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What We Learned from WordCamp: Awesome Insights on Site Security, Accessibility & Design
Last week, the fabulous Kristin of Blue Corona’s web team attended WordCamp DC. For those who aren’t familiar with WordCamp (most of you, I’m guessing), it’s a sleepaway camp where computer nerds sing songs, sit around the bonfire, and swap stories about the ugliest websites they’ve seen. Just kidding. It’s a conference with informal, community-organized events set up by real WordPress users. People talk and share ideas and everyone gets to expand their WordPress knowledge base. Pretty cool, right?
Even cooler is that Kristin came back with some awesome insights and shared it with the company. And now we’re sharing it with all of you! As a business owner, chances are you don’t actually spend too much time in the back end of your WordPress website—but pass along these tips to your web team so they can improve your site’s security, accessibility, and design.
Top 20 Takeaways from Local WordPress Conference
Although the look (design) of your website is the most visible and probably what you think about the most, there are aspects “behind the scenes” that also impact the success of your site’s performance—primarily security and accessibility. WordCamp included both of these (and more)!
Without further ado, here are WordPress website tips from WordCamp DC 2017 we think are important for you (and all business owners) to know and, if necessary, take action on:
- Add an SSL certificate to your website to protect your users’ basic information and gain their trust (plus, if all other elements are equal on two websites, the one that is secure will rank better than one that isn’t).
- Use your intuition—don’t open links in emails that don’t feel right (seems like a no-brainer, but you probably get a thousand emails a day and may sometimes be on autopilot when checking your email).
- Ask before sharing personal information—don’t give away access/logins to your site without asking why, and don’t leave passwords lying around in plain sight.
- Do everything you can to prevent hacks (most hacking is automated; hackers search the web for sites with vulnerabilities).
- Always use strong usernames (avoid “admin”) and passwords (avoid something that could be guessed by looking at your website—such as your business name)
- Use an antivirus
- Don’t connect to a public WiFi
- Don’t change WordPress core files
- Update your website regularly (the Blue Corona web team recommends daily backups)
- Remove inactive plugins, themes, and software
- Only use software from official sources
- Use a secure hosting provider (here at Blue Corona, we offer secure hosting for WordPress websites)
- Know when your site is hacked so you can address the issue in a timely manner.
- Google your website. Does it redirect to a different site? Does it have other company names in the title tags or meta descriptions?
- Is there an unexpected or unexplained spike in your website traffic?
- Use Google Search Console
- Use a malware scanner
- Visit your website and click around a little bit. Does everything look as it should?
- Hire professionals to clean up your site if it gets hacked—if you try to fix it yourself when you don’t really know what you’re doing, the hack is more likely to come back.
- Hosting is the most important part of website security. Think of site security like someone breaking into your house. Secure WordPress hosting is like the security measures that prevent someone from entering your home—locked doors, window bars, etc. WordPress level security is like protecting the valuables (putting them in a safe) within your home once someone is already in your house. Both are necessary, but it’s more important to prevent someone from entering in the first place.
- Back up your website so that if the worst case scenario happens, you can get it fixed faster and minimize downtime.
- If your site is not accessible to everyone, you’re missing out on a huge percentage of the population (1 in 5 Americans have some sort of disability). Take this into consideration.
- Do not use design/development techniques that are make your site hard to use or inaccessible to disabled and elderly folks. Examples include:
- Gray fonts (hard to read)
- Parallax scrolling
- Sites that don’t zoom properly
- Make sure your website has an amazing design because the average person decides within 50 milliseconds whether they like your website or not (that’s just half a second!).
- Having an awesome, user-friendly website design can help even if something negative comes up—if a user decides they like your site, they are unlikely to dislike anything on it from that point on, even if it’s something they would have otherwise disliked.
- Keep the design simple; make the most important things on the page be the most obvious (we recommend things like the phone number and contact form but also whatever is most important to you personally—whether it’s your company’s new profile video, your numerous testimonials, etc.).
- Good typography can actually increase people’s understanding of the information on your website.
- Always be running some sort of A/B testing to improve user experience and your site’s overall design and functionality; all marketing decisions should be driven by data and these types of tests are one of the best ways to gather data (we love this—one of the Blue Corona mottos is track, test, tweak, repeat).
- Take risks with your A/B testing. For instance, move a contact form to the other side of the page, offer two completely different promotions, or try a completely different color scheme.
- If you have more than one website, keep in mind that a test run on one site can give you information that you can use on others. For example, it is well established that using the term “pricing” instead of “quote” increases conversions—you can apply that on multiple sites.
Behind the Scenes/Technical Debt
- It can create a lot of unplanned work and be more costly to take a shortcut for short-term gain instead of investing in long-term benefits (this is known as technical debt).
- To help battle technical debt, track unplanned work and document the proper procedure for common tasks to ensure that everyone is doing things the right way, not just the fastest way.
- Never accept the status quo as the best way to do something. Change starts with your mindset, and having this mindset makes change easier to envision and execute (as the saying goes, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.” If you want better website design, security, user experience—whatever it is—you have to try something different).
Improve Your WordPress Site
Not happy with how your company’s website looks or functions? It’s time for a change—don’t wait to improve it! Don’t let your site remain insecure, inaccessible, slow, [insert relevant verb here]. Contact the team at Blue Corona!
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About The Author: Alanna is the Quality Assurance Manager in Blue Corona's Maryland office. When she's not triple-checking websites and content for errors and consistency, you can find her at the gym with her twin sister or urban exploring with her husband.
View more blogs by Alanna Hernandez