How to future-proof your WordPress website

A company website that needs a design refresh every few months to continue to work properly or keep up with the latest trends is very inefficient and can be a strain on your resources, not forgetting confusing for your customers. A good website should be able to stand the test of time, and should only need redesigning every 3 or more years, depending on your industry.

Photo credit: Tracyhammond on Pixabay

During the lifespan of a particular website design, you should be able to make content and feature changes to your site as your industry and business evolves. Being able to incorporate the latest conversion optimising features without requiring a website redesign will help generate you more sales, and keep your business profitable.

Opting for WordPress as your publishing software is a smart move to make when it comes to ensuring your company website is future-proofed. As an open source software that powers nearly 25% of the world’s websites, the software isn’t going to go out of date soon, ensuring your website won’t either (as long as you follow this article’s advice!).

Even if your web design does start to look outdated in a few years’ time, you can simply update the theme without having to mess around with moving all your content. It is a fuss-free solution.

Scalable WordPress Website Design & Development

The key to future-proofing your WordPress website is to start with a theme that has been customised to your business’ needs, so that you can just update the hosting package and content in the future as your company grows.

We recommend keeping your theme’s web design and development as simple as possible when it comes to future-proofing your website. By stripping everything down, with user experience at the focus, you can maximise the lifetime of your theme as well as your sales.

Responsive Website Design

Not only does your theme need to be responsive to mobile, tablet and desktop, but with more and more devices having the ability to access the internet, it is vital that your theme can adjust to any screen size or resolution. In recent years even game consoles can browse websites, which means your website not only has to adjust to small screens, but it has to make an impact on large screens too.

Device agnostic website design is an approach to responsive web design that looks at the width of a web browser’s screen, rather that what device this is on. We use this method on every theme we develop so that whatever new device comes along, we know your website is going to look good on it1.

Other WordPress theme design tips for a future-proofed website:

  • Classic, clean and sharp design stands the test of time. Elements that are easily updated such as your header, beautiful imagery and colour scheme keeps your website fresh and up to date, without an on-going cost.
  • Make your website accessible to all from the beginning, whatever their hardware, software or physical or sensory impairments. This involves making the font clear and sharp by giving it a large font size, crisp font face, generous letter spacing and line height, and in a contrasting colour to the background.
  • For portfolio websites, we suggest full width, high-resolution imagery that will render on screens of all sizes. You should be able to update the imagery from your control panel as your portfolio grows.
  • To future-proof your business’ website navigation, we suggest a mega menu for businesses with a wide variety of products and services. The menu can easily be updated by anyone with an administrator role in WordPress as your business grows your products or services grows or changes.

Developing your WordPress website for scalability

We recommend taking an agile approach to web development in order to prolong the lifespan of your website. At Pragmatic, we find the agile approach allows us to respond to changes in the industry quickly, even late into the development stages.This ensures our customers’ websites have the competitive edge at launch and are at the forefront of web development.

Developing widget areas into your theme that admin users can use to drag and drop new widgets for content, social media feeds, or lead generation forms allow you to refresh your website’s appearance every so often and better optimise your CRO2.

We also recommend:

  • Following good coding guidelines by abiding by the WordPress coding standards. This consistency means that the code is easy to read, understand, and modify.
  • When launching a new website, use Theme Checker to ensure your new WordPress theme adheres to the latest standards and practices.
  • Use Version Control for managing and tracking changes to your website’s custom themes and plugins. We recommend Git.
  • Debugging plugins and themes before releasing them.

Scaling your hosting as your business grows

When it comes to future-proofing your website to scale to reflect your company’s growth, you should regularly check your hosting package against your traffic to see if it’s worth moving up a package. If you’re working on getting your business in the press, you don’t want all your marketing efforts to go to waste if your website’s server is overloaded when your marketing pays off. Look at your hosting package – could it take a hit if you had a surge in traffic one day?

Make sure when you land an exposure opportunity you find out when it is going to be broadcast or published. This will help you plan for a rise in traffic, and should give you enough time to increase your hosting package to ensure your website stays online.

WPEngine, who we strongly recommend hosting with, offer to host plans for WordPress websites up to over 5 million hits per month.

Security

Regular backups are vital for future-proofing your WordPress website. If something were to go wrong at any point, such as accidentally deleting your homepage, you can always revert back to a previous version of your site.

Future-Proofed Optimisation

Now you’ve built and hosted your website to scale as your business grows, it’s time to optimise it.

