stand for ukrainian independence image
Stand for Ukrainian Independence. Contribute.
stand for ukrainian independence image

Help Center

12 Mistakes Beginner WordPress Website Developers and Designers Make
ivanova
Helena Ivanova
Technical content writer
Show all articles
Updated on
Useful Resources

12 Mistakes Beginner WordPress Website Developers and Designers Make

WordPress is a really inspiring CMS, especially for beginners in website development, because of its pretty gradual learning curve and a ton of easy-to-use and free plugins, themes, and thousands of educational resources. 

However, with all the ease, certain standards and rules must be followed. Otherwise, the site either comes out as a mess from the beginning or will soon turn out to be it, not to mention low performance, structural, maintenance, and design issues. 

This article is about the common mistakes beginners make when creating WordPress websites. Such developers can be talented designers, programmers, marketers, etc., but overlook some things they are not used to focusing on. So, I put together a checklist of useful tips that can be helpful in this case.

You are welcome to add the missing points below in the comment section. 😉

Table of Contents

General Technical Mistakes

Let’s examine the general technical aspects many beginner developers overlook.

rick and morty rollercoaster

Insufficient planning of website structure

Before making any website, it is crucial to plan its structure, considering the market analysis and relevant semantic core and devising proper architecture with business goals, customer experience, and scalability in mind. 

I’m not mentioning design here because I’ll discuss it in the next section.

So, the first step should be proper planning of architecture (and navigation), and your favorite mind-mapping tool will be very helpful at this stage. My personal favorite is Octopus.do. It can crawl existing sitemaps and turn them into mindmaps, which is helpful if you remake an existing site or want to get some inspiration from competitors. 

🔑 How to fix it: 

  • If you make a website for a client, have proper communication with them to understand the goals and priorities of the project better.
  • Make a market analysis, draw a proper website structure before starting the development process, and ensure this configuration is efficient and scalable.
  • Depending on the configuration, choose the best tools and approaches: for example, use CPTs if there are more than two types of pages and Listing Grids and other perks JetEngine offers if there’s dynamic content fetched on multiple places of the website. 

Not having an understanding of the basics

It may sound surprising, but many developers, even those who purchased expensive and complicated plugins and are going to build a dynamic site, don’t have even a basic knowledge of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP, as well as WordPress template structure. You don’t have to be a professional coder, but at least be able to add basic CSS styles or some HTML, read JavaScript code, and know how and where to insert PHP code snippets.

🔑 How to fix it: 

  • Learn some coding basics using one of the great variety of free resources available, such as MDN or step-by-step guides like this, and try to create your own simple HTML page first – it will give a much better understanding of how things work.
  • Learn the basics of WordPress hooks and what is written in the functions.php file of your website theme, but it’s strongly recommended to use a child theme and insert snippets in the functions.php file there. Alternatively, you can use snippet plugins – they are good for beginners. 
  • If you want to learn coding better, consider this list of useful resources

Choosing the wrong WordPress theme

A very frequent mistake is choosing a WordPress theme on how it looks on the demo or even on the screenshot, especially on websites like Themeforest that sell thousands of them. Experience shows that it is almost never a good decision due to many factors. First of all, your website will not be exactly like the demo content, so it will not look that great, and things still need adjustments and redesigning. But the problem with such themes is that they are often heavily pre-customized and don’t give space for many adjustments. 

However, the worst is that they can be slow and bad-coded. 

🔑 How to fix it: 

It’s much better to use free and popular fast themes that don’t come with the particular design but work as a perfect canvas for your custom designs. There, you can use Block Editor or visual builders to create exactly what you need. 

Design-Related Mistakes

Too many fonts, colors, and various widgets

Some beginner website designers get too excited seeing the variety of widgets that different design add-ons offer and tend to use as many of them as possible. Actually, it all comes to basic web design principles, but good design requires not only knowledge but also experience and constant practice. If you don’t have it, it’s better to keep things simple and clean – then you’d have more chances to get a better result.

🔑 How to fix it: 

  • Learn basic design principles (about balance, proportions, hierarchy, contrast, negative spaces, rhythm, etc.) before jumping to the web-specific topics.
  • Develop your design eye by regularly going through the best design cases.
  • Every website should have a proper style guide (which is aligned with or is the same thing as the brand style guide) where all sizes, fonts, colors, and styles are clearly defined.

Not enough attention to responsiveness

As of 2023, over half of website traffic originates from mobile devices, and this figure can soar to as high as 98% in certain industries. This shift underscores the diminished significance of the desktop version, now relegated to the second spot in terms of importance. So, the UX should be well-thought-out for mobile devices, as well as page speed.

🔑 How to fix it: 

  • Make sure that the columns are placed properly so the users have a smooth experience and can find everything they need easily.
  • Check all the margins and paddings (especially in Elementor) after adjusting them on the desktop.
  • Use the modern font-size clamp function (it can be implemented using CSS; Elementor also supports it (see how), and Block Editor supports it as well).

