Is it time to update your website in WordPress? Here are twelve steps and the corresponding skill sets that you need to make your project a success.
WordPress website updates are easy, right? You just choose a template, install it, and tweak your existing content to make sure all is working, right?
Wait, hold on a minute!
Too many marketing people are pitching WordPress websites as easy and claim that they can handle the whole project. Many are graphic designers who have figured a few things out. Some are opportunists from other industries that are in decline (publishing is one) who decide they’ll just get into web development because it’s easy and clients don’t understand the technology. If you don’t understand the technology behind the website upgrade you are buying, you can end up with problems.
What are the problems with bad WordPress Updates?
Problems resulting from a lack of skill on your WordPress website update team that we’ve seen include a site hard to maintain and optimize because it was clumsily customized, and another site that is not “responsive” (viewable or “responsive” on all mobile devices) because the developer overrode the responsive features of the template that was used. Discovering these problems on a website after you paid for the update is painful.
A website update in WordPress might be “easy” if you are the business owner, graphic designer, marketing expert, content writer and web developer who knows SEO as well. There are some people who can do all of this, but most of us can do some but not all of the tasks required. And, we’ve found that there are a some hidden issues when working with WordPress that you need to be aware of.
I’m not saying these are secrets you’ll never know, so you should hire me (I hate it when people do that!) I’m writing this blog post to show you what I’ve learned with my team of experts over 15 years of working on WordPress websites, so that you know what you are getting into from the start of your WordPress website update project.
Now if you are working on a WordPress website update with internal staff in your company, just translate my mention of “the client” below as your internal client in your company. This might be a new division or a department that needs a website upgrade. The stakeholders I mention should be pretty easy to translate from outside suppliers to internal staff.
Here are the 12 steps you need to consider for your WordPress website update with the required stakeholders and specialists needed at each step.
1. Write a web site update plan. This document details the pages, the features, the expected navigation, the objective each page serves, etc. This is a cross between a software specification and a creative brief and is designed to keep everyone on the same page.
Key people: the business owner or marketing manager on the client side and a the marketing consultant / account manager / project manager (I will just call this the project manager for the rest of this post) and technical people (WordPress experts, web programmers) on the development / marketing services side.
2. Select a WordPress template. The template is the outward-appearing skin and behind-the-scenes dashboard that supports the planned features and look and feel that you specify in the website plan. If you use a limited template, your website will be limited.
Key people: web developer and project manager. The client often gets involved, but the template should be chosen by people who understand technical aspects of WordPress, and the features or limitations of certain templates (does it allow for banners, embedded videos, other features?. The other consideration here should be how easy the template is for maintaining and managing content on the website. Note: if the plan is for the client to do content updates and basic page changes, the template should be intuitive and/or the web developer should build in training for the client on how to use the template.
3. Approve the web site update plan and template.
Key people: the client and all other participants should check the final document, including any branding, SEO, website programmers, etc.
4. Write the content.
Key people: marketing writer – sometimes the client provides an initial draft and the writer edits it. Note that writing for the web is very different from creative copy writing for ads and other materials.
5. Approve the website content.
Key people: the client with help from the project manager. Note: in my experience, the approved content always changes, at least a little bit. For some reason, words drafted in an initial document look differently on the new web pages!
6. Create the website graphics.
Key people: a graphic designer who understands graphics for digital use. Note: most traditional print graphic designers do not understand graphics for Internet use, nor do they understand current standards for web page design!
7. Approve the website graphics.
Key People: the client with the project manager.
8. Program / develop the website.
Key people: the web development team which usually includes technical people and a project manager. If the development is done using an Agile approach, this is done iteratively and the client is heavily involved as the work goes along, to avoid any misconceptions and misses on the part of the developers.
9. Review / test the site.
Key people: the client as well as the development team. This can be iterative and embedded into the development process so that the development team tests everything first. The client needs to test and will have final approval of the test phase.
10. Optimize the website for the search engines. Note: WordPress has plugins that allow the client or non-programmers to do much of this work. SEO today is less about embedding meta tags in the code and more about writing great content with the right keywords to get the search engines’ attention.
Key people: SEO specialist or marketing consultant or web developer with knowledge of SEO.
11. Ongoing content updates for website.
Key people: Client, or marketing content writer, marketing consultant. Note: studies are showing the business want this function in-house. You can get it started with outside support and phase it in-house as time allows.
12. Regular technical updates or fixes for website. You should expect to check your website on a regular basis for required updates that are beyond the capability of client-side marketing staff or service providers. The frequency depends upon how dynamic and critical your web site features are. For example, with eCommerce or information gathering for downloads of content, you may need or want more frequent checks.
Key people: The web developer or a website programmer willing to take on the ongoing maintenance. Note: not all web development professionals want to do small ongoing updates, so this is a question to ask your developer up front.
I hope this post helps you understand the typical steps involved and the stakeholders that should be part of each step of your WordPress website update.
If you need help with your website, please contact New Incite today. We’ve worked on hundreds of websites since 1998 to ensure that our clients get the marketing results they need.
Photo by Olgierd Rudak on Flickr. Some Rights Reserved.