Our Love Affair with WordPress: Part 5, Blog Maintenance Essentials

August 8th, 2008 · 1 Comment · Category: Design and Development · Essentials · Our Love Affair w/ WP · WordPress

Hi, welcome back to Our Love Affair with WordPress series. It’s been a while, I know. But, I’ve been busy working with some clients to make their WordPress blogs as fabulous as they can be! So, last time on Our Love Affair with WordPress, we talked about Enhancing Your WordPress Blog With Essentials. Now, let’s say you’ve got a pretty tricked out blog, that both emphasizes your topic without all the unnecessary spinning rims and shiny bling, but you got some seriously phat content, sweet design and sick SEO that doesn’t interfere with the user experience. Now, one reason I very much dislike excess in blog design, and excess in general is because having a lot of anything means there’s that much more to maintain and that much more to look a hot mess when not maintained on a regular basis. With that said, let’s talk about what blog maintenance essentials you should practice to maintain keep your blog hot, and prevent a hot mess.

Sidebars

One of the most difficult design decisions I think in designing a WordPress blog is how much is too much when it comes to what to put in your sidebar. When it comes down to it, it’s about balancing navigational elements needed and prioritizing through hierarchy. Basically, what links to other pages on and off your website should be added to the sidebar in addition to the main navigation (usually a horizontal navigation bar in the header), and in what order? Most blogs do (and should) have recent posts, archives, rss subscription options and a search bar in their sidebar. Other than that, outside of relevant ads (if necessary), it’s good to pull out some main articles that are popular and list them on the sidebar, some recent comments and your list of categories if those aren’t being listed in the main navigation already.

Other than that, keep your sidebar clean and content up to date. If, for example like WordPress PAD you have a list of Favorite WordPress Themes, update them every so often, check that the links on that page are not broken especially since you’re highlighting this specific page on your weblog. Basically, when it comes to your sidebar, it should have some dynamic elements (consistently changing) like recent posts, comments and a non-flashy rotating ad (if necessary) balanced with other static staple elements that your visitors can rely on to always be there.

Broken Links

Broken links suck. No one wants to click on a link and have it go nowhere, so it’s best to keep your links up to date. Fortunately, there’s a fantastic WordPress plugin called Broken Link Checker that lists all broken links found and then let’s you edit, unlink, discard and follow the broken links as well as a link to edit the post that the link appears. Fabulous, huh!

Plugins and Widgets

Check your plugins and widgets. Fortunately, with WordPress 2.6, a little bubble pops up when a new version of a plugin is available for download in your WordPress administration area. However, this doesn’t mean your plugins are doing what they are supposed to all the time. Sometimes, a plugin or widget can stop working without you knowing. So, make sure you check that the activated plugins are doing what they should do on the front end of your weblog especially. If they’re broken, deactivate them and find a fix or another plugin if you can. Also, in general, if you have activated or deactivated plugins and widgets that you don’t use and think you’ll probably never use, best just to get rid of them.

About Page

I’ve sometimes forgotten that things have changed in my life that are no longer relevant to this blog or another blog but have not updated my About Page. It’s a good idea to every so often take a glance at your about page to make sure what it says is still relevant to what you and/or your blog is about.

Posts

Do a spot check of some of your posts to make sure that that nothing is misaligned, or otherwise funky. Sometimes you may not notice that certain images are not floating properly, or an element tag with a missing closing tag ( without it’s closing ) which can cause a post after a certain point to look strange. Also, do the same for your posts feeds. You should definitely subscribe to your own blog using a feed reader like Google’s feed reader or Bloglines so that you see what your visitors see.

Header

Depending on what’s in your header, make sure, like your about page, the content is still relevant. If you’ve got navigation links, make sure they all go somewhere. If you have an image logo with text that describes your blog or has a motto, make sure it’s still relevant. For example, I no longer create websites at Poles Apart Design and design exclusively WordPress blogs. However, one of the header images in the Poles Apart Design site had old text expressing PAD as being a website design company. So, I had to update the image, removing the word “websites” and uploaded it again. It’s the little things we miss sometimes.

Drafts

Sometimes I forget I have a few drafts with some ideas of what posts to write next. It’s a good idea to remind yourself to look under Manage > Posts > Drafts when writing another post. Also, you never know, when you’re racking your brain or surfing the internet feverishly for an idea for your next post, it could be write in front of you in your drafts box.

Spam

It’s a good idea of getting in the habit of checking Aksimet, or any other anti-spam plugin you might have installed to see if you’ve got a billion spam you need to delete. And occasionally do a spot check of regular comments approved to make sure no spam slipped in. This is unlikely to happen however, especially if you moderate comments before they’re posted live. But, i’m not just talking regular comments but pings as well.

Categories, Links and Tags

If you’re not using a specific post category or link category get rid of them. If you’ve got a tag cloud that’s getting out of control, real that sucker in. Too much information on the front end is information overload for your visitors. And too many categories that are not being used, is more clutter and confusion for you on the back end.

Back that thing up

Please, please, please, please, please make sure you are consistently backing up your WordPress database and your theme files. Get a plugin that does it automatically for you, set it up with your web host, do whatever you must.

Files

Delete files you’re not using in your themes folders.

Settings

Take a walk through your settings to check that everything is as it should be and/or how you’d like it to be. Sometimes you can discover new things that you thought were default settings that are in actually something that needs to be activated or edited in someway. And I’m not just talking about WordPress’s settings, but also those settings that have to be or can optionally be set for plugins installed for your blog.

WordPress Development Blog (at Your Dashboard or WordPress.org)

Occasionally take a look see at your WordPress dashboard’s posts under WordPress Development Blog to see the latest information about WordPress. You never know, it might interest you or be significantly relevant to your blog installation.

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