Creating a WordPress website from scratch isn’t as easy as it seems.
If your goal is to simply have a decent-looking and functional website up and running, then sure — you can probably get it done with WordPress in a day. But if you’re contemplating bigger goals, like selling online products, building a digital portfolio, or generating thousands of subscribers, you’ll need a lot more than a generic theme and a few hours of customization.
What you need is a comprehensive tool belt that will allow you to present visitors with not only a beautiful site, but also a compelling user experience.
For novice WordPress developers, here are 5 of the must-have tools that you can’t afford to miss:
1. Automated Backup Plugin
Although WordPress is generally regarded as reliable and stable, it’s not immune to coding errors and cyber-attacks that may render your site — even your dashboard — inaccessible.
Security tools that can avert the most common types of cyber-attacks will be discussed later. But first things first, make sure you have backups ready in case something unfortunate occurs.
Put simply, a backup serves as a failsafe in case all other layers of security fail in protecting your site. It allows you to quickly restore your website’s normal operation regardless of the threat that took it down.
The good news is, some of the best backup tools for WordPress are readily available in the official plugin repository. UpdraftPlus, for example, lets you manually create backups as well as set a regular backup schedule within minutes.
You can also specify the storage location for your backups — be it on a cloud storage service, email, or via FTP.
2. Firewall & Security
Backups may be effective in reversing the effects of cyber-attacks that damage your site’s integrity. But in terms of cost-efficiency, preventing these attacks from happening in the first place is a far superior solution.
Keep in mind that downtimes and other inconveniences that cyber-attacks cause can also negatively affect your brand’s image. This is especially true if a leak of your audience’s data was involved in the process.
To protect your website from most cyber-attacks that cause this, a plugin like Wordfence should be enough to have your bases covered.
Here is a brief rundown of Wordfence’s features and how it can benefit your site:
- Malware Scanner
Themes, plugins, and other assets that you acquire from an external source may contain malicious code or content. Wordfence makes sure everything you incorporate into your WordPress site is secure and malware-free.
- Web Application Firewall
A Web Application Firewall or WAF protects websites and other HTTP applications against malicious traffic. Since Wordfence’s WAF focuses purely on WordPress sites, it’s about as good as you can get in securing your online presence.
- Brute Force Prevention
A “Brute Force” attack occurs when a hacker or bot forces their way into your WordPress account with thousands of auto-generated password combinations. To prevent this, Wordfence limits the number of times a login attempt can be made.
3. Content Delivery Network
Speaking of security, a Content Delivery Network or CDN can protect your website against the most common cyber-attack today — DDoS attacks.
Short for Distributed Denial of Service, a DDoS attack utilizes a network of infected systems to flood a website’s server with traffic. This, in turn, maxes out the bandwidth capacity of a server and therefore denies access to legitimate users.
How does a CDN work in preventing a DDoS attack?
Remember, a CDN is essentially a network of proxy servers that store, manage, and deliver cached website data. Not only will the malicious traffic be mitigated and handled by multiple servers, certain CDN companies also provide additional security measures, like traffic behavioral analysis and IP masking.
A CDN also ensures faster loading times by assigning the nearest server to transfer content to users — thus, reducing or eliminating the latency due to long distances. This makes it a great investment for WordPress users who value both security and user experience.
4. Performance Optimization Tools
Now that you have the tools necessary to secure your WordPress site, it’s time to look at the experience that your would-be visitors would get.
This may sound harsh, but modern internet users can be very finicky when it comes to a website’s performance. In fact, up to 40 percent of these users would abandon a website if it needs more than 3 seconds to load — that’s nearly half of your traffic gone before they even get the chance to see your content.
Running a complete analysis through Google PageSpeed Insights is a great first step towards a more fluid website. Once you enter your WordPress website’s URL, the tool will automatically detect all issues that impact your website’s loading speed.
PageSpeed Insights will also list down all the recommended suggestions you can use to fix all the issues that are specifically found on your website. Two of the most common examples are compressing your website’s images and minifying your code — both of which can be done in a snap with WordPress plugins.
WP Smush and W3 Total Cache, for example, are plugins that are capable of automatically optimizing your image and code assets as you upload them.
W3 Total Cache also lets you enable browser caching in a few clicks. You only need to activate the plugin and enable the settings that affect the way caching works on your website.
5. Lead Generation Platform
If there’s one thing WordPress lacks that every ambitious website owner needs, it’s the lead generation features that can help turn visitors into customers or subscribers.
Although there are several plugins that can be helpful, such as contact form and popup plugins, what serious marketers need is a cohesive solution that can streamline your lead generation workflow.
MailChimp, for example, is an all-in-one platform that has everything you need to engineer an effective lead generation campaign — from a landing page builder to email automation tools for lead nurturing.
Just like WordPress plugins, MailChimp has a smooth learning curve and a drag-and-drop interface. A few minutes of exploring the tool should help you understand how to perform each task.
However, if you require further assistance, you can always count on the MailChimp “Knowledge Base,” which can tell you all about the platform’s features.
Building a WordPress website isn’t always a walk in the park, but it’s not rocket science, either.
With the tools above, you should be well on your way to a secure, fast, and profitable WordPress website. Just exercise patience and remember that online success is impossible to attain in a day.
What are your favorite plugins or external tools for WordPress website development? Feel free to share them in the comments below!