The first thing to do is to fully examine your current site.
If you think your website needs improvement, you will probably have checked it in various tools such as GT Metrix, Google Page Speed Insights and Pingdom, and you’ll have run an audit in something like SEM Rush or ahrefs.
This is where we’ll start, and we run all the tests to build an objective report on the current state of your site.
The next steps we’ll work through are as follows:
Checking your site theme.
This is one of the main aspects of your site and can make or break it in terms of speed and performance.
There are four main types of themes that we typically find on WordPress sites:
- Off-the-shelf theme with prebuilt layouts and a page builder
- Off-the-shelf theme with customisation using a child theme
- An off-the-shelf theme that’s been decoupled from updates and has been customised
- A bespoke-built theme
Each one of these can present certain challenges when improving your site.
Page builder themes.
If you use a theme and page builder such as Divi or Elementor, you are probably experiencing slow site speeds on the front end and a problematic back end if your site is large.
Page builders can be great for small sites, but they can become complex as your site grows and you need more functionality.
This often leads to excessive plugins on the site, problems with expired licences and code conflicts.
A large site that’s built like this can be tricky to improve as the content is completely tied into the theme via the page builder, so it’s often a case of just trying our best to get the performance scores up.
If you are considering a page-builder theme for your site, consider where you plan to take your site. If it remains small and niche, no problem, but if you plan to build a large site with custom functions and WooCommerce, this approach is not for you.
This is the correct way to customise an off-the-shelf theme. These types of sites can be built either with a page-builder or Gutenberg, and any customisation will have been done in a child theme (a copy of the main theme) which allows the parent theme to be updated without overwriting any customisations to the site.
If you have this sort of site, improvements can often be easier as the site has been built correctly in the first place.
This is simply bad practice. If your site has been built like this, the developer did not know what they were doing.
Using a paid or free theme and then changing its name so it can no longer be automatically updated leaves you with a site that is simply waiting to break.
In decoupling the theme from the ability to update it, your site becomes outdated from day one and will inevitably break in the near future.
It should be noted here that this is not the case for certain bare-bones themes that do not rely on JS or overly custom code.
A bare-bones theme built solely around the core WordPress codex can actually be very stable as it’s built lean and properly.
As mentioned above, a well-built custom theme is often the best starting point for improving your WordPress site.
However, this does come with some caveats, usually down to the people who developed the site.
One reason to build a site on a bespoke theme is to try and lock the client to the agency.
If the bespoke theme is complex, overly coded, and purposefully built to make it difficult for other developers to pick up, then your website can end up locked to the agency that built it.
We believe that this is bad practice.
WordPress is free and supported by 1000s of volunteers across the globe, so for a developer to then use WordPress but use it in such a way to as prevent anyone else from working on your site is, in our opinion, unethical.
If you have a website like this, you will probably also have found that everything you ask to be done seems to cost a lot of money and takes a long time.
You might also find that the agency that built the site isn’t too happy about giving other developers access to check it out.
Common signals of this are:
- Not being given Administrator-level access to your own site
- Not being able to see the theme editor
- Not being able to view installed plugins
- Small changes and tweaks seem to cost a lot of money
- Things that can be done accessibly with trusted plugins that are instead hardcoded into the theme
If you have a bespoke built site, we can take a look at the code and let you know if we can pick the site up and improve it.
Conversely, if the site has been built with good plugins and lean code, a bespoke built site delivers the best starting point for improvement.