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WordPress Tips for Beginners – Readability, Design, User Experience

Wordpress Tips for Beginners - Readability, Design, User Experience

In How to make money from your hobby or passion? one of the mentioned possibilities is having your own website. Most hosting providers offer a one-click-process to install a WordPress blog, which makes starting real easy. So this article WordPress Tips for Beginners is not about installing, but about aspects to make visiting your website a great experience.  

The biggest mistake most beginners make is: they complicate the whole process. WordPress has infinite choices. However, this doesn’t mean that you should choose all of them from the start. Even if there are hundreds of plugins… Even if you can choose all the colors you want… Or every font that is available… Restrain yourself. The visitors of your website will appreciate it.

I will explain 12 aspects that – once implemented – will give your visitor a great user experience. Making sure they want to come back. 

Readability is partly about language and partly about design

Do you consider yourself a great writer? Most people will probably say “No”. I know I will say that as well. I am not Hemingway or Shakespeare. The point is, it doesn’t bother me, not anymore. 

When I started blogging 20 years ago (oops, that sounds like ages ago, doesn’t it!) I thought written text should be pompous and formal. I had a website for my graphic design studio and every text was marketing talk.

Whenever I bump into websites like that nowadays I click away in a heartbeat. I can’t believe I used that same babble.

Readability is important

1. Make a normal conversation from your text

A normal conversation doesn’t mean you have to say “Yo” or “Bro”, unless your target audience is using that kind of words all the time. It just means talking in a relaxed and sensible way.

2. Avoid long sentences

When a sentence exceeds 20 words, it’s better to split it up. Most of the time this is doable. Even when you think it is not. 

3. Divide your text into small paragraphs 

Imagine what kind of texts you like to read yourself: Endless, book-like sentences that go on and on? Or small, bite-like texts that make it easy to grasp what it’s about?

Paragraphs of 2 or 3 sentences work best. After that put either a blank line (a return on your keyboard) or a subheading.

4. Add breathing space to your blog

These blank lines let your page ‘breathe’. Compare it to talking. After a couple of sentences you will take a breath. This is a natural pause, that gives both you and your listener / reader a bit of rest.

Images with enough white space around them have that same effect. 

Design, the look and feel of your website

Beautiful or useful?

Even as a graphic designer I never assumed design was more important than readability or user experience. Design is accommodating. ‘Beautiful’ is never the important issue.

It doesn’t take much effort to take a look at a website and acknowledge the beauty of it. You usually can see and conclude that in the blink of an eye. However, to determine the usability, requires more effort. This tension between the beauty and usability of a website often allures us to pay more attention to a website’s beauty. 

Beautiful is not equivalent to effective, although a website can be both at the same time! ~Hannie Mommers

Mind you, I am not saying you shouldn’t have a beautiful website. I just mean it comes third place. Another aspect of beauty is, that it’s about taste. And we all have different tastes. 

5. Choose a font that doesn’t confuse the reader

Sans serif and Serif

A very crude classification of fonts (letters) is in Serif and Sans Serif. Serifs are small strokes at the end of a larger stroke. The most frequently used fonts are sans serif like Verdana, Trebuchet and Arial. A well-used serif font on the internet is Georgia. 

Any (big enough) font that resembles one of these 4 mentioned is a good readable font and very useful for the text of your blog. For headings or quotes you could use a font with more fantasy, as long as your visitor doesn’t have to guess what it says.

6. Left alignment guides the reader

English is read from left to right, so use the left alignment. With a centered or right alignment your visitor’s eyes need to readjust at every start of the next line. Justified text (aligned at both sides) was necessary for the technique of relief printing and is really old-fashioned. 

7. Take care of enough contrast in the colors you choose

Restrict yourself also in the number of colors you use. One or two (consistent) colors to go along with the black or dark gray you use for the text and the white of the background. As you can see, for me it goes without saying to use black or dark gray on white for a good reader experience.

Sometimes you need an accent color for a button or text that really has to stand out. Make it harmonious with the other colors (this is a great tool to help you choose) and again: be consistent once you have chosen.

8. Nice to have: your own favicon

A favicon is a little icon in the address at the top of the browser. A wordpress website has a white on blue W as standard favicon. It’s very small (16×16 pixels) and can’t have too many details. And it’s not an absolute necessity, but nice to have.

Years ago I made 36 favicons to choose from as a give-away. If you want one, or just want some inspiration, than go to Do you want your own favicon on your website? 

Put your visitor at ease with a good user experience

9. Reading shouldn’t be a tennis game

I bet you know those images of an audience at a tennis game? It’s hilarious to see their heads go from left to right and back in unison, following the ball with their eyes.

It shouldn’t be necessary to make the same movements when reading a text. And at some websites you are forced to do that because the width of the site is huge. Choose a WordPress theme that is not wider than 1000 pixels, or a theme that is adjustable to 1000 pixels.

This is irrelevant for mobile viewers, but there are still a lot of people who browse the internet on a desktop computer.

10. Be careful with repetition

In any manual about blogging, the general guideline is to divide your text in 3 parts. The first part is the intro in which you tell what your topic is about. In the second part you explain everything about your topic. The third part is the conclusion with a summary of what you have just told.

