WordPress is one of the crowd favourites when it comes to building a website that needs a quick and easy Content Management Systems (CMS). I have been a huge fan since a friend introduced me to it years ago, especially since WordPress is great for search engine optimisation (SEO).
The popularity of WordPress is leaving us internet marketers with one annoying hangover though – very few webmasters are documenting their website. If you are using a standard implementation then it probably won’t be much of a problem if you don’t document, however the moment you start installing plugins or customising your theme/template, its time to document.
Here are some reasons why making an effort to document your website will help you and just about everyone else involved in making your website a success.
Making sense of your WordPress plugins
I can’t remember the last time that I logged into a WordPress website that didn’t have a bunch of plugins installed. What’s more, almost every time, I encountered a plugin that I have never used before. This isn’t really a surprise considering the huge plugins directory available to WordPress website owners and the ease with which they install.
When writing up your plugins, include the following details:
- Plugin name.
- Reason it was installed.
- Who installed it.
- Is it working in tandem with any other plugins.
- If they are licenced plugins, list the licencing details.
- Are the plugins needed to make the theme work.
- Provide the documention that comes with each plugin and how it’s used.
Also, if you have plugins installed that you no longer use, delete them. Don’t just leave them there in a disabled state.
Explain your customisations
Due to the flexibility that WordPress provides there are any number of ways that your website can be customised. And, depending on who built your website, your customisations may or may not follow best practices.
Customisations that will need documentation include:
- How plugins are being used to customise your website (as above).
- If a child theme is being used.
- If any custom functions are being used, provide details.
- If the WordPress core been ‘hacked’ (there better be a very good reason if it has).
- If you using a tag manager.
If there are any specific tweaks to your website not covered in the list above then be sure to add them to your documentation. Be thorough.
Provide a HTML style guide
From an SEO consultants perspective there are a number of problems introduced by content producers who style their content using inappropriate tags.
For example, one thing I see way too much of is the excessive use of <h1> tags. There should be exactly one per page and not surprisingly (I hope) it should be used on the page or post title.
Since we are on the topic of SEO, please encourage the use of alt attritbutes on images and title attributes on anchor tags (<a>) in your docs. Your SEO consultant will have a number of other suggestions on HTML so ask them to advise on this part of your documentation.
Advise on your SEO plugins
When it comes to managing a website you can’t ignore the SEO element. Adding content to a pretty website is great, but the people who upload content to your website also need to be across the basics of SEO.
Take a look at the plugins you are using for SEO and/or sitemaps and explain how they are being used for your website. Are certain pages to be excluded or ignored by search engines? Do you have a policy on page titles and META descriptions? How do you avoid duplicate titles? How are you using keywords? You get it.
Documenting your website is useful to a range of people within your organisation and those who help market your website. Not only that, you’ll have a handover document should you need to pass the management of your website on to someone else.
It really doesn’t take long to get on top of documentation so don’t put it off. After that you only need to add updates if and when a plugin is added or removed.
Go on, get it done!