Give editors more freedom on your Wordpress site

How you can make your Wordpress site easier for site editors to extend.

John Newton's picture
John Newton

Anyone can install a Wordpress site - it’s that easy. However, not anyone can build a Wordpress site in such a way that makes it easy for site editors to control and extend their website effectively.

Too many sites tie the hands of site editors in such a way that building on their existing Wordpress site is almost impossible. Often this is not deliberate but will be an attempt on behalf of developers to make things consistent for editors and to stop them either going off brand, breaking usability rules or getting confused by the array of options offered out of the box to the Wordpress site builder.

While this helps to keeps sites consistent in terms of layouts, it generally hinders editors from extending sites in ways that meet evolving needs. No website is ever ‘finished’ and even at launch (perhaps especially at launch), all members of the project need to think of the new site as just a starting point; as something that needs to be structured, yes, but importantly loosely so, in order to enable the site to evolve easily in new directions without having to be radically rebuilt.

The lock-in that is often built into Wordpress sites by agencies means that time and time again we see sites needing to be rebuilt whereas a little bit of thought and flexibility at the design and configuration stage would have made a rebuild unnecessary.

So how can the pitfalls of narrowly built Wordpress sites be avoided? Here are a few rules of thumb:

1. Keep the majority of your page building in the Wordpress WYSIWYG. Developers often reach for code by default. They find it quick and convenient - it’s often faster than using the Wordpress back-end - and it provides complete control. However, this then leaves a legacy that changes for site editors are overly restrictive.

2. Use the tools Wordpress gives you. The Gutenberg block system may not be perfect. However, it’s mighty impressive and configurable. Spend some time working out what your site editors need and switch off anything they are unlikely to use or that will just confuse the interface. It’s all configurable.

3. Where you have developed effective design patterns that exceed the block system, don’t be afraid to use custom fields. When deployed correctly against one or two page types these can provide site editors with tremendously powerful yet easy-to-use page building tools.

4. Reduce templates. This relates to my earlier point - the fewer templates (in fact the less code generally) you use in your site the better. Programmers tend to be rewarded for coding. However, we are trying to build effective flexible solutions for clients - these are two different things.

5. Training. Honestly, it doesn’t take long to write a short guide to your website and to provide your client with a training session. Just an hour’s orientation will help your editors get up-to-speed with the basics. If you have built your Wordpress site correctly, editors will be able to build out the kinds of pages they need very quickly. And of course the more they do this, the easier it becomes, and the better the site can adapt to changing requirements.

Photo by Ascel Kadhem on Unsplash