5 lessons I’ve learnt from building a WordPress site

Embarking on a new website build is not as easy as you think.  Especially when, like me, you wish to invest more of your time in doing wedding photography, and not so much time in putting a website together.  But I realise the importance of a website for getting leads, and the value in using it to point people to in order to showcase my portfolio.  So after what seems like an inordinate amount of time in building a new site, here are my top 5 tips for ensuring you get a quality WordPress site in the shortest time possible:
 

1. use WordPress.org
If you want a site with a sensible domain name eg www.jfoxon.co.uk, as opposed to something like www.wordpress.jfoxon.com, then install wordpress.org, as opposed to wordpress.com.

 
2. install only the Plugins you need
Having built my nice new shiny WordPress site, I thought I’d enhance it with some SEO and speed-improvement plugins.  These came highly recommended, with millions of installs, and 4.5+ reviews from hundreds of thousands of people.  Somehow, somewhere along the line, it all went wrong.  Firstly, whilst trying to install the plugins, I got an Unable to Create Directory error.  Then, my website disappeared.  All the pages were there in WordPress, but if I clicked on any link off the homepage, I got the dreaded 404 File Not Found error, and no page was displayed….  
My wonderful web hosting support team at Free Virtual Servers http://www.freevirtualservers.com/ (unashamed plug), helped isolate the problem, which is to do with a sneaky little file called .htaccess, and which seems to control your permalink structure (amongst a myriad of other things too).  This needs to include a specific bit of “re-write code”, that is far too techy to grace these pages, but is easily searchable in Google.  You also need to check that the File Permissions are set correctly for this file – right click on it whilst in your FTP (Filezilla seems to be best here), and ideally see a value of 644 which will allow only you to write to this file.
 
3. backup backup backup
I did mine 2 ways, firstly by installing a Backup WordPress plugin (but after my comments above, this is not recommended); secondly by using the Backup Wizard that is available on the cPanel from my web hosting company.  If you don’t do this, you are so at risk of losing the entire site. Definitely worth the investment in time and effort.
4. keep image sizes to a minimum
I use the Lensa theme, which allows nice big “featured” images that take up the entire screen.  I have discovered, via a number of sources, including those nice Mansurov people http://photographylife.com/, that the optimal settings for these when exporting from Lightroom http://www.adobe.com/uk/products/photoshop-lightroom.html (probably similar in Photoshop) are Quality=80%, Format=JPEG, Colorspace=sRGB, ResizeLongEdge=1900 pixels, Resolution=72 pixels per inch.  For smaller images that appear in my Gallery, and take maybe no more than half the screen at max, the settings are the same but the ResizeLongEdge=800 pixels.
 
5. ensure the site works on tablets and mobiles
my WordPress theme handles this automatically, so I didn’t need to do anything here at all!  This may be quite a key decision when you are choosing a theme – so many people now browse using tablets and mobiles, especially when searching for photographers, and even more especially when searching for wedding photographers.  I wouldn’t claim that the theme I used, Lensa, works as well on tablets as it does on mobile, but overall it looks okay, and most people would appreciate the difficulties of getting a website that fits neatly on all device types
Overall opinion: WordPress is not for the faint-hearted; only attempt it you have one of the following – either an inner confidence that you can solve most technical problems by searching on the web (someone, somewhere, will have written that incredibly useful article that will solve your issue); a good friend you can call on to help you out of the mess you’ve got yourself into; a stupidly over-inflated sense that these things must be easy and why on earth pay someone else to do something that is surely so easy to set up.

Bath Wedding photography Julian Foxon Photography
www.julianfoxonphotography.com

Leave a comment