Just to change things up a bit, let’s take a more indirect approach with this article. So instead of me listing a range of good practices for WordPress developers, I’ll just take the opposite direction and give you a reverse-tutorial, so to speak.
Therefore, here’s my list of 8 habits of highly NOT effective WordPress developers and people working with WordPress in general.
1. Not using any sort of time management system
This is a general problem for freelancers of any kind, and everyone working on their own, actually.
The fact is that organizing your work time yourself can be very tough. There’s just so many things you can do, that in the end you simply struggle to find a good element to start with. I know … I’ve been there.
The advice here is simple. Find a time management methodology that suits you and dedicate yourself to working within its boundaries. Even though every methodology restricts you from doing certain things at certain times, in the end, they all improve your productivity and effectiveness.
2. Not using online invoicing
Keeping track with all the financial stuff can get tough over time. Especially if you’re doing business with more than one client.
The old way of handling this sort of stuff was to either craft invoices manually (in Excel) or to hire an accountant. Of course, the former is very time-consuming and the latter is very money-consuming.
Thankfully, the 21st century is here to help! Nowadays, there are a lot of online invoicing solutions available. Some of them free until you reach a given number of clients. The one I can recommend is FreshBooks.
3. Not learning PHP
Believe it or not, but some WordPress developers don’t get PHP.
More importantly, it’s not even their fault… It’s WordPress’s fault.
WordPress as a platform is quite easy to get around. One can learn how to launch sites, install themes, set the basic settings and stuff in a relatively short span of time. Moreover, including new functionalities is quite easy as well … you just have to get (or buy, at most) a plugin. It’s really difficult to find a functionality that hasn’t been covered by a plugin yet.
All this makes it possible for a new WordPress developer to not know PHP, and yet be able to get clients and launch WordPress sites for them. I know, I’ve seen it happen.
The advice here is this. Once in a week leave WordPress to the side and read a thing or two about PHP itself. Get to the bottom of a given programming problem, or learn a better way of implementing something, etc. Simply, grow as a programmer, it will make your WordPress work a lot easier.
4. Using plugins for everything
This is a problem closely connected to the previous one on this list. If you don’t know PHP, you simply don’t have a way of doing something through some other way than with a plugin.
Please don’t get me wrong here. There are some complex, or even semi-complex things that are just not worth doing manually. In such cases plugins are the fastest and easiest way out.
However, there’s an awful lot of things you can achieve with simple hacks, filters, or PHP functions. For starters, go through this lists to get a grasp on what’s possible: 10 Very Useful WordPress Hacks, Super useful WordPress hacks and snippets, 21 Most Useful WordPress Admin Page Hacks.
(Remember, every plugin slows your site down just a tiny bit…)
5. Not having a local server
Believe me, programming, developing, and ultimately preparing the final version of a website is just sooo much faster if you have a local server and don’t have to upload or synchronize your modifications with your development or production (remote) server every time.
Local servers are simple to set up, they respond quicker (you don’t have to connect to the internet), and you can configure them any way you want to reflect any possible hosting environment.
I use a custom modification of a WAMP server for this (Windows only).
5. Not taking care of SEO
I’m sorry for saying this, but you simply can’t consider yourself being an effective WordPress developer if you don’t pay any attention to SEO.
First of all, this is never about your personal preferences. If you don’t like the idea of SEO, that’s fine. But you shouldn’t force the same opinion upon your client.
Besides, the thing’s not really that difficult.
First of all, pay attention to one or two popular SEO blogs to know what’s going on and be up-to-date with all the best practices (SEOmoz, for example).
Secondly, make your life easier by either using a quality SEO plugin, like WordPress SEO, or a quality theme that has built-in SEO possibilities (like all of our themes, for example). Which brings me to …
6. Not using theme frameworks or quality themes
Really, what’s the point of creating a WordPress site from the ground up?
I can’t even imagine how many things I would have to build manually to match one of the popular theme frameworks. This really is a job impossible for a single human being…
The main reason why developers choose not to use theme frameworks is that they do have a learning curve. Depending on which framework you choose, there are always some minor or major differences and unique things of handling various stuff. Learning a new framework can take you anything from a couple of hours to even a month.
This is time well spent, though. Once you get a grasp of a give theme framework, you’ll be able to create new sites in a fraction of the time, and all of the essential features and functionalities will be built in from the get-go.
When it comes to free frameworks you can try: Unyson. For premium frameworks you don’t have to search far … if you know what I mean.
7. Not taking care of WordPress-specific constructions
This sounds a little vague, so let me explain what I mean.
There are some things in WordPress that are unique to its construction and the way it works. For example, things like taxonomies, 404 pages, and archives.
Every WordPress site should take care of those things effectively to provide a nice user experience.
For instance, categories have a really important task in WordPress. They’re not just for submitting every post under “uncategorized,” by the way. In reality, categories provide a great way for every new visitor to get a grasp of what the site is about. Therefore, as a developer, you should make sure to showcase categories properly.
When it comes to 404 pages, WordPress gives you a really easy method of showing a custom 404 page whenever a visitor loses their way. Remember to create a helpful 404 page that features a search box, a list of the most popular posts, a link to the homepage, and possibly also a list of categories.
The thing with archives is actually a more complicated one, so feel free to visit my other post for some insights (Custom WordPress Archive Page? Here’s Why to Use It).
8. Not creating a bank of your own solutions/resources
There’s really no better way of speeding your work up than creating a bank of your own custom solutions or specific methods of working with WordPress.
Here are some examples of things worth creating and keeping as resources:
- A list of basic settings to take care of right after installing a site.
- A list of core pages every site needs.
- A list of plugins you always use on a WordPress site (along with their settings).
- A list of hacks worth implementing.
- A list of SEO settings.
- Template robots.txt and .htaccess files.
- The main checklist of things to do (including things like backups, analytics, and so on).
- The summary of your approach at keyword research.
- A file containing every custom hack you create, so you can use it in the future.
That’s it for my list of 8 things. Feel free to let me know what you think.
By the way, can you point out some more items that would be nice to find inside a WordPress developer’s bank of solutions/resources?