9 WordPress Experts Share Their Biggest Website Mistakes

Every single person you look up to and admire, has made countless number of mistakes, and failed many times, too.

But what if I told there was a way to avoid the vast majority of them, and avoid all that hardship, pain, and lost time and money?

Would such knowledge be worth six-minutes of your time?

If not, stop reading now (this article isn’t for you).

But if it is, keep reading because in this post I’m going to show you how to avoid your mistakes so you can turn potential failure into success

But before we do, I have a very important nugget of wisdom for you.

It is this:

DO NOT underestimate the power of your mistakes! Click To Tweet

What I’m about to share with you will help you avoid many pitfalls, but it won’t prevent you from making your own mistakes. This is a good thing, too, because as you’ll soon see, it’s often your mistakes that provide you the lessons you need to ignite greater success

Without making a few mistakes, you will not grow.

But that isn’t to say all mistakes are worth making, because as Warren Buffet says, “it’s good to learn from your mistakes. It’s better to learn from other people’s.”

So with this in mind, let’s dive into the mistakes of 9 WordPress Experts, and discover what they learned from their failures (so you can learn without having to go through the same pain).

1: Bob Dunn -- Do Not Forget That The Small Details Matter

Founder of Bob WP

Back before staging came into play, I once pushed our site to a temp install for some updates, sent it back live, but forgot to untick the "hide from search engines" option in WordPress. After about a week, for some reason I was searching BobWP and was horrified to see listing after listing after listing come up with a blocked index error. I immediately unticked it and things worked their way back to normal. So in the future I practiced what I preached in workshops, always making a note to check that box when you go live.”

I love how Bob says he now “practices what he preaches.” When researching “The Successful Mistake” I came across this time-and-time again: mistakes surfacing because someone let a seemingly small thing slip through their fingers.

You tell your clients one thing, but then you do another.

It’s important to remember that just because you’ve done something many times before, doesn’t mean you’re immune to making a mistake.


This is how to avoid this WordPress mistake in the future:

Create a process for everything you do (even the small things).

Bob had gone through this process many times before, and preached about it in workshops. But life has a tendency to get in the way, so avoid this mistake before it happens by creating a process for EVERYTHING.

Creating such a process / checklist / worksheet takes no time at all, but ensures you tick every box each time.

So, what processes could you create for your own business to ensure you never miss a “small detail” again?

2: Josh Pollock -- Do Not Cling To Your Mistakes

Founder of Caldera Labs

One of the biggest things that held me back when I started was thinking I was stupid because of the mistakes I was making. You can't write good code if you're going to beat yourself up over fatal errors or code not working right. I've made all the epic mistakes, dropped the wrong database table, deleted the wrong file, treated objects as arrays, written infinite loops. I've done it all.”

You, Josh, and me all have something in common. Do you know what it is?

We are all human.

Human beings make mistakes. We’re imperfect.

We were actually born to make mistakes, because it’s through trial and error that we learn (it’s how we learn how to talk, walk, and do most things as an infant).

As such, it’s important not to cling to your mistakes.

Like my buddy Dan Miller says, “If I can look at a mistake and say nobody has died or gone to prison, it isn’t too bad.”

This is how to avoid this WordPress mistake in the future:

It’s important to accept that you will make mistakes and that this is fine so long as you commit to learning from every single one.

This means you cannot hide from them or pretend they don’t exist.

Own them. Admit when they happen (place your ego to one side).

And then… most important of all… draw a line in the sand.

A good way to do this is to write down 2-3 lessons in your notebook, and a single idea that you can implement right now to ensure it never happens again. For example, if we take Bob Dunn’s story from earlier, you could write:

#Lesson 1: the small details ALWAYS matter

#Lesson 2: it’s important to test my work, no matter how many times I’ve done it before

Solution: create a checklist that forces me to check each stage before I complete a project

Done. Mistake made. Lesson learned. Move on!

3: Alan Rogers -- Do Not Try To Everything Yourself

Founder of Customology

Trying to learn to do everything myself when there are lots of experienced people I could outsource some of the more tech and bespoke coding work too.”

Most business owners start life as a one-person band. They run most of their business by themselves, which is often a good thing because it allows you to learn how everything works.

But your most valuable resource is time.

You get 1,440 minutes each day, and when they are gone, they are gone.

Learning how to balance your time is key, and there’s no better place to begin by knowing what you need to do, and what other people can do for you.

This is how to avoid this WordPress mistake in the future:

The best way to overcome this mistake (and ideally make sure it never happens) is to create a list of all the things you tend to do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

And I mean make a note of EVERYTHING.