It’s a good rule of thumb, although I must admit I am not always abiding to this rule. And if you counted with me that is a maximum of 3 times mentioning the same topic. More is overdoing it. Really.

Too much repetition is boring

Always try to put yourself in the shoes of your visitor. What does he or she see and read if they visit your website for the first time, the second time, the tenth time. Is the experience still fresh at the tenth time? Or is the visitor getting bored because of an extensive re-use of the same images and the same texts?

Sometimes you reread your text and you notice the repetition of a certain keyword. A great website to look for synonyms is Thesaurus. And Google translate will give you synonyms for English words as well. It doesn’t matter what language you supposedly want to translate it to.  

11. Some WordPress standards should be changed immediately

WordPress adds a couple of standard phrases that are not meant to be left as they are. “Just another wordpress site” being one of them. It’s the subtitle of your website and if you have no idea in what to change it, than remove it. No problem.

12. Use sensible categories (and tags)

Another standard is “Uncategorized”. Make a couple of categories that will be logical groups for your website and choose one that you will probably use the most. Make that your standard, what you can do in the first line of > Settings > Writing.
Once you have done that, you can delete Uncategorized all together. 

Don’t get overwhelmed

When you are a beginner in WordPress I can imagine that 12 aspects can seem like an awful lot. If that is the case, don’t let yourself be overwhelmed. It’s more important to start writing and work on your content than to get everything right from the start.

That is the biggest advantage of WordPress. Content and design are two different elements and you can change either one of them without messing the other.

Do you have questions?

Don’t hesitate to put your questions about design or technique in the comment box below. I’ll be happy to help you. 🙂

P.S. If you want more basic information about starting a website, I would suggest Wealthy Affiliate. Maybe you don’t want to be an affiliate right now, but eventually chances are high you want to have a way to monetize your website. 
The free version of Wealthy Affiliate has 10 lessons. Parts of what I have described here are discussed in more detail in those 10 lessons.

19 thoughts on “WordPress Tips for Beginners – Readability, Design, User Experience”

  1. Hi
    Thanks for putting together this very informative article.

    I made many of the mistakes you mention when I built my first website. I certainly used so many plugins that my site speed suffered.

    I love the fact that you mention the need to stay simple. I’ve found this to be the best way too.

    I see you’ve used just a few images in your text, and they are all to the right. Would you say this is best? I’ve always placed my images in the centre, and used them as a break between paragraphs.

    Do you think images are very important? I ask, because I think they may be slowing my site too.

    Thanks again.

    Reply
    • Hi Judy, thanks for your comment! My images are put to the right, because I want the reading process to be as smooth as possible. This way – at least on a desktop that is – the starting point of the text is always on the same left. As is with your centered placement – so that’s fine. That I do not like the empty spaces left and right of a centered image is a matter of personal taste. And personal taste says nothing about usability 🙂
      Whether images are important depends on the subject. If the subject is very visual you’ll need more images that when it’s not. If the subject is about information then text is important and the way you write.
      You can influence the site speed by using plugins like Kraken or Smush. And by uploading an image that is not too big in the first place. I use Photoshop for that. But most photo programs have edit options. And another way is to email pictures to yourself – some email programs reduce the image sizes.
      I hope this helps. Feel free to ask more questions. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Hey Hannie. Brilliant article! I am quite new to WordPress, so all the tips you have provided, will definitely be useful for my development as a writer. I am quite proud of my self, as I have done most of what you mentioned, so least I am on the right track. Thank you.

    Reply
  3. I read this post with great interest. I must confess, you helped me with some good Tips. I will correct some mistakes I was doing. Thank you for sharing. I wish more and more people could read this.

    Reply
    • I’ll make some screen shots and put them in a separate post, Catherine. And DM you when it’s ready, OK?

      Reply
  4. Hi Hannie,

    You rightly identified my initail mistake when I started blogging – I wanted it all.

    I wanted my website to appear powerful, so i took all that I was advised. With time the whole process became over whelming and I felt it was difficult and it would not work. Later, i knew i needed to learn and take it one after the other like you adviced.

    I then focused on creating quality content for my audience to read and not a magnificent website.

    Reply
  5. Hi there,

    What an insightful post, I never knew about the Serif and Sans Serif before. I was interested particularly in your section about justifying text. I was taught to use it as it makes the text look neater and easier on the eyes. What’s your opinion on this?

    Reply
    • Hi Sharon, thanks for your question. All the more because it truly amazes me you got advice like that. It is the opposite. And that’s not an opinion, but based on several reading tests.
      Justified text was a technical necessity in the early days of book printing. I won’t elaborate on that, because that would be a blogpost on itself. With nowadays technique it is redundant. The main disadvantage of justified text is the appearance of “ditches”, a kind of holes, which make reading very tiring for your eyes. Text should be an evenly ‘gray’. If that makes sense?
      If you are interested: I made a blogpost about text years ago. You can read it here: https://clevercreating.com/text-in-a-blog-or-website/

      Reply
  6. Very useful and practical tips on wordpress for beginners. Even I learned few things from your lovely post. It’s visual and easy to follow.

    Thank you for putting this together and sharing it with us all. It’s highly appreciated.

    Best wishes

    Reply

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