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Principles of Implementing WordPress, The Mind Map

Principles of Implementing WordPress, The Mind Map

WordPress is often implemented in a bad way, and site owners don’t know it. A bit of education can help resolve that, so I created a set of guidelines for decision makers and designers.

UPDATE October 17, 2022: Details and notes are now available at the Clickable Principles of Implementing WordPress

When site owners plan their sites, they might not know what specifications to include. Their project evaluation is often limited to a visual review and a few buzz words that are current at the time.

That’s where these principles come in.

When site owners plan their sites, they don’t know what specifications to include in their requirements.

I used a mind map to organize my thoughts on why some WordPress installs are “good” and some are “bad”. See below. It became my Principles of Implementing WordPress.

It might seem technical, and it is a little, but it’s not advanced. These principles can be explained in business terms with business consequences. I plan to write more about this in the coming months.

First Draft of the Mind Map

These are guiding principles I propose, not strict rules. Only a few are routinely high priority. Most are factors to be weighed for the benefits and trade-offs. They are based on my 25 years in web development.

Principles of Implementing WordPress, The Clickable Mind Map
See the text of this image below at this link.

Many Right Ways to Implement WordPress

WordPress is open source software, and very good software for its purpose. It’s designed to allow anybody to change how it works in virtually any way. What is “right” is open to anything anybody wants to do. It depends on anybody’s priorities and purpose.

  • Point-and-click plugins and themes that take over WordPress editing is a right way to implement WordPress if the priority is on novices designing and managing the site.
  • A design-only theme using the WordPress editor and Gutenberg for page layout is a right way to implement WordPress.
  • My preference for light-weight, flexible, stable, W3C compliant websites, built for the long term to client requirements, and guided by these principles is also a right way.

That said, I add that some themes and plugins regularly break several important guidelines on my list. They are a case-in-point for the consequences of not following some best practices.

All Things to All People (ATTAP) Systems

To appeal to a bigger market, WordPress theme/plugin developers and online website services (Wix, Square, Shopify, and such) create point-and-click systems so non-experts can easily move things around, add fonts, animations and more. They are great when that’s the top criteria.

These systems try to be all things to all people (ATTAP), invariably requiring more complicated code. If the complication is only on the back-end site editor, that’s fine. But the front end gets extra code too, often to the point of bloat that slows websites.

User Added Bloat

ATTAP systems give novices the ability to design a site. That’s the point. But novices often add bells and whistles because that’s what the system let’s them do. Their evaluation of the result is usually superficial: visual design and clickable navigation.

I’ve taken over sites created by novices and pros who used a bloatful theme and loaded lots of plugins. The sites are difficult to manage. They are slow. They have hidden errors and flaws almost always. And some fixes require a complete overhaul. In a word, the sites are “bloated”.

I’ve taken over other sites that have a non-bloatful theme and are not loaded with lots of plugins. They are easier to edit and tweak, faster, and less error-prone. Fixing problems is easier. In two words, the sites are “not bloated”.

Almost all problem WordPress sites that come my way use ATTAP themes or plugins. Not all, but most. My new client is frustrated, and I get frustrated for them. I know it could be better.

Business Consequences

Some of these principles have some have long-term consequences for a business asset: your content. And content is a business asset. Over a few years, you can spend a lot of time and money creating content, especially if you regularly publish news or blog posts. The cost of recreating it could be significant.

Principle: Separate Design from Content

Separating design from content isn’t new. It’s been a best practice in web development for 20 years. Yet some themes and plugins still combine them a little or a lot. And novice editors can add to it without knowing it.

Stored correctly, content can be redesigned, moved, shared, saved, and reused indefinitely.

Stored incorrectly with extensive design code, content cannot be easily redesigned, shared nor moved. The lifespan of the saved content ends with the current set up of the site, or the site is stuck with the design because it’s difficult to change.

Other Principles and Consequences

Other consequences follow from other principles on the mind map.

The importance of the consequences depends on priorities. For instance, if a quick website that can be designed and run by a non-expert is at the top, there are lots of point-and-click options including Wix (one of my favorites), Shopify (very good documentation), and WordPress page-builder themes. But they all have drawbacks.

It’s possible to avoid these and other hidden pitfalls with any design.

One final point: It’s possible to avoid these and other hidden pitfalls with any design. Start by using these principles. Or call me. It’s what Pacesetter Media does.

Invitation to a Conversation

This list of principles is a work in progress. I have my approach to developing websites. Others have their own ways that are just as good or better. I’d love to hear from other WordPress developers and site owners.

  • What else should be on the list?
  • What should be altered?

I’m sure other experienced developers have some great ideas, too. I’d welcome those ideas, corrections, opinions, or telling me I can blow it out my #$x.

If you have any ideas, please send me a message at this link.

Text Version of The Principles

For completeness and accessibility, here’s the text of the mind map image.

The Principles of Implementing WordPress, The Mind Map

  • Content for Humans and Computers
  • Repository of Current Content – Content Management System


Content, Text, Pics, Vids, Settings and Such

  • Asset
    • Time
    • Files and data, not physical
    • Intellectual Property
  • Portable
  • Long Lasting
  • Designable
    • Design Theme Switchable
  • Shareable-Readable
    • Screen Readers
    • Computer Readable – search engines
    • Computer Shareable – REST
    • Human Readable
  • With HTML Markup


For Humans, Colors, Text Size, Layout, Spacing

  • Incorporates Data-Content
  • Theme
    • Design Only
    • Use WP data storage
    • Use WP page builder/Gutenberg
    • Childable
    • Cacheable, Minifiable +/-
    • Functions: portable plugins
  • Light, Valid HTML-CSS
    • SEO, Accessibility, Mobile


  • “Just Works” is the Standard
    • Reduce “doesn’t work” risk factors
    • Use extra code/plugins judiciously when needed-wanted
    • Just be mindful of support and “risks”
  • Be mindful of stacking complexities/risks
  • Priorities
    • SEO, Accessibility, Mobile
    • Ecommerce and Support
    • Customer/Tech Support
    • Content Management
    • User Editing and Designing
    • Custom Functions and Specs
  • Light, Valid HTML-CSS
    • SEO, Accessibility, Mobile
  • Backup & Update WP, Plugins
    • At least Yearly
      Daily for high-use sites
  • Use Client-Side Scripts Judiciously
    • But use when they do something you want
    • Otherwise, reduce or remove
  • Documentation
    • User Notes and How-To
    • Developer Notes and Why
  • Think Long Term


Functions, Data/Content, Markup, Design

  • Portable, Non-Theme-Dependent
  • Speed
  • Cacheable, Minifiable +/-
  • Use the WP Way
    • Data Storage
    • Page Builder/Gutenberg
  • Light, Valid HTML-CSS
    • SEO, Accessibility, Mobile
  • Bloat
    • “Just Add a Plugin” Judiciously
    • Audit for Overly Complicated Plugins