Interview with Nick Schäferhoff: WordPress tips for non-developers
In a recent couple of years, WordPress grow to become the essential website platform for both beginners and experts. Its ease of use, powerful features, and worldwide popularity prove it matches the needs of all website types. Whether you’re a developer or have zero coding knowledge, WordPress is equipped with functionalities that will help you bring your website into play.
But, if you’re non-developer with no prior coding knowledge, you would definitely need some tips from an expert to start with. In this article, we spoke to Nick Schäferhoff, an online marketer, WordPress enthusiast and editor in chief of WebsiteSetup. Nick shed some light on creating WordPress content, Gutenberg advantages, choosing a WordPress theme, and improving website speed. Check out some amazing WordPress tips for non-developers!
As an online marketer, how did you get involved with WordPress?
After finishing university, I founded a startup developing and selling sports nutrition. I was bootstrapping it all the way so I didn’t have money to pay for a website. As a consequence, I just did it myself. I had heard about WordPress before and just figured out how to build a website with it. Over time, I learned HTML, CSS, marketing and everything else that goes into running an online business. When the startup went under, I was still left with those skills and simply pivoted my career towards online marketing. Turned out that was the part of running a startup that I was actually interested in anyway.
What prior knowledge (if any) should a person have to attend your Skillshare course on mobile optimization for WordPress?
As the course introduction points out, you should know your way around the WordPress interface. That means you should know how to install a theme or plugin and add images to your content. It’s also best if you are able to understand technical matters since mobile friendliness involves hitting a number of benchmarks. Finally, knowing HTML, CSS and/or PHP won’t hurt but it’s not an absolute requirement.
As a non-developer, how do you manage to keep up with the latest advancements in the field and simultaneously make sure all your content is up to date?
As a blogger, I am in the lucky position that I get paid for staying on top of things. I am always researching different topics and go through a lot of information that way. Much of it sticks, so I am educating myself while working. Aside from that, I simply have an RSS aggregator where I collect articles from a number of relevant websites.
As for the content, depending on your industry, I don’t think it’s necessarily possible or desirable to keep all of it up to date all the time. For example, there is so much happening in the area of WordPress and online marketing that, unless that’s your only job, it’s just not possible. I think it’s best to go through your old content at regular intervals and see what needs updating rather than trying to do it in real time. People understand that not every post has all the latest information (especially if there is a date when it was published) so it’s not a huge issue.
What do you see as the main advantage of Gutenberg for WordPress developers?
Do you need advanced knowledge of WordPress or any other blogging platform to independently manage a blog if you’re just starting out?
I don’t think so. As I mentioned above, I am essentially self-taught. I think, if you have used web applications before and are willing to do the research, you can figure it out. For example, I find the WordPress user interface much easier to deal with than Facebook. So, if you can handle Facebook, you can handle WordPress.
However, in hindsight I will say that I would recommend newbies to take some sort, of course, that explains how to use WordPress in detail. I did that after already using the platform for two years and still learned a ton. So, if I had to do it again, I would start with that and I recommend anyone just coming to the platform to do it as well.
What 5 things should every website owner consider when choosing a WordPress theme?
Phew, that’s a good question. I personally like to go with specialized themes. I don’t like to get a template that can do “everything” because I feel that often means a lot of weight you don’t need. Instead, I prefer to use themes that were made for one purpose and do that really well.
In addition, I would ask myself the following questions:
- Is the design very close to what you imagine so that you can realize your vision with little or no customization?
- Does it have all the key features you are looking for? If not, can you provide what’s missing (for example, via plugins)?
- Does it load fast and is it speed optimized? You can often test that by running the demo site through speed analysis tools.
- How does the theme look on mobile? Remember, more than half of your visitors will be looking at it on small screens.
- Is there a good support structure in place that you can turn to? This includes documentation, online support, etc.
What are the most important features of WordPress that make the building of the website easier?
I think the most important feature of WordPress is that it is very beginner friendly. I have worked with other content management systems and, in my opinion, WordPress is by far the easiest to find your way around. Sure, it takes a while to get used to the interface but once you know what each part does, it’s really straightforward. Plus, if you heed my advice from earlier and go through an in-depth tutorial in the beginning, you will speed up the learning process. Overall, I think ease of use is one of the main reasons why WordPress is so successful.
Can you recommend any methods for non-developers to improve their WordPress site speed?
Sure, even without development skills, you can do a lot of things:
- Use a good hosting provider. In hosting, the motto is usually that you get what you pay for. Cheap or free hosting is cheap for a reason. If you want good site performance, you have to pay for it.
- Keep your site and its components up to date. Updates often come with speed improvements so apply them to take advantage of this fact.
- Reduce what you have on your site. This means both in terms of plugins and other components as well as elements on your pages. The more you have, the more needs to load, the slower your site will be. Try to keep only the essentials. Don’t add any features just because you can. Everything should have a purpose.
- Optimize your images. Run them though TinyPNG/JPG before upload or install a plugin like WPSmush. Input only as large an image as you need in that particular place of your site. I have seen client sites where a tiny image turned out to be a 3,000px visual that someone had manually shrunk down to the desired size. Granted, that was in TinyMCE but still.
- Enable Gzip compression and caching. Yes, this sounds quite technical but there are well-established plugins out there that can do both so use them.
- Finally, run your website through a speed analysis tool like Google PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom or GTmetrix. Fix anything these tools tell you that you know how to.
Please share some tips for improving website user experience.
Two of the main factors for great UX, these days are site speed and mobile friendliness. If your site is slow and doesn’t work or looks awful on smaller screens, you are setting yourself up for failure – at least in the long run. Aside from that, make sure that your design is clean and pleasant and also, as mentioned before, remove everything that isn’t necessary.
I see a lot of websites that get bogged down by too many features that make them hard to use. One of my pet peeves is pages that have both a top and a bottom bar. It shrinks the space for the content, which is the main reason why I am on the page, and I find it very irritating.
Overall, just try to give your visitors the most valuable experience you can. Make your site about them and not about you. Think about how you can further improve their experience and cater to their needs. They will appreciate it.
What do you do for fun outside of work?
I like to get physically active. That means, I spend a lot of time working out in the gym or doing martial arts. I also like to learn new things like languages or skills and read a bunch. Aside from that, I do what everyone else does like meeting friends (so important when you work from home), going to the movies, etc. My wife and I also travel quite a bit.
We hope these WordPress tips for non-developers were helpful. If you liked it, feel free to check out some of these articles as well!