WordPress makes it fairly easy to set up and run a website. However, this doesn’t mean there’s zero upkeep involved in managing your site. It doesn’t matter if it’s a blog, a business site, or even an online store – they all involve a lot more ongoing work than your clients might anticipate.
For example, your clients will need to take care of creating regular backups for their websites. That can be a time-consuming task, especially if they don’t know the right way to approach it. Whenever possible, helping your clients learn and automate this type of work before setting them loose can save both you and them a lot of headaches.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to four of the best practices your clients need to know to keep their websites running smoothly. Let’s get right to work!
Why It’s Important to Help Your Clients Learn Basic Website Management
If you work in development, you know how much work it takes to run even a simple website. The problem is that a lot of clients aren’t aware of all the effort involved, so it comes as a surprise after their sites go live.
Depending on what type of services you provide, your work might not end after you hand over a website to your client. You might also be expected to help out with simple management tasks and provide support. Even if you aren’t, however, it’s almost always a smart idea to teach your clients some best practices for taking care of their own websites. That way, they’ll run into fewer problems down the road, which reflects better on your work.
In our experience, the best two things you can do to prepare your clients for running a website are:
- Give them an introduction to the types of tasks they’ll have to deal with on a day-to-day basis.
- Automate any essential site management tasks you can before handing the project over (within reason, naturally).
Since we’re talking about WordPress, this process can be quite simple. After all, the platform enables you to automate a lot of key tasks using both default functionality and plugins. Plus, you can re-use the same general advice and techniques for most types of client projects, which can save you a lot of time.
Managing WordPress: The 4 Best Practices Your Clients Need to Know
Every client is different, but some practices can benefit almost every type of website. In the next few sections, we’ll cover several of the most important tasks your clients will need to carry out and talk about how to help them kickstart the process.
1. Create a Style Guide for the Website
Many successful websites have internal style guides and for good reason. This type of guide outlines the basic practices that everyone who contributes to (or works within) that website should follow, in order to keep its presentation consistent.
For example, let’s say you set up a company website for a client, including a blog. The company’s style guide could consist of points such as:
- All articles must be written in the third person.
- Don’t link to competitors’ websites.
- Set all images to a width of 630 pixels.
In our experience, having a style guide can make managing a website much more straightforward, especially when there’s a large team involved. When you hand over a client website, therefore, you might want to include a list of suggestions or tips on how your clients can keep their content and branding consistent. Creating the style guide will be up to them, of course, but you can go the extra mile by offering resources on good practices to follow.
2. Set Up Checklists for Key Processes
As we mentioned earlier, WordPress is a pretty beginner-friendly platform. However, the first time you have to deal with a new Content Management System (CMS), it can be intimidating. One way to help your customers get used to WordPress faster is to draw up a few simple checklists for key processes, which they can refer back to as needed.
To give you an example, once you hand over a website, your clients will probably want to set up some new plugins on their own. After all, plugins are half the fun of using WordPress. However, if the client doesn’t have much experience with the platform, setting up plugins at random can cause problems.
To keep that from happening, here’s a simple checklist you can share so your client can refer to it before and after installing a new plugin:
- Check to see if the plugin has been updated in the last six months and if it’s compatible with your version of WordPress.
- Make sure the plugin has good reviews overall, and check any negative ones for red flags.
- Back up your website.
- Install and activate the plugin.
- Check to ensure that your website is still working normally after the activation.
That, in a nutshell, is the safest way to install and test new plugins. If you want to go a step further, you can even suggest that they do so using a staging site. Of course, that might be too involved for users who don’t have much experience running a website, so you’ll want to make sure to judge your audience carefully.
In short, we recommend that when you’re working on a new WordPress website, you try and gauge how well-acquainted your clients are with the platform. That way, you’ll have an idea of what kind of checklists they may need in order to proceed with basic tasks on their own.
3. Automate Vital Tasks on the Site
To go one step further, there are some tasks that it’s better to outright automate, rather than perform manually over and over again. Backups are a perfect example. They’re crucial to keeping your client’s site safe, as well as very repetitive and simple to implement.
Even if your client is experienced with WordPress, it’s often better to automate certain tasks just to avoid human error and make sure they happen on schedule. That way, your client won’t forget to back up their site and come running to you to get the problem fixed.
With WordPress, the easiest way to automate the most vital tasks is by using plugins. Here are some quick examples of processes you might want to set up on client websites:
- Backups. We’ve been over this already, but here are some of our favorite plugins to get the job done.
- Plugin, theme, and core updates. Keeping WordPress and its components up-to-date is the easiest way to avoid issues with the platform. To manage this task, you can use a plugin such as Easy Updates Manager.
- Spam management. WordPress websites are common targets for spam, so you may want to set up a plugin to help your client manage those comments, such as Akismet.
- Image compression. High-quality images look great, but they can also increase loading times considerably. Implementing automatic image optimization goes a long way towards keeping your client’s site fast.
There are a lot more tasks you can automate on most WordPress sites. However, it’s up to your judgment to determine what each client needs, and you’ll want to avoid over-complicating their site upfront with too many plugins and features.
Ideally, your exchanges with each client throughout the project will provide you with all the information you require, in order to optimize the website to meet their needs. The goal is to use strategic automation to make their lives simpler, improve satisfaction, and reduce later demands on your own time.
4. Enforce Robust Security Standards
One downside of WordPress’ popularity is that the platform has become a huge target for attacks. Even small blogs often face brute force attacks or are infected with malware. This means that everyone should adopt good security standards on their sites, in order to avoid future issues.
The problem is that most people aren’t very thorough when it comes to security. For example, you probably know that you should never re-use passwords across accounts. However, we’d be willing to bet that you’ve done it before (and so have we!).
Ideally, you’ll share a checklist of security tips with your clients when you hand off a website. Here are some of the most important points to cover:
- Enforce strong passwords for your admin account.
- Don’t use admin as your username!
- Use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA).
- Limit the number of login attempts that users can make within a specific period.
Those are the basics when it comes to WordPress security. However, you can always go further, depending on your client’s needs. For websites that require high security, we usually recommend whitelisting which IPs can log into the WordPress admin. However, that can be overkill for smaller sites.
At the very least, you’ll want to make an effort to drive password security home. If your customers are worried about forgetting complex passphrases, then you can recommend that they use a password manager. If you also teach them how to use 2FA, and potentially set up a solution for them, they should be able to avoid most security issues.
Websites are like living organisms. They’re constantly changing and growing, and if you don’t take care of them, things can get messy. If you know how to manage a WordPress website well, however, the platform doesn’t need to give you any problems. That’s just as true for your clients as it is for your own site.
When handing off a new client website, there are several key upkeep tasks you may want to offer advice and assistance on:
- Creating a style guide.
- Setting up checklists for key processes.
- Automating vital tasks on the website.
- Ensuring robust security standards.