Create a document where you add these various tasks as-and-when they come to mind (you don’t have to think of everything in a single sitting), and make a note against each:

  • ME
  • Outsource

If it’s something you have to do (because it’s your skill-set or very important), make a note of ME.

It’s something you could outsource to someone else (which you will find represents 90% of your tasks), make a note to outsource it.

You may not have the money or resources to outsource everything right now, but because you’re conscious of what you need to do versus what you don’t, you can strive to outsource more and more as the weeks go by

And don’t just stop at your work. Include your “personal” tasks like laundry, cooking, and shopping.

4: Puneet Sahalot -- Do Not Underestimate The Power of Your Community

Founder of Idea Box

Not understanding the GPL and power of WP community was probably one of my biggest mistakes. When I started with WP, I was lucky to make quick money. But, it took me a few years to realize the power of WP community and how I could have been more involved with it. I could have contributed back to it in different ways. To fix this, I got involved with the local community, being a part of WordCamps and recently, I organized the first WordCamp in our city - WordCamp Udaipur.  WP is built by us, the people who use it, who make money with it, who build upon it. It thrives because everyone gives back to it.”

I love Puneet’s insight, as it highlights one of the biggest mistakes most business owners (regardless of industry or size) face: isolation.

It’s easy to get caught up in your own work, business, and bubble. To an extent you have to, but it’s important to remember that you part of a bigger community (one that you can not only serve, but can serve you, too).

The WordPress community you are part of doesn’t only exist online, but in the real world.

There are communities within communities, and although you cannot be involved in them all (this in itself would be a big mistake), you’re leaving so much potential on the table by remaining in your own little bubble.

Puneet Sahalot

This is how to avoid this WordPress mistake in the future:

Start with ONE.

As easy as it is to get lost in your own micro-bubble, it’s even easier to sign-up to a bunch of new groups, events, and communities, only to be a “lurker” in each.

Start with ONE.

Highlight one community you believe you can add value to (and could potentially provide value to you), and commit to being an engaged member of it.

This could be a Facebook Group, on Linkedin (or any other social media), an actual event (like Puneet did), a forum, local meet-up, or anything else.

Start with ONE. Grow from there.

5: Amber Vilhauer -- Do Not Expect The Mistakes To Stop

Founder of NGNG Enterprises (Standing for NoGutsNoGlory)

In the early years of working with WordPress I made many mistakes that likely most others made too. For example, not keeping regular backups of the sites I was working on, not previewing my changes before I made them live, not being careful enough in my css file and taking a site down temporarily (oops! lol). With all of those mistakes, you really only need to make them once or twice before never making them again. Then, I graduated to next-level challenges which were more about making sure two things were achieved for our clients: 1) Better security for our websites, and 2) Better strategic planning on layout so our clients were converting. We challenge ourselves to stay on the leading edge of online advancement so our clients achieve the best possible results with their WordPress website and other platform-development focal points we setup for them. There is always something to learn and improve upon and I think realizing that puts your business in a strong forward-position.”

Like Amber says, you only need to make most mistakes once in order to learn from them.

However, that isn’t to say the mistakes stop.

I like to look at mistakes and failure in the same way I do a to-do list. As a business owner, you never complete a to-do, because you constantly refill it at the end of each day, week, and month.

Mistakes are the same.

Overcoming one mistake doesn’t make you immune. Your aim is to ensure you don’t make the same one twice, but it’s important to be aware that you can never remove mistakes, challenges, and failure from the equation.

This is how to avoid this WordPress mistake in the future:

I’m a firm believer in daily reflection: pockets of time each day dedicated to what you have done, and what you can learn from.

This doesn’t take long. For instance, I dedicate five minutes each evening to a little reflection, where I ask what I’ve learned that day.

This not only reminds you that mistakes happen (and things don’t go according to plan), but forces you to seek solutions and lessons (so you don’t make the same mistake twice).

Are you so busy that you cannot reserve five minutes each day towards your continued growth?

6: Minuca Elena -- Do Not Expect Things To Work First Time Around

Freelance WordPress Writer

One of the biggest problems that I had with WordPress, was when I was doing this roundup about eCommerce platforms for a client. In the visual mode of the draft everything looked perfect, but in the preview it was horrible. The text was full-width in most parts, but in some cases, the images were directly over the content, the text was written in different fonts and sizes, and there weren't any spaces between the paragraphs. I wasn't able to figure out what was causing the issue. So, I went crying to my friend Magnus Högfeldt, who is one of the best WordPress experts I know. He helped fix my post and also gave me instructions on how to continue adding the rest of the answers that I got for my roundup. It was difficult for me to learn to work in the text mode but now I am able to fix the issues myself (well, most of the time).”