You can optimise your website’s speed and SEO, and its content, imagery, and conversion rate steadily over time, without requiring any extra website design or development work. This ensures your website stays relevant, and returning visitors have something to come back to.

SEO

Page load times can greatly impact your website visitors’ user experiences. We find optimising your images can greatly reduce file sizes, as well as using a cache plugin if your hosting provider doesn’t already providing caching technology.

At Pragmatic, to display large images without impacting load times we make sure all images are web-ready before uploading them into your CMS, and use responsive image handling to scale the images to fit the size of the screen. We’re also big fans of Kraken Image Optimizer plugin for optimising and compressing your images.

Get into the habit of always including an SEO friendly page title and meta description for every page and post you create in WordPress that you want to appear in search engines. This goes for product pages in eCommerce WordPress themes too. WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast is super handy for this, because when you’re in the All posts or All pages view you get an overview of the SEO health of each and every page using the handy traffic light system. It’s worthwhile every once in a while sorting through all your published posts and pages by SEO health and rewriting all the metadata of the content that isn’t green.

WordPress SEO by Yoast also has some technical SEO tools built in, such as a sitemaps and social media optimisation. By installing WordPress SEO by Yoast, you can relax knowing that for each new WordPress update that comes along, the techy SEO sides of things are going to be taken care of.

Content:

By using WordPress’ easy to use CMS, anyone within your company can simply update the content and widget areas on your website as your company grows. We recommend doing the following to future-proof your website’s content:

  • Don’t be afraid to add new pages. As time goes on and your products or services change, make sure you add new pages to reflect these changes, and that they’re accessible from the navigation menu.
  • Keep your terminology up to date. Have you gone from a sole trader to a team? Your content is going to need to reflect this. Content elements such as text, logos and imagery can be changed multiple times throughout your website’s history, without much effort on your part!
  • Write long, useful articles on your company blog that will interest readers for years to come. As your industry changes over the years, don’t be afraid to update your articles so that they have the most relevant information in them. When you update an article, change the publish date to the date you updated the article on, and leave a note making your visitors aware of the original publish date of the article, and when the facts were updated. Also, continue replying to any comments your readers leave on the blog posts, keeping the posts relevant.
  • Offer cross-promotion on expired product listings. Ensure that old product pages are still optimised for search engines, and add a “you might also like” product widget on the page so visitors are directed to up to date versions of the product that are still available for purchase.
  • Keep your website’s imagery relevant. Updating your website’s imagery depending on the seasons is vital for some types of business, such as a greengrocer or florist. Visitors that take a long time to convert may need to be persuaded with new and fresh imagery on your website to demonstrate your company is up to date with the times. This is essential if you’re a fashion or luxury brand business.

How we always ensure a website is future-proofed:

At Pragmatic, we want you to walk away with a new web design build knowing your website will last for years to come. To make that happen, along with all the aspects we mentioned above, we also always do the following:

  • We use plugins for custom content structures, for example, custom post types
  • We use a proper maintenance process
  • We only use reputable plugins and themes
  • We try to keep things as simple as possible
  • We use good Dev practices
  • We alway stay abreast of industry developments
  • We use the latest versions of PHP/server technology to keep up with web services (for example Twitter cards needing PHP 5.5) and take advantage of performance improvements
  • We use agile software development methods
  • We pick a good, reliable host

Future-proof checklist:

Will your website stand the test of time? Ask yourself the following questions to find out:

  1. Is user experience at the centre of the design?
  2. Is your website responsive?
  3. Can everyone access your website?
  4. Does the code follow WordPress code standards?
  5. Have you put your new theme through Theme Checker?
  6. Have you installed a Version Control plugin?
  7. Have you debugged all your themes or plugins?
  8. Do you run regular backups on your website?
  9. Does your hosting allow for a steep rise in traffic?
  10. Can you easily update your website’s imagery?
  11. Can you swap and change the widgets in the widget areas?
  12. Can you update your products, pages, and posts?
  13. Have you installed and activated an SEO plugin?
  14. Do you have a cache plugin?
  15. Are your images compressed and optimised?
  16. Do you always write the metadata for each post or page you push live?
  17. Is your terminology up to date?
  18. Have you updated old blog posts so that they’re still relevant?
  19. Have you added a cross-promotion widget to expired product pages?

  1. Note that we often use themes or theme frameworks as a base for theme development. Wherever possible we choose themes that follow good responsive practice but using a 3rd party theme or theme framework can sometimes be a constraint.

  2. Conversion Rate Optimisation

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