offer a hand. These mistakes happen, just be intentional about combing through the details before you invite your audience to check out your brand new internet home!