September 11, 2015

How to Build WordPress Sites That Clients Love

Austin Gil • Development

You Should Know

  • A great website should serve not only your users but also the people who will be responsible for managing it.
  • WordPress is an incredibly extensible tool with plugins that can enhance its functionality.

It is important as WordPress developers that we not only focus on building beautiful, user-focused websites, but that we also maximize our client’s ability to administer them. Many of our clients have little to no experience with WordPress, which makes it paramount to build websites that not only work well, but are easy to manage and update once live.

I am a huge proponent for creating client-friendly sites which has led to the creation of two neat tools for the WordPress community: the WordPress Admin for Clients plugin (coming soon, currently looking for testers), and Visceral’s WordPress Training for Clients resource. As a developer focused on client-centric websites, here are my recommendations:

Add Branding (Optional)

This is an opportunity to make the site look more familiar to clients (their images and colors), or to place your logo in places that are going to keep you present and top of mind.

  • Login Screen – You can edit the logo, background color or image, add a custom message. Even a simple touch can go a long way.
  • Dashboard widgets and admin colors
  • Toolbar logo
  • Admin footer text

Relevant resource:
All available with WP Admin for Clients plugin – coming soon

Create Client Friendly Dashboards

The default WordPress Dashboard is covered with very irrelevant widgets and information for clients. It is an opportunity to provide insights, statistics, and support which is more valuable to clients. You can also market services that may be useful for new website owners.

  • Personalized Welcome widget with USEFUL information – This helps the client get started, keeps you top of mind whenever they log in, and provides an opportunity to market services that could be valuable. Clients might be interested in SEO or retainers right after a site launch. Provide relevant information. 

    Relevant resource:
    WP Admin for Clients – coming soon

  • Provide good documentation and/or training – This is a value proposition especially for clients that have team members to train. It helps them feel more confident about owning the site whether you maintain it or they do. You can do this with PDF downloads, links to training sites, or within the dashboard.

    Relevant resources:
    WP Training for Clients –
    https://training.thisisvisceral.com/
    WP Help – https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-help/
    Video User Manuals – http://www.videousermanuals.com/
    Sidekick – https://www.sidekick.pro/
  • Add an RSS feed for you or your agency – New, relevant posts will keep your clients updated, keeps you top of mind, and positions you as an authority.

    Relevant resource:
    WP Admin for Clients – coming soon
  • Show useful and meaningful statistics – Form submissions, Google Analytics, Security details, etc.

    Relevant resources:
    Gravity Forms –
    http://www.gravityforms.com/
    Google Analytics Dashboard for WP – https://wordpress.org/plugins/google-analytics-dashboard-for-wp/

Streamline WordPress

Remove unnecessary sections or items that the client does not need access to. It will make the user experience nicer for them and may prevent accidentally breaking something.

  • Dashboard widgets
  • Menu items
  • Toolbar nodes
  • Meta boxes
  • Widgets

Relevant resource:
All done with WP Admin for Clients – coming soon

Add Useful Tools

Clients may never need or use any of these, but making them available to the client lets them know that you are a professional and that you create full spectrum products. They will definitely be valuable to the clients that use them, and they will differentiate your services from the rest.

Provide Intuitive Instructions and Support

By the time a site launches, the client should be able to manage almost all of the content easily without having to know code, or even WordPress. Content management should be intuitive and easy. This means streamlining the interface and providing support or documentation within the context of the page.

  • Add page specific directions in meta boxes.

    Relevant resources:
    WP Admin for Clients – coming soon

    Advanced Custom Fields – http://www.advancedcustomfields.com/
  • Add a WP notification message for sitewide directions

    Relevant resource:
    WP Admin for Clients – coming soon
  • Add obvious custom post types in the menu – Good examples are for Team Members, Job Posts, Portfolio Items, Locations, etc. 

    Relevant resource:
    Custom Post Types UI –
    https://wordpress.org/plugins/custom-post-type-ui/
  • Add a support form in WP admin – This should be somewhere prominent like the dashboard, toolbar, or main menu. It’s a great chance to keep relationships open with the clients and set up a retainer agreement. Consider using separate emails for priority retainer support vs general support.

    Relevant resource:
    WP Admin for Clients – coming soon
  • Color code posts – This helps add a visual feedback on posts that are published, pending, scheduled, draft, private, etc.

    Relevant resource:
    WP Admin for Clients – coming soon

Optimize Performance

No need to explain to developers why a site should be fast. We all know it, but for a client to understand it, it needs to be translated to the bottom line. Fast sites are valuable for clients because they increase time on site, improve conversion rates, avoid being penalized for SEO, and they prevent frustrated users.

Make the Site Secure

Addressing common security measures and hardening sites is important for all builds. It shows the client that you are an authority and are proactive in your work, it provides the client with peace of mind, and it helps prevent getting that terrible call at 5pm on Friday to fix a hacked site.

  • Create staging sites – This can be on a local machine, but should probably be online somewhere. It allows for you to test plugins and scripts before they go live so that you dont break anything. It also give the client a place to review changes before pushing them live. Yet another value proposition.
  • Enforce unique usernames and strong passwords – WordPress has become a target for bots that try to break in using default usernames or simple passwords, and poor practices are one of the biggest threats to security. You can address it either manually or with a plugin.

    Relevant resources:
    iThemes Security –
    https://wordpress.org/plugins/better-wp-security/
    LastPass – https://lastpass.com/
    Passpack – https://www.passpack.com/
  • Harden the database – This includes making sure that your database username and password are challenging, and that the database prefix is something other than the default “wp_”.

    Relevant resource:
    iThemes Security –
    https://wordpress.org/plugins/better-wp-security/
  • Set up security plugins – There is too many fine points to touch on here, but the main things to look for are brute force attacks, malware scans, your files have the right permissions settings, and more.

    Relevant resources:
    iThemes Security –
    https://wordpress.org/plugins/better-wp-security/
    WordFence – https://wordpress.org/plugins/wordfence/
  • Set up off-site backups – In the worst case scenario, make sure you have a way to safely bring the site back to good health. Storing off site is crucial.

    Relevant resources:
    BackupBuddy –
    https://ithemes.com/purchase/backupbuddy/
    UpdraftPlus – https://wordpress.org/plugins/updraftplus/

Client Proof the Sites

Even after making the site super safe and easy to use, you want to make sure that it is not easy to accidentally break things. It can save you and your client a lot of time and headache later on.

  • Remove file editor – No more adding random scripts into functions.php

    Relevant resource:
    iThemes Security –
    https://wordpress.org/plugins/better-wp-security/
  • Provide lowest role necessary – Most clients can do fine with just an Editor role. They dont necessarily need Admin access. If they decide they dont want to keep a relationship later on then you can provide them with Editor and Admin accounts with their main one being Editor.
  • Hide menu items all together – Again, if they dont know how to use it, they probably dont need access to it. This may include plugins, file editor, some settings pages, theme settings, or plugin specific menu items.
  • Limit Image upload size – Many clients dont understand how image size affects page load times and they really shouldnt have to understand it. Instead just set a maximum width and height for images and let larger uploads be resized.

    Relevant resource:
    Imsanity –
    https://wordpress.org/plugins/imsanity/

Each of these steps adds a bit more work to you plate, and sometimes the budget doesn’t account for that, but it is these small steps that amount to a much more polished experience. They will position you as an expert in your craft, they will show that you care about the final product, and they confirm to your client that they made the right choice. Happy clients will love working with you, and sometimes even refer you to others.

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