A Few Basic, Essential WordPress Tips: #2 Screen Options and Plugins: Less is More

Neil CooperVOiD Applications, Web

A Few Basic, Essential WordPress Tips - VOiD Applications

There are a lot of websites out there that harness the power of WordPress. Many first time bloggers or designers gravitate towards this platform because of its accessibility and what can be made possible with little to no knowledge. On the other end of the spectrum knowing the ins and outs of the medium can allow you to create your own beautifully crafted pieces of World Wide Web and stand out from the rest when showcasing your portfolio, creating your online presence, or putting a business model to use whereby you can make money online. Regardless of the why’s, we’ll be sharing with you some basic, essential WordPress tips that will make your WordPress powered website just that little more effective. So if you’re a new user there will be plenty here for you to get to grips with over the coming posts, whilst the hardened veterans of the WordPress system may just remember something they forgot previously.

See the previous post for tips on Permalinks and Page Order.

This post however will delve into the Screen Options and also Plugins, and why Less is More.

Screen Options

Screen Options is a dropdown box that hosts a lot of options that affect what is available to edit on the screen. This is located at the top right of the screen whenever you are in the Dashboard of WordPress. Depending on the page you are navigating, different options will be available, and in the case of adding that bit more personalisation or accessibility to your content, it can come in handy. In some cases, it also helps moderating elements throughout the site whilst you’re working on it (e.g. you might want a larger list of comments when moderating them, so you would change the number).

The reason behind having screen options is to give users control of the elements they deem important available on screen and to hide the others that may not apply to them or the theme they are using. With that being said sometimes an option may already be switched off, and you need it on, what ends up happening is you end up Googling all these possibilities of why your option is missing, to no avail, to then realise all it was missing was a check in the box in the Screen Options area (and yes I am unfortunately talking from experience).

Let’s use a real example. An important addition to Menus you can create in WordPress are the ‘Title Attributes’ which help with identifying pages and in some cases are read back using text to speech for people who use accessibility options whilst browsing. A Title Attribute will pop up when you hover over a link, it either reiterates the link, identifies the link target or can be used to give extra information.

This is usually by default, switched off. It’s a good practice to have this filled out to get some extra brownie points in the consistency, accessibility and maintenance of your website. To ensure this is on, Log In to your WordPress website, hover over ‘Appearance’ and click ‘Menus’. Find ‘Screen Options’ in the top right corner and click it. If your Title Attribute is unticked you can now tick it and add that field to your menus ready for editing. Experiment with different pages to see the potentIal elements you could be missing out on or want to hide.

A Few Basic, Essential WordPress Tips - VOiD Applications

Plugins: Less is More

Plugins, as you may know, help to expand upon your WordPress websites functionality. They can help aesthetically or to make your system more responsive. They can also help improve SEO and other functions. The possibilities are endless and one of the reasons why WordPress is so powerful, it allows first-time users to manipulate parts of their website without major in-depth knowledge whilst restricting them from making a boo boo. Those versed in WordPress and coding can also edit the plugins available to their hearts content as long as they have access to the files on their server.

So why not download every single one and have the best website in the whole Universe? Because sooner or later it will go horribly wrong and you’ll either be facing a White Screen of Death, or a site that takes longer to load than eating 10 Wheetabix in one sitting.

Here are some reasons why overdoing it with Plugins may have a negative effect.

  • Not all plugins and themes have a loving relationship. As websites tend to work and load in unison, if there are any conflicts in the code, this can lead to your website, ceasing to work abruptly, thus coming to a stand still or formatting of content going terribly wrong. In some cases if the problem is severe you may lose being able to access the website by normal means because the mixture of themes and plugins has crashed the site, and rescuing a website can be a lot of hassle, stress, and balding.
  • The more plugins you have, the larger your website, the longer the loading times. In this day and age, even those with time don’t have enough, so by making someone wait for your website to load, you’re potentially losing out on valuable visitors, especially if you’re trying to run a business. Not only that, long loading times on a website have a negative impact on being displayed in search engine results.
  • Updates! This works both ways when maintaining your website, plugins that are still within use and are updated on a regular basis may need a lot of attention. If they’re still being updated that is a plus, and it means security flaws and loopholes are being fixed whilst sometimes new features are added. This can prove difficult to stay on top of if you’ve made changes to the plugin and it reverts it every time it’s updated, that means you need to implement your changes again, but this rarely happens if the plugin is created properly. However, you need to take into account that your theme and also WordPress its self, are updated, and that at any one time an error can occur because of the changes made between them. The best way to help stop this from happening? Don’t rely on a lot of plugins to solve every problem you run into, as it can cause as much if not more in the future.
  • …more Updates! Do you know what something is if it isn’t updated like it should be? It’s outdated! (much like flairs). Outdated plugins and also plugins that are longing for a tender click to be updated are very much prone to attacks which could single-handedly bring down your website. Again try to avoid using a lot of plugins to avoid this type of problem, update where possible, or wear the flairs with pride.
  • When it comes to Plugins, Google is your best friend (as with most queries), ensure you do your research and be scrutinous. Some plugins can be more of a hindrance than help, and some you can do yourself without the extra load on your site. Remember plugins help you expand, they aren’t there to replace the functions.

    So there you have it, two basic, essential WordPress tips covered in depth, in the second instalment of this series. If you think your business’ webs presence could benefit from the Web services we offer or just want to have a chat about the wealth of possibilities on offer, please get in touch we’re happy to help.