Performance, Security, and SEO-Related Mistakes

Using too many plugins and ignoring their updates

I guess every article on WordPress performance mentions it, but people still make this mistake again and again, installing unnecessary plugins, e.g., plugins for HTTP to HTTPS redirect (which in 99% of cases is made anyway on the hosting), and so on. Another example is installing a bunch of Elementor add-ons and using just a couple of widgets for each. 

Also, it’s important to keep them up to date. I don’t even mention the features and security, but if you miss a few years of updates (and yes, this is not so rare, unfortunately), then you might have to do a lot of work to keep the website functioning. Keep in mind that not all the plugins pay big attention to backward compatibility. 

🔑 How to fix it: 

Make a list of the plugins you definitely need. There are always ways to cover the functionality of a few plugins with just one. As a genuine fan of JetEngine, I recommend this article to see such an example. 

Inconsistency in formatting 

So many web designers, when they first start their journey in WordPress development using builders, make the mistake of not being consistent with the structure and formatting. For example, when creating pages with Elementor, they randomly add spaces between blocks using margins, padding, or even a Spacer widget. It will cause a mess when you set up a responsive layout; you will spend much more time editing it later, not to mention the confusion others will have while working with this layout afterward.  

🔑 How to fix it: 

Learn the difference between margins and paddings and the best practices for using them. Avoid using extra widgets when it’s possible to achieve the same result without them because each additional widget means a bigger DOM structure, which is not good for performance. 

Neglecting proper testing and security 

Proper testing before launch is a must because even if it feels like everything works well, there are a lot of details that you probably overlooked. 

🔑 How to fix it: 

Header tag inconsistency in templates

If you use Elementor or other builders, they can add heading tags (H1-H4) to certain widgets by default. As a result, there could be several H1 on the page or an inconsistent structure (e.g., H3 goes after H1) of the page. While it’s easy to fix on blog posts and other elements, where SEO specialists have access to the text directly, it will take more time and effort when it comes to complex templates with dynamic content.  

🔑 How to fix it: 

Pay attention to the proper SEO structure of pages while creating them. 

Mistakes in Business Processes with Clients Freelancers Often Make

Managing hosting/domain accounts and maintenance work 

This section can consist of a few points, but the reasoning can be extended to incorporate additional aspects.

When a client comes to you, a freelance developer, saying, “Hey, I need a website, but I don’t understand anything about it,” you might be very kind and helpful, doing everything for them and then just creating the fantastic site they are happy with, and they rush to use it without asking about details.

The thing is, so many clients don’t understand the difference between a hosting account, domain, and admin panel access. So, some freelance developers just register them on their private accounts, trying to help. But it’s unacceptable because the domain and the website are the client’s ownership; that’s why no domain/hosting should be registered under any freelancer’s accounts unless they share the ownership. 

Or, if your client doesn’t have a person maintaining the website, they can come after some time and ask why something doesn’t work correctly – while the problem will be in the plugins that were not updated, etc.

🔑 How to fix it: 

It’s essential to build a proper business process and sign contracts if the clients want you to maintain their website or help with emergencies. Outline your responsibilities and pricing clearly. It can be something small, but both you and the client will be sure that things are secured.

fry shut up and take my money

Clients have no clue about paid plugins

If the clients get paid plugins installed on their websites, and they are being built around some of their functionality, they should be informed about it prior to the installation and clearly understand who is paying for them. 

I’ve seen so many cases when a freelancer has, let’s say, a yearly subscription for an expensive plugin with 10 installations in the plan. So, they activated it on ten clients’ websites, but in the following year, this developer decided not to extend the subscription. So, the client saw that their website didn’t work and had no clue why it happened, and even other developers hired to fix it might be confused.

🔑 How to fix it:  

  • Make a list of all the premium plugins you install on the website, with their costs, and get approval from the client.
  • The situation when the client pays for all of their plugins might be the best. Still, if you have Lifetime/Agency plans and install plugins on the client’s websites, they should have a guarantee that any other developer working on that project will be able to use the plugin’s support – which means to have access to the subkeys of these plugins.
  • There must be a contract between the developer and the client where all the details about such plugins, their updates, and maintenance are clearly outlined. 

Other developers don’t have docs about the initial website build

Suppose one developer was responsible for creating the website, and another continued working with it after some time. In that case, it’s important to leave some manuals or notes about the way it’s built, especially if it has a lot of dynamic content, custom code, etc.

🔑 How to fix it:  

Keep in mind that content editors and less skilled website developers might work on the website later. Leave documentation that outlines the website’s structure and how to edit certain pages, especially if they are formed dynamically. 

Check out this video from our recent AI Conference, where Jeffrey Dalrymple from Lytbox shares his journey about going from a freelancer to an agency owner:

FAQ

How do you avoid the common mistakes beginners make while building websites?

Read articles, learn best practices, and create checklists before building websites. 

What is the most important thing to do before creating a website?

The #1 thing to do would be to identify the website goals clearly. 

Takeaway

I hope this checklist is helpful for you if you are a beginner website creator or a client who wants to understand how to find a good freelancer or an agency and what to pay attention to. Of course, this list can be much longer, and I couldn’t cover it all in one article. So, you are welcome to write what you would add to it in the comments section.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *