The Ultimate WordPress Guide

According to WordPress' official website, 41% of the web uses WordPress.

From hobby blogs to the biggest news sites online, WordPress has evolved from a simple blogging platform to a fascinating solution for website building.

Fun fact: the official website for the White House is running on WordPress.

But what is WordPress?

WordPress is open source software you can use to create a beautiful website, blog, or app.

You can use it in its basic form or headless. The first option is more straightforward, and the latter requires more technical knowledge.

Either route, WordPress can make your life easier when managing your site and all of its content.

Arguably, WordPress gained such massive popularity due to the first option; its natural form. In this form, you can put an entire website or app together without touching any code. And even more so, it can be up with the latest trends and requirements; SEO Friendly, Security, Responsiveness, and so much more.

The problem

WordPress matured as a platform on a fundamental premise of openness and flexibility.

Sounds great, right? Yeah, not so fast.

On the surface, the openness and flexibility is an attractive offering. Under the hood, though, it hosts an array of vulnerabilities.

Essentially, any given WordPress installation will not resemble the next, even when the end goal was the same. This open concept can present not only functional problems but, more importantly, security vulnerabilities.

If you're just getting started with WordPress, you can quickly find yourself feeling overwhelmed. As of this writing, the official marketplace for WordPress plugins has over 55 thousand options.

My intention isn't to knock the platform at all.

I've launched dozens of WordPress websites and developed some opinions about the platform. Learned what I like and what I don't. Each build made the next one more manageable and better. My goal is to share some of the processes and plugins I've found useful.

I'll treat this guide as the resource I wish I had when starting a digital agency.

The solution

My most important rule of thumb to WordPress is not to install more than ten plugins. It has forced me to question my builds continuously.

The more plugins you install, the more resources that need to be loaded. You want your site to load blazing fast, be bug-free and secure. So, try to hold back and question yourself before you install yet another plugin.

How do you limit WordPress to 10 plugins?

Build, test, and repeat.

At WebLime, we review WordPress builds for our clients all the time. Something that strikes out the most is WordPress installations having more than 25 plugins. I've even seen sites with more than 50 plugins installed and active!

Generally, the premium plugins allow you to achieve more. Instead of loading four plugins to achieve four features, you load one plugin that'll cover your needs.

Also, and you may be surprised to read this in a WordPress guide, but don't swear by WordPress at all costs.

Sometimes WordPress is not the ultimate solution.

Since adopting my ten plugin rule, I've had to consider new technologies and approaches for clients. And sometimes, that means walking away from WordPress.

For example, Shopify is my choice for anything eCommerce.

I have found that WordPress, a platform that originated from a blogging concept, gets way too bloated when the goal is to build a store.

The Ultimate WordPress Guide Plugins

With just about any WordPress build, one of your ongoing considerations is which plugins to install. Essentially, your goal is to choose the best plugins to enhance WordPress and achieve the desired outcome.

I'll recommend the typical set of plugins we use on just about every WordPress build and then a few extras that I like.

Before listing anything, I'd like to clarify that we have no affiliation with these plugins. This list is compiled purely from my experience, preference, and opinions.

Autoptimize

My go-to plugin for WordPress optimization is Autoptimize.

It can aggregate, minify and cache scripts and styles, inject CSS in the page head by default and do so much more.

Some highlights include:

  • Lazy-load images
  • Optimize Google Fonts
  • Async non-aggregated JS

Yoast

Once you have a stable build, you'll want to optimize for SEO. My choice here is Yoast. This plugin was founded 14 years ago and has evolved and kept up with WordPress.

The plugin runs on more than 11 million sites and on 15.4% of the top 1 million sites in the world. That includes our very own White House.

With Yoast being a part of your build, the ranking will become more intuitive. It'll guide you on SEO basics and best practices.

Some highlights include:

  • Keyword optimization
  • Readability check
  • No duplicate content
  • Works in the block editor, classic editor and Elementor
  • Internal linking suggestions
  • Redirect manager

Elementor

Now that your WordPress environment is optimized for speed and search engines, you'll be ready to start building.

As always, WordPress has a lot of offerings in this respect. I've tried them all and found Elementor to be far superior to the rest. It truly is in a class of its own.

If you can afford to go for the Pro version, you'll have an even more extensive library of widgets.

A WordPress builder like I've never experienced before.

Some highlights include:

  • Drag & Drop Editor
  • Design system
  • Global fonts & colors
  • Integrates with many plugins (i.e. Yoast)

Sandhills & WP Simple Pay

In general, Sandhills Development has a fantastic WordPress plugins offering. Anything they offer is superior and well crafted.

If you're not building an eCommerce solution but still have some payment processing requirements, look no further than WP Simple Pay.

You can accept one-time and recurring payments on your WordPress site without touching any code.

Some highlights include:

  • Drag and drop form builder
  • Integrates with Stripe
  • Custom subscription options
  • Offer discounts and coupon codes

All-in-One WP Migration

If you're building a WordPress instance locally or need to move your website from one server to another, this plugin will be a lifesaver.

The best part? You can use it then remove it. So, you get the job done, and your site remains clean of excessive plugins.

In a few clicks, All-in-One will generate a downloadable file of your WordPress website, including the database, media files and plugins.

Some highlights include:

  • Uses chunks to bypass upload size restrictions
  • Zero dependencies
  • Support for MySQL
  • Cloud options

Little tricks

One of the faults with WordPress is that people treat it as a no-code solution. While that's ok, it can lead to WordPress' biggest pitfall: installing an endless amount of plugins.

My suggestion is to stay away from code for the most part, but be open-minded about touching it when you need to. In some cases, you don't need to understand what's going on entirely; copy and paste a snippet of code into the right location, and it'll work!

Here's an example of how some of that can look.

In your child theme, you can add a function to your functions php file. Then add scripts that trigger when the function is called.

This will allow you to trigger analytics tags like Plausible or Google Search Console, without the need for additional plugins.

add_action('wp_head', 'plausible_analytics');
function plausible_analytics() {
    ?>
    
    <script async defer data-domain="resourcewranglers.co" src="https://plausible.io/js/plausible.js"></script>
	<meta name="google-site-verification" content="-fpnXLanKugbn4DRVsJUkOGHPVCAfmqBfD4Oi7k8ZwE" />
    <?php
}
Code sample to inject tags into your header

To infinity

As with anything on the internet, remember that nothing here is the rule of law.

WordPress, by nature, comes in a raw state, allowing end-users to develop their version of what WordPress can be.

My encounters and struggles moulded these opinions; they've evolved over the years and are bound for change over time. As this continues to happen, I'll do my best to update this document in hopes that it'll serve others as a reference or starting point when working with WordPress.