The Domino Effect is based upon the traditional game of domino pieces stacked standing upright in rows, typically in a straight or curved path carefully spaced close together. Knock over the first one and it falls against the second, and third, knocking down each one in turn in a giant wave.
My domino effect, or cascade effect, came when I changed categories around on one of my sites. It was a tedious process. When a distraction arrived, I grabbed it, forgetting the domino effect.
Within a short time, emails, text, and phone calls started arriving. Seems that all the links I’d used in my posts to categories didn’t work. Nor did the main navigation featuring categories, my categories subscription links, and every place I’d put a category link. When my fans landed on 404 page not found errors, they rushed to rescue me from myself.
A single change on your site has the potential to create the domino effect if you aren’t paying attention to the details.
Your blog exercise today is to practice domino effect prevention.
There are many ways your site can be affected by the domino effect. If you change your blog title, tagline, author name, design, topics, or the way you blog, a domino effect is initiated, impacting everything you’ve done before on your site as well as what you will do in the future.
Plan The Process: Look at Your Options
The first step in domino effect prevention is to make a plan. Think through the entire process, paying close attention to the details.
If you are changing the name of your site, ask yourself what that means. Will you need to change the domain name? Will you need to do a search and replace for every mention of your site name within your post content? Maybe, maybe not. You may consider leaving it as it is and just going forward from here. You still need to consider the impact and your choices.
If you are changing your author name from Admin to Sally Sparrow, you will change your byline, author bio, About Page, profiles, emails, and social media network profiles, but what about all the people who addressed you as Admin or a different name in the comments? Should you change those? Or the times when you talked to yourself in your posts, “Well, Admin, we’re in a fine mess this time!”
Your options for making such changes on your site are:
- Go forward from here.
- Search and replace all mentions of the old information.
- Delete the site and start over.
I don’t recommend the last option, but it is an option.
Changing Site Design
Changing a WordPress Theme is a two click step today, and many bloggers change their site design as often as they take out the garbage to the street for pickup. People are no longer surprised by such changes, but you still need to take into consideration the domino effect of switching Themes.
WordPress is working hard to preserve WordPress Widgets in widgetized areas of a WordPress Theme, allowing the Widgets in the sidebar(s) and footer to be preserved when you change WordPress Themes, but they don’t work that way much of the time. When you change WordPress Themes, you usually need to recreate your Widgets.
If you have been using specific heading HTML tags like h1, h2, h3, etc., within your post content area, these will look different when you change WordPress Themes. This may or may not be what you wish when you switch.
For most sites, this won’t be a problem. For sites like this one, designed many years ago using old heading structures, the headings I use are h3 and h4 within the content areas. Most WordPress Themes use the modern web standard of h1, h2, and h3, and some Themes don’t style the h4 or higher heading tags. For this site, changing to a new Theme means dealing with these lower priority headings in the new design when they used to be prominent.
Working with my students in HTML and CSS, many times they will want to change the color of the links on their site. They forget is changing the single HTML anchor text for all the links on the site changes all the links on the site, not just the one they want to change. They have to be specific with the CSS, designating the HTML container contain9ing the links to be changed, changing only those not everything on the site.
If you wish to start adding featured images to your posts, similar to post thumbnails that appear on the front page or multiple post pageviews of your site on every post, do you need to add them to past posts as well? This changes the look and feel of all your posts, not just the ones from this point forward.
There are many ways to change your site that will not initiate a domino effect, spilling over into other areas of your site, but some changes spread across your site like dominoes.
What details of your site will change if you change the design of the site, or just a small design element on your site?
Changing Site Structure and Organization
I’ve had several clients who confused Pages with posts, creating a nightmare for navigation and content organization and structure. Once they understood the difference between a post and Page, and the importance of categories and tags, they had to do some serious rethinking of their site’s structure and content organization.
Moving Pages to posts changes the links. They had to go through all the links on their site to reflect the new permalink. There are WordPress Plugins that will help with redirects, but most choose to do this manually, fixing the links for all time not just relying upon a Plugin.
Changing the title of a published post usually doesn’t break links to the post, but changing the post slug, the name of the web page in the permalink, does break links. Changing
http://example.com/2013/my-post-title/ will break the link.
Changing the category names is the same.
Changing the name of the category (and its page slug) or moving a category from a parent position in the category hierarchy to a child position breaks the links. WordPress will automatically update the links in the category WordPress Widget and custom menus features, but not the links you created throughout your site to direct visitors to a category.
Such changes impact the links on your site as well as incoming links to the same web pages. It takes a bit for search engines to update to the new location, and causes havoc for some users caught in the domino effect of your changes.
Again, there are WordPress Plugins to help with redirects, but it would be wonderful magic if the WordPress canonical link feature would include changes to post, Page, and category slugs, automatically creating redirects based upon their ID number and completely ignoring the pretty permalinks.
Your job is to think thoroughly through the process before you casually change a link on your site or mess around with the content structure and organization. Don’t let fear of the domino effect stop you from making such changes It’s a good thing to move things around to improve the experience for users on your site.
Your blog exercise today is not a specific task but a warning to remember.
Change can be a good thing. A favorite quote of mine is, “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.”
Understanding how WordPress or your publishing platform works inside and out helps you take into considerations the consequences of your actions. Make time in your schedule to learn how it works. You do not have to learn the underlying programming code, but consider taking lessons, reading tutorials, and doing some regularly scheduled research and self-training to improve your skill sets. You will blog better if you understand a little more about the process.
Before you initiate a significant change on your site, draw out a plan. I do this often when working on my sites as well as existing client sites. I create a mind map, a flow chart of the process, looking for all the things that my change will touch on the site. I make lists. If I change this, what else must change?
Next time you make changes on your site, remember this post. Note all the things impacted by the change and make a check list to ensure all of them are taken care of before you start getting those complains and warnings that something is broken on your site.