Just forget about the beauty of WordPress that grants you the ability to create something in various ways. Inheriting a WordPress site from someone else could be nerve-racking even for experienced web designers or developers, because there are so many things you should take into consideration during the process of taking over someone else’s creation.
In this article, we cover several most important steps that you cannot miss when inheriting a WordPress site.
#1. Get Access to Everything
The first and foremost thing to do with a WordPress site inheritance is gathering all the username as well as password information. You can ask your client (if you’re being hired to help take over development and design of a WordPress site from another person) or the old developer to give you access to the web hosting control panel, WordPress, domain name, email hosting, FTP, and CDN. In addition, it is also necessary to gain password to each third-party premium plugin and any other service you’ll need.
Is that enough?
No. Absolutely not, at least before verifying validity for all logins and confirming your admin permission to everything.
#2. Change User Access
Once you logged into the backend of the WordPress site, you can see who have the same access to the dashboard and change the passwords accordingly. In this way, the previous site owner or developer are ensured to be unable to modify anything, on purpose or on accident.
And don’t forget to update all admin contact emails so that the correct person can get all the important notifications.
#3. Review the Hosting Plan
If you take the responsibility for choosing a web hosting plan for your clients, this is also a step you have to take. Though as a developer you may be very familiar with advantages and disadvantages of every popular web hosting provider, and know clearly which web hosting option can maximize the site performance.
Another situation where you don't think the WordPress site is fast or reliable enough because of the web hosting plan it is hosted with, you should also make a review on the hosting plan as well.
It is important that you pay attention to not only the web hosting company and the hosting type, but also other additional solutions like SSL certificates, firewall configurations, CDNs, DDoS protection, and etc.
#4. Check SEO Settings
Beginners like adding Google Analytics tracking in their themes. But as an experienced developer, you must know that this tool performs better when moved into a site-specific plugin. Additionally, you should check the Google Analytics setup to make sure all necessary tracking features have been turned on.
Whether the WordPress site has properly submitted to Google Webmaster Tools is another work involved in the SEO setting checkup. To do that, you should check that:
1. The same WordPress site appears in both the Search Console and the Google Analytics;
2. The WordPress site is marked as secure;
3. An XML sitemap is submitted to Google Webmaster Tools and functioning properly;
4. Google is crawling not only the desktop but also the mobile version of the WordPress site.
After you are sure that all the SEO settings in the WordPress site are correct, start doing a deeper dive into any issues reported by Google that are related to security issues, crawl errors, and so on.
#5. Check for Available Upgrades
This is a very easy step. All you need is visiting your WordPress dashboard and check if everything is upgraded to the latest version, including the WordPress core, plugins and themes.
Instead of making some updates, you just need to make note of the status of every installation.
#6. Make a Spring Cleaning
A detailed analysis of the current plugins and themes are always necessary when you inherit a WordPress site from anyone else. Only in this way can you know what are must-haves and what are unnecessary things.
Plugins that are deactivated or not in use should be deleted. And others that you don’t understand the purpose of them nor do you think they are necessary for the WordPress site, you can also make note of them or even replace them with some lighter weight ones if possible.
At the same time, there is also the case that some bad plugins leave their database tables after they're deleted. So, you should login to your WordPress database to check whether there is anything shouldn’t be existing as well.
After a comprehensive review on current plugins, you need to do a close examination of the current theme files, which can be requested from your client. Firstly, review the reputation of the theme in the WordPress repository. Secondly, make sure the theme comes with modern design and good responsiveness and performance. Thirdly, check if there has been a child theme. Lastly, review the quality of the theme’s code.
Inform your client if any significant issues or concerns with the theme are found.
#7. Backup the Site
Before making any changes to the WordPress site, it’s very crucial that you create a backup. This ensures that if anything breaks, you can easily revert back to the original version.
Typically, the backup should include a folder in the name of /wp-content, which have all of the themes, plugins, plus uploaded media inside. The folder can be easily downloaded via FTP or the control panel. At Bisend, we offer every hosting account the latest Plesk Onyx, which features a user-friendly backup manager supporting back up the entire WordPress site with simple clicks.
If you want to have a copy of databases of the WordPress site as well, you can do it through a web host’s control panel or through phpMyAdmin.
#8. Create a Staging Site
Though you have got everything ready for updating and publishing, it’s highly recommended that you make another copy of the backup you created and then create a staging site based on it. This enables you to make adjustments or redesign the WordPress site while avoiding tampering with anything coming with it now.
There are many ways available that you can depend on to get there. A popular tool like XAMPP or WampServer can help simplify the process of creating one on your computer. Or, you can work from the web hosting account by uploading a copy of the WordPress site to the platform. Either way, don’t forget to change the URL of the WordPress site so that it can reflect its temporary home.
#9. Engage the Update Process
Now you can start updating items on the staging site in order, from the WordPress core to the themes and plugins. Every time you complete an update, go to the front end of the site and make sure everything works well. If something is broken, take note of what it is and which update caused the issue.
After you have created a staging environment for the WordPress site and ensured it is working properly, it’s time to bring it online. Whether you re-launch it by overwriting the old installation or simply repointing the DNS of the WordPress site is up to you and your client.
For site’s security purpose, I don't recommend you overwrite an existing database, however. As an alternative, you can create a new database, import the updated version from your staging site, and then make the appropriate changes to your wp-config.php file.
Last but not least, make sure that the URL of the WordPress install have been correctly changed to reflect the live site’s domain.