Do you need a professional web developer, or can you build your own site, or can you ask a volunteer to build your website?
At RED, we work alongside businesses and organizations to meet their website needs. We encourage our clients to do as much as they feel comfortable doing on their websites. Your website is the public face of business or organization. You are ultimately in charge of the content and the design, as well as your organization’s budget. We understand that sometimes it’s a balancing act, and you should be able to choose the solution that best suits your needs and to be supported as you manage your website project.
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Do you need a professional web developer?
As with most things, the answer is… it depends. If you have a volunteer who is ready, willing, able, and skilled, that may be a solution for your organization. Before you choose the person or people who will build your organization’s website, consider these issues to be sure your chosen website builder knows how to build your website so you don’t end up paying someone else to redo it later.
Hosting Costs and Adequacy
Are you familiar with hosting options and costs? One client ended up paying exorbitant amounts for hosting, much higher than their site required, because a volunteer suggested a specific company and plan. Others end up on inadequate hosting which can’t handle their website traffic, or don’t have the options required for proper website management. If you’re not sure what hosting is appropriate for your WordPress website, check out our hosting recommendations or drop us a line.
We often recommend keeping hosting and domain registry (where your website’s domain name is registered) separate. This allows you to move the website later if your hosting ends up no longer meeting your needs. See our domain registrar recommendations here.
Before starting your new site, consider its architecture. We have a helpful free website worksheet you can download here with steps for creating your website. A website with a tangled page structure may be difficult for your organization to navigate on the back end and difficult for the website visitor.
Poorly thought-out page hierarchies may also harm an organization’s organic search engine optimization (SEO) or accessibility. So consider your website plan before beginning your project. What pages do you need, and what subpages? Consider calls-to-action and how your website visitor will navigate and interact with the website. You may find it useful to consult with a marketing professional at this stage.
Accessibility – making your website available to the broadest audience possible, including people with various impairments or people on slow internet connections – is an important consideration. How will you handle it? Learn more about website accessibility here.
With a combination of poorly-written paid themes, a plethora of plugins, and slow hosting, a website can easily become so slow it was barely usable on the admin area or on the front end. This can lead to 500 errors on the website, rendering it inaccessible.
- Is your hosting adequate?
- Have you chosen a well-written theme?
- Do you have a reasonable number of plugins?
- Has your website been optimized for speed?
If your website is already built and needs a tune-up, we can test and improve its speed. Or check here for some speed improvements you can make yourself.
Website Backup Systems
If you’ve ever read our blog before, you know we’re a fan of backups.
Make sure that:
- You have a backup system in place.
- Your backup system runs regularly.
- The backups are stored off-site (meaning not on the same server as your website).
- Someone on your team knows how to restore your site from a backup. If you use a built-in back-up plugin that isn’t available because your site admin area is broken, make sure someone also knows how to restore the website manually.
WordPress is a system that anyone can learn to use. There are plugins for every feature you could desire. But you need to know which plugins to add, how to vet them to be sure they’re secure, and learn how to use them.
For example, on one website, a volunteer builder created over 50 registration forms. The forms could have been easily consolidated into a single form if the volunteer had been familiar with how the form plugin worked. With a 50-form configuration, each form would have to be individually updated if the organization decides to add even one field to the form, or change form recipients. You can imagine how much longer it will take to update 50 forms versus one, so this unfortunate incident may cost them in the long run.One skill of a seasoned web professional is recognizing which tool is the best for a particular problem. --Robby McCullough, Beaver Builder Click To Tweet
Keeping Software Updated and Secure
On one site we took on for maintenance after someone else built it, the software and plugins had not been updated. They were out of date and not secure. By the time the client invited us to look over the site and add security measures, the website had already been hacked. So we had to clean up the site and add security measures.
To make sure your WordPress site stays secure from day one, so remember the most important step you can take to keep your website secure.
Has your design been checked out on multiple screen sizes? Make sure that your site displays the way you want it to on a desktop computer, tablet, and various mobile phones. This is one service a professional website developer provides. Make sure it’s not overlooked on your site build, no matter who creates your site.
Search Engine Optimization
Content is king when it comes to SEO, so ensure you have well-written, pertinent site copy. Consider your SEO strategy, and if you want to consult an SEO professional, we can point you in the right direction. Read about SEO basics here.
Professionalism in Details
This covers a lot of different areas. Details are important. Here are some examples of things we’ve seen:
- One site came to us with “- new/” in the URL, which doesn’t read as professional. Your final website should appear at the root of your domain – https://mysite.com should be the home page – and you should check pages and posts for appropriate, SEO-friendly names.
- One website creator didn’t delete old, unused pages or posts to keep the admin area clean and easy to navigate. This left the admin area full of unnecessary distractions and made it harder to use.
- Another website builder didn’t delete previous pages when creating new ones with the same name, leading to URLs like “page-2” which aren’t inviting for the end user, don’t look professional, and don’t help SEO. In WordPress, besides moving posts to the trash, you need to go to the trash and fully delete them if you want to re-use the same URL.
- Sometimes people neglect 301 redirects. If you rename a webpage’s “slug” (the page name in the URL) and don’t create a redirect, your old page will come up as a “page not found” and you’ll lose the SEO power you’ve already built up on that page. A redirect sends users (including search engines) from the old URL to the new one, and retains the page’s SEO value.
- Spam is always a problem, so it’s hard to stay one step ahead. But there are some basic anti-spam measures you can enable on forms. One builder neglected to do so, allowing the forms to be submitted by robots from day one.
Make Sure Your Web Developer Knows Their Way Around WordPress
One website-building volunteer “renamed the site” – meaning they had the site in a subfolder and changed the site’s URL. This is on the top 10 things you shouldn’t do in WordPress without knowing exactly what you’re doing. This seemingly simple change made the entire site inaccessible until we could fix it.
We understand budgetary constraints. We also know you want your website to look its best, be fast and secure, and be easy to use both for your visitors and for your team. You may not need a professional web developer for your project, but if you have a volunteer build your website, please consider the items above before you start your project.
You can also our FREE Downloadable Website Creation Worksheet as a starting point.
Feel free to drop us a line for a consultation before you start.
Or if you’re looking for a DIY site, but where you maintain full control of your content, check out our Starter Sites offering. The ease of a drag and drop website, with a team of real people supporting your site. Unlike Wix or Squarespace, if you decide to go elsewhere later, you can take a copy of your website to another WordPress host without having to recreate it. You own your website.
Other thoughts or questions? Let us know in the comments.