Oh, how I feel your pain, Minuca.

Just as you think you have it all figured out, another problem surfaces and asks you to work in a new way, or “figure out” a new skill-set.

As a general rule, things don’t go according to plan first time around.

Your new client may not work in the same way as your previous clients.

What worked for one project may not work for your next one.

It’s important to know this, but even more so to accept it (and in time, embrace it).

This is how to avoid this WordPress mistake in the future:

Although it’s important to have processes for EVERYTHING (as we’ve already discussed), it’s equally so to not get hung-up on a single way of working.

You need to be adaptable, especially in this ever-changing world.

What worked for you yesterday may not work today.

And would you like to know something… this is fine!

The next time you hit an obstacle like Minuca did, take a step back and a big-deep breath. Don’t try and fix it straight away, as you often make matters worse.

Don’t get frustrated or feel like you cannot solve this problem.

This is your fear talking. This is panic, and nobody gets anywhere in life in such a state.

Instead, take a step back and ask yourself: what is the solution?

A quiet moment like this is often all you need. And when you feel calm, ask yourself another question: am I the one to fix this, or could someone else take it off my hands?

7: Mark Asquith -- Do Not Take The Easy Option

Founder of Excellence Expected

When I first started to use WordPress I was all over the idea that multi-site would be great for "re-selling" to clients. I mean, surely I could just use one install to host all of my client sites, right?! Wrong, nightmare! The silver lining was that it taught me about the capabilities and use cases for multi-site but I had to manually migrate everything over to individual sites when I realised my mistake. The clients didn't know, their service was uninterrupted but I was definitely fueled by coffee for a week!”

It’s so tempting to take the easy option, isn’t it?

You see a loophole or shortcut, and get all excited because you’ve figured out a new way that will make you money and save you time.

Don’t get me wrong, from time-to-time this happens.

But more often than not, that shortcut opens up a ‘pandora’s box’ of surprises.

This is how to avoid this WordPress mistake in the future:

You solution to this potential mistake is easy: keep a calm head at all times.

You get all excited about such a short-cut and lose your cool. You see bright lights and dollar-signs, and before long you’re hook-line-and-sinker.

Whereas if you keep a calm head and ask yourself: why is nobody else doing it this way?

… you will often find what you need.

Now, this isn’t to say your idea/shortcut is wrong. Just because nobody else is doing it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. But don’t make such decisions in an “excitable state”.

Go for a walk. Sleep on it. Consult a mentor.

Make sure you make the “right” decision. Not the easy one.

8: Jan Koch -- Do Not Forget To Back Your Work Up!

Founder of WP Mastery

The biggest mistake I made in building my own sites is to not have backups in place right from day one. In the first 3 months, I was publishing two posts a week and suddenly my site stopped working. Luckily the web host had backups and I was able to recover the contents, but it was a hell of a night.”

Is this your worst nightmare: to lose ALL the work you put into a new site or project?

I imagine it sends shivers up your spine. It does mine.

The thing is, we already know how important it is to backup EVERYTHING. You know this, right? You’ve heard countless horror stories like Jan’s (who was rather lucky on this occasion).

But be honest… do you backup as much as you could?

I’m not just talking about your client work, but what about your laptop, phone, accounts, or the countless other things you take for granted. If you do back everything up already, congrats. You’re part of the minority, because most people do not!

This is how to avoid this WordPress mistake in the future:

Your solution to this potentially HUGE problem is simple:

#Step 1: Write down everything you feel needs to be backed-up on a regular basis (if you were to lose it at some point, it would cost you time, money, and stress).

#Step 2: Don’t stop at your work, consider your personal life too (photos on your phone, contact details, etc…)

#Step 3: Decide how often each item on your list should be backed-up (daily, weekly, monthly, or annually)

#Step 4: ACT (seriously, what are you waiting for).

An evening of work (because most of this can be automated) could save you a lot of time and money in the future.

Seriously… what are you waiting for?

9: Tom McFarlin -- Do Not Presume What Has Worked in The Past Will Work in The Future

WordPress Developer at TomMcFarlin.com

The biggest mistake I've made when working with WordPress was at the very start of my career. I took practices that I was using in other places like .NET and Rails and my experience with PHP and applying them to WordPress. The short version is that I was completely circumventing almost all WordPress APIs and I was following conventions that were not at all applicable to extending the WordPress application. This results in a lot of problems especially when it comes to dealing with the database, dealing with upgrades, compatibility, and even good design for certain plugins and projects. It takes time, but the core lesson from this for anyone getting into WordPress is to find someone who's experienced with the application and talk with them about the APIs they should learn as well as how to approach the core application from a conceptual standpoint."

