As a web designer, I follow a lot of designers and developers on social media. I’m always closely attuned to new trends and tools to help designers and website owners. And as a writer and editor, I’m also connected with a lot of other writers on social media, so I’m closely attuned to what they’re saying about their websites.
One pattern I notice often is that a writer is very excited to talk about their new website or website redesign. When it’s shiny and new and just out of the box, it’s all love and joy, butterflies and unicorns, sparkle and fizzy drinks. But later on, the things I see people saying about their websites aren’t so fizzy and sparkly. They’re locked out. Or their page crashed. Or they’re down to their last nerve trying to install a plugin that someone told them would be really simple.
Having a website can be such a fun — and important — thing. But the care and feeding of your website can sometimes take all the fun out of it. To help you keep the butterflies fluttering, here are…
10 tips and tricks for caring for, securing and enhancing your website
1. Don’t lose your manuscript: Secure your computer’s data with off-site backup
I work in insurance, which is that realm known for the gamble that you pay money for an insurance policy with the hope that you never have to use it. A couple of years ago I made the decision to invest in an off-site computer backup subscription, hoping I’d never have to take advantage of it. This winter, I had a complete failure of my laptop, where I store all of my writing, all of my design files, and all of my financial records. As soon as I had my hands on a replacement computer, I was able to restore every last file and carry on like nothing had happened. It was worth every penny I’d paid. You can back up your computer to an external drive as well, but if you experience some unfortunate physical catastrophe at your house (fire, flood, theft), the same event that destroys your laptop will likely take out your external drive as well. I use Carbonite. Other services include BackBlaze and Mozy. (A side benefit of these services is being able to access all the files on your computer from a remote location when you don’t have your computer along.)
2. How not to lose it: Secure your site with regular backups
Securing your computer with a backup is one important thing. Securing your website with a backup is another. Your website hosting service likely creates a backup for you (you should check with your host to be sure). But where I live, a person can never have enough backups. Installing a service like Backup Buddy on your WordPress site allows you to create backups any time you want, and to have them sent to you via email or sent to another offsite storage location. Consider it the backup for your backup. If your host experiences some sort of catastrophic loss, you have your own backup in another location. Here’s a video to walk you through setting up Backup Buddy on your site.
(This video and other videos in this post are part of our Website Design workshop course. There may be references to other course components in the video which can be ignored.)
3. Don’t get locked out of your own website: Get an admin buddy
4. Shut the front door: How to secure your site with WordFence security & regular updates
One of the biggest gifts you can give yourself (and your website) is to do regular updates to WordPress, your theme and your plugins. Developers are constantly making improvements to the security of those components, and not running the updates puts you at risk. Many people realize this, but few take care of it, and often that’s because they’re afraid they’ll do something wrong. Updating your site is actually quite simple, and as long as you run a backup before you begin, you can be assured of success. (You should also check with your designer about anything you should not update, like a child theme, without their assistance.) This tutorial will walk you through the update process, plus show you how to add the WordFence Security plugin to monitor your site for issues.
5. Snap, crackle, popup: How to install a popup for email signups
Popups are a great way to grow your subscriber list, and it’s much easier than you might think. This tutorial will walk you through adding a popup form to your site in just a few minutes.
6. You’ve got mail: How to create a MailChimp campaign
So you added a subscriber form popup to your site and now you have some subscribers, but how do you send them mail? Here’s a helpful tutorial to walk you through creating a new campaign in MailChimp.
7. Printable Schmintable: How to embed a downloadable PDF
Did you know you don’t need to have a PhD. in WordPress to upload a printable to your website? Here’s a simple way to create embedded PDFs and other documents on your site.
8. Talk to me: How to add a contact form to your website
Having a contact form to enable visitors to contact you without having to post your email address on your site is crucial. With the WPForms Lite plugin, you can easily create and customize forms for your contact page as well as many other uses to gather information from your visitors.
9. Make some change: How to add Amazon Affiliate links
Sometime I should tell you the story about the time three different writers contacted me the same week because while they had an Amazon Affiliates account for months (or even years), they had just discovered that they weren’t actually using affiliate links on their sites. Here’s a simple tutorial to show you how to add Amazon affiliate links and maybe generate a little loose change through your website.
10. Share the love: How to create a blog button
Adding a blog button to your site only looks complicated because it includes a little code snippet, and let’s be honest, most people would have no idea how to create that. That’s where cool tools like code generators come in. This tutorial will show you how to use the “Grab My Button” generator and easily add a blog button to your site for your readers to share.
What are some cool tools and tips you have for maintaining your website, or questions you have about something you want to try to do on your site?