mouse trap stairs by atlnav (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Automate It: Save Your Precious Time and Stop Making Stupid Mistakes

I drive a Honda. I drive it less since I moved to DC (Tucson had virtually no public transit, and I get minor PTSD from I-495), but I still like to leave the city for the occasional weekend and holiday.

When my car needs an oil change, an orange wrench symbol lights up the dash. When my tire pressure is too high or too low, an orange (!) lights up the dash. Whenever anything needs attention, my car, to quote a Honda mechanic, “lights up like a Christmas tree.”

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I am not a car person, so I appreciate this about my Honda. It tells me what it needs without me having to remember to restart my mileage counter after every oil change, or to check my tire pressure with the change of the seasons. Sure, I could do these things on my own, but why leave it up to just me and my memory? Isn’t that a great way to invite error?

It is smarter (and safer) to anticipate the lapses in memory, and build in safeguards against them, than it is to delude yourself into believing you are a perfect being who never errs, never gets distracted, and never forgets.

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The same concept applies to web design. The site I built for my company’s newest project is set up so that whenever I publish a new blog post, a number of things happen automatically:

  1. My homepage carousel automatically updates with a clickable title of the new post and the post’s featured photo.
  2. My news page automatically inserts the title and introductory sentences of the new post at the top of page.
  3. An email gets sent announcing the new post to all of my website subscribers.
  4. A tweet gets sent to publicize the new post via social media.

With the click of the “Publish” button, these four things happen instantaneously, without any additional time or effort. By programming my site to do these things for me, I ensure that my home page and news feed are always up to date, and that my subscribers and Twitter followers are getting the newest information as soon as it’s published. And I never run the risk of forgetting a step.

Photo credit: Alan Cleaver (CC BY 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/alancleaver/2661425133/in/photolist-54buYe-kLfAme-9aJtJx-6Uw4Qj-7LqDpR-hr2JYi-9NFBD5-8QY7ri-nD4H8D-7xtpFs-6zXq7Y-dFx5a4-61CgG1-7HgkV-5BWVUb-7M9nhn-68dr94-6VUD9t-5H7mah-6Vtffp-4wRDmW-dCsDM5-6Co9V1-df5g2r-5gbjRW-5WudA5-rjR12r-5Sq6EH-q9yT2J-67XDFJ-7acemE-6qkwhA-5BJ3Rk-6aiCzg-v8WUie-baTXfX-4uuk36-a3NVaB-4P266s-b55zdx-e1QNfT-9Jw4ZA-gmq1in-HC9L1-75oznZ-akmQFg-xe9cn5-5xbQVE-4ZEHsR-6pvErh“Time” by Alan Cleaver (CC BY 2.0)

The most important benefit to automating your website, though, is definitely the time you save. My company’s older websites have zero automation. As a result, when new posts go up there, I have to:

  1. Add new photos and text to homepage image sliders.
  2. Update multiple news pages.
  3. Manually tweet out links.
  4. Reformat blog posts for an email digest template.

Do yourself a favor and save yourself the busy work. You have better things to do with your time than copying and pasting text that you’ve already published. Just like your credit card gets automatically charged for each monthly Honda payment (or Metro card top up), program your website to automatically update itself and your audience when you publish a new post. If you could make your life easier, why wouldn’t you?

Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that setting your site up with these automatic features will magically save you from needing to market your content, draft new and engaging tweets, or tailor separate and crafted newsletters. I’m simply saying that automating what you can is a great way to keep your site current while saving you a few steps, so that you can spend more time thinking of smart ways to communicate, and less on replicating and reposting the messages you’ve already written.


For tutorials on how to automate your website, feel free to access my how to posts and videos on the following topics:

  1. How to: Create a Self-Updating Post Carousel
  2. How to: Make a News Page (That Updates Itself)
  3. How to: Use Jetpack to Manage Email Subscriptions
  4. How to: Automatically Publicize New WordPress Posts on Twitter Using IFTTT

Featured photo credit: mouse trap stairs by atlnav (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

14 thoughts on “Automate It: Save Your Precious Time and Stop Making Stupid Mistakes”

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