3 Ways To Improve Your Wordpress Site for 2013
Most Wordpress users love the platform, and it's got some great advantages over other platforms. It's also got some built-in flaws that are probably making your life harder, your blog look more cluttered, and confusing your users. Knowing what to get rid of and what to keep is not always intuitive. Here's the key to getting this right: think like your users.
Cut Down On Page Bloat
There is no end to page bloat on many Wordpress sites out there. It's actually surprising that more sites haven't picked up on this yet. Dedicated category pages, tag pages, and other miscellaneous pages make your site bigger than it needs to be, forces users to click through more pages than they need to, and it can create some nasty duplicate content issues for you.
Most everyone will beat you over the head with how important it is to have categories. There's a caveat to that "rule" though. Does it serve your user's interest? If not, ditch the categories or get rid of the links to them on your blog. Ditto with tags and tag pages. That's a sacred cow that really needs to die.
Some users do use tags and categories, but most users just want to find what they're looking for and leave. That doesn't mean you shouldn't capitalize on the idea of categories and tags. It just means you have to approach the problem a little differently.
Instead of linking to yet another page on your site, why not bring the content on those dedicated category and tag pages forward one level? Display a list of related posts based on categories or tags right there in your sidebar or underneath each post on your blog. As long as you have a sitemap, you don't need to worry about search engines not finding every page on your site. In fact, a "related posts" section under each post may even help you out in that respect since you're linking related content together - score one for relevancy.
Users rarely search for random information. They go to websites with a purpose. When that purpose is fulfilled (or they can't see how to proceed from where they are), they leave. Keep them on your site longer by reducing clutter and just giving them the links to other posts they probably want to see anyway. Don't make them fish for it on dedicated category and tag pages.
Ditch The Unnecessary Plugins
Most Wordpress sites have a lot of plugins. Usually, half of them can go without loss of functionality. While plugins have a "cool" factor about them, and they can undoubtedly simplify some functions, having too many plugins can actually slow down your site.
Comb through your plugins and deactivate ones you haven't used in at least a month. If you haven't used the plugin for three months, then deactivate it and delete it. It's just taking up space. Don't get too carried away with SEO plugins and plugins that handle sitemaps. All you need is one sitemap generator. Likewise, all you need is one SEO plugin (hint: Yoast for Wordpress).
Clean Up Your Navigation
Navigation menus get messy really fast. According to usability Jakob Nielsen, simple navigation menus work best. You should have links to major sections of your site plus a search bar (users will often look for it in the upper right or left corner of your site). Search bars should accommodate at least 27 characters which is the optimal length for multi-word queries without some of the words being cut off in the search bar. Menus can be drop down so long as they're kept simple. A breadcrumb design is ideal so that users know what page they're on at all times and where they've been.
Finally, users should not be able to click on a menu button that leads to the page they are already on. For example, if a user is on the home page, then the home page navigation button should not be clickable. Why? According to Nielsen's research, users find it disorienting and confusing. Some users wondered if they were initially on the homepage since every click reloads the page. Don't do that to your site visitors.
At the end of the day, it's about improving usability for your site visitors. Most of them aren't going to be IT professionals or code junkies (unless you run a site in that industry). Keep it simple, and Google (and others) will love you at least as much as your users.
Image credit © darco2010