Here are 10 tips to maintain your WordPress installation, to have a clean, functioning, secure, and fast loading website.
Keep WordPress up to date
The most import thing to do to maintain a clean and secure installation is to keep WordPress up to date. As WordPress is one of the most used Content Managment Systems nowadays, hackers are dedicated to exploiting every little vulnerability. Every time a new version of WordPress is available, it comes with security fixes to prevent attacks. You may think that that is something that happens only to the big companies with huge traffic and sensitive data, but you would be surprised. I saw myself underground musician websites being hacked fo no reason! Having an old version of WordPress running is enough to be a potential target.
In addition to security, updating WordPress will also give you access to new features. So there isn’t any reason the use an outdated version. Also, WordPress now update automatically for versions with important security fixes, so be sure that your installation configuration and folder permission are set correctly and just keep an eye on your WordPress version regularly.
Keep your theme and plugins up to date
For the same reasons as detailed above, it is important to keep all your themes and plugins updated. They evolve along with WordPress so you will benefit of new features, especially for plugins. For example, with our premium themes and free plugins, we only provide support if everything is up-to-date. If someone reports a bug, there is a strong chance that it will be fixed in the next update. Also, If you suggest a new feature for one of our items, it can be added to the next plugin or theme release. So just check you admin from time to time and update everything. Simple as that!
Check all your pages from time to time
You don’t want to display an ugly error message on your front page, don’t you? The downside of keeping everything up-to-date is the risk to get an error message or malfunction due to outdated plugins. When you maintain your WordPress installation, always take a quick look at all your pages. Even better, check everything when you’re not logged or in incognito mode to be sure you’re seeing the same thing as your visitor. Do that especially if you use a cache plugin. There are plugins on the WordPress repository that are not updated regularly or worse, that don’t even work with recent versions of WordPress. Just avoid these plugins. When you look for a plugin to install, check if it’s compatible with the recent versions of WordPress. You can use our plugins if you want to be sure to use regularly-updated plugins.
Use a child theme
If you want to customize your theme, it is recommended to use a child theme. A WordPress child theme allows you to apply custom code changes to your site. Using a child theme ensures your customizations will not be overwritten, even if you update the parent theme.
For most cases, you won’t need a child theme if you just want to add a couple of lines of CSS for a style adjustment. You can add custom CSS styles directly in the Customizer “Additional CSS” tab (since WordPress 4.7.2). But if you need more advanced customizations, like more CSS rules to overwrite the styles of the theme or even add your own PHP functions, it is strongly recommended to use a child theme.
Leave themes that trespass plugin territory
A lot of theme authors have made this mistake back in the days: adding a plugin-like feature to a theme, and the most common example is a custom post type included in the theme. If you install a theme that includes a custom post type in addition to your regular blog post, like a “work” post type for a portfolio, I suggest leaving this theme. At first, there isn’t any reason to skip this theme, the design is awesome, all works smoothly and such, but what if you want to switch to another theme in 6 months or a year? You will lose all your portfolio content! That’s why you must use a theme that doesn’t trespass the plugin territory. This is the way themes should be designed. All features that belong to a plugin are outsourced to plugins and themes may include custom styles and enhancement for your plugins. That way you can switch theme without losing any content.
Deactivate the plugins you don’t need
Don’t use too many plug-ins
Stick to the most important plugins. Don’t use several plugins that do the same thing. If you’re unsure of what a plugin do, you probably don’t need to have it installed. For the same reason explained above, don’t overload your WordPress installation with plugins. This is a common WordPress rookie mistake to think that having 30 plugins activated is good for your website. It most likely will cause your installation to be a big mess. So keep it clean folks!
Clean your media library
This is another point that may sound obvious, but here it is: delete the media files you don’t need. If you upload a new version of a graphic or photo, delete the old version. If you change your home page header background, delete the image you don’t use. Every image you upload is resized in at least three different versions. And depending on your theme or plugin, it can be a lot more. So in fact, when you add an image to your WordPress media library, you will have three or more images hosted on your server. And you will have to pay more to increase your server space you have too much unuseful content on your hosting space.
Keep your WordPress installation secure
I already wrote a little post about keeping your installation secure. If you want to keep your WordPress installation clean, be sure to follow these tips. Most of all, a secure login and password are mandatory, don’t use “admin” as username and “1234” as your password! Choose a unique database name and a secure database password etc…
Keep it flexible
This point is more of an introduction to our next post to come about the best WordPress utility plugins. An important thing to have a clean and flexible WordPress installation is to install the good combination of plugins and we will see the most useful and lightweight plugins in the next article so stay tuned!