Like Minuca before him, Tom assumed what worked well for him in the past would continue to do the job in the future.

At times, this is the case. If you find a process that works, stick with it. Use it.

BUT under no circumstance place all your eggs in its basket and assume it will work every time.

Each new project is exactly that: a NEW project.

The sooner you live-and-die by this, the more mistakes you’ll avoid.

This is how to avoid this WordPress mistake in the future:

This touches upon a few things we’ve already covered, and largely comes down to you asking yourself: am I taking the easy option here, or the “right” one?

This is the question you need to ask before any new project.

It’s not to say your tried-and-tested process is wrong, but you shouldn’t presume it is the right way to go, either.

And if you think it needs something new (something you’re not comfortable with), seek the help of experienced people.

We’re one big community, remember.

Use it. Use your peers. Collaborate whenever you can.

If you go forward with this philosophy, you will avoid MANY mistakes.

Bonus #1: Gonzalo Gil -- Don’t Let Tools Define Your Approach

Founder & CEO at 3dcart

"Throughout my years of working with many websites on various platforms, the biggest mistake I’ve learned to avoid is this: don’t let tools define your approach. Although WordPress is a great website building tool, it’s important to remember that it was originally designed for blogs. If you’re building an online store, shopping cart software like 3dcart may work better for what you need; but, you can actually add software like this to your WordPress site through plugins. When you’re building a website that has specific requirements, like an eCommerce site, don’t be afraid to look for plugins and other solutions that can help you extend the functionality of your WordPress site."

Even though WooCommerce is a pretty solid option for WordPress-based eCommerce sites, I agree with Gonzalo that there are use-cases where other systems make more sense.
I've come across WooCommerce shops that were a pain to manage in multiple projects. Often times, the only reasonable approach was to choose a new eCommerce system other than Woo.


This is how to avoid this WordPress mistake in the future:

Be very clear about the eCommerce requirements you have.

What types of products do you plan to sell?

What payment gateways will you use?

How are you going to handle essentials like recovering abandoned carts, re-engagement campaigns, conversion rate tracking, delivering subscriptions or digital products, etc?

The more time you spend planning the requirements of your eCommerce site, the easier it will be to evaluate what system you need to not just build the shop but to make it fly.

Bonus #2: Joe Howard -- Do Not Forget That Being A Game-Changer Requires Risk

Head Buff at WP Buffs

"'I never made any mistakes when I was starting out with WordPress'. Said nobody ever. During my early days, I made countless mistakes in the cPanel of whatever hosting provider I was working with. When something went wrong and the website I was working on crashed, I went straight into panic mode and spent hours on the phone with support to try to get my issues resolved. But after all those screw ups, I started to learn how to navigate the cPanel. That allowed me to grow into the technically-savvy WordPressers I am today (and am still becoming) - now I know how websites really work. Mistakes happen, and although you want to make more small ones than big, you'll inevitably mess up. It's one of the byproducts of pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. Never forget that being a game-changer requires risk."

Joe is right. Pushing the boundaries means putting yourself on an island sometimes, and that doesn't always end well.But if you take your lumps, keep moving forward and learn from your mistakes, you'll be much better off in the long run than if you shied away from big moments because you were afraid of failure.


This is how to avoid this WordPress mistake in the future:

When in doubt, keep things as simple as possible and document your work so you never make the same mistake twice.

That way you can maintain a foundation on which to build yourself up.

You will make mistakes. Things won't always go according to plan. This is fine.

Make a note. Keep track. Move on.

Each risk you take is a chance to learn and grow.

This is Your Next Step To WordPress Mastery

Now you’ve heard from these WordPress experts, you have two options:

  1. Take these stories on board, learn from them, and ensure you don’t make the same mistakes they did…
  2. Carry on as normal and feel the pain when one or more of these mistakes happen to you…

If I was you, I’d choose the former.

Like Mr Buffett says, “it’s good to learn from your mistakes. It’s better to learn from other people’s.”

I’m a firm believer in this logic, which is why I interviewed 163 successful entrepreneurs, authors, speakers, and thought-leaders for my latest book “The Successful Mistake”.

In it I dive into their biggest mistakes, and unearth how they turned these failures into their greatest success yet.

If you like what you learned here, be sure to grab your FREE paperback copy of The Successful Mistake now.

So… which one of these mistake have you personally made yourself in the past? Please, share them with me and let’s keep this conversation going.

-- Matthew Turner (author of "The Successful Mistake")

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