How to DIY your website

Something many businesswomen consider when they are investigating their website needs is going the route of doing a DIY WordPress website but most don't know where to start and get overwhelmed.  Here's a checklist for you, as well as some sage words of advise.

First, consider the full cost of attempting DIY yourself before investing a lot of your time

As a WordPress expert, I fully understand all the costs, both obvious and hidden, because I build websites in one day, day in and day out, so here’s an article to enlighten you should you be considering the DIY route yourself and to accurately assess your costs in terms of both time and money.  Many businesswomen assume going the DIY route will save them money but this is not always the case ... consider the following before starting your DIY journey ...

Time & Credibility

Most businesses, especially small businesses, where owners are performing several roles and multi tasking extensively, don’t have time to invest in learning all the required skills in order to build and maintain their own sites.  There is definitely enough information online to teach yourself to create your own website BUT do you have the 10,000 hours that Anders Ericsson says is required to master a skill?  Think of what taking 10,000 hours worth of your time out of your business will do for your business?  What will 1,000 hours cost if you only spend a 10th of that time?  Certainly you would need to spend at least 100 hours in learning some of the skills required.  What would that cost you and your business?  You simply cannot become good, let alone an expert, at website design and development over night.  And besides the time, if you do a rushed inexperienced website for your business, what message are you sending to your potential clients and what will that cost be to you and your business?

So with that obvious one out the way, let’s get down to some more tangible checklist items and costs you will need to consider…

Domain Registration / Renewal Costs (Your web address)

If you want your own domain name or website address (e.g. www.mybusinessname.co.za) you have to pay to register this (sometimes you get it free with your hosting) and you have to pay to renew it annually thereafter.  Average costs are around R100 - R500 or so for this per annum.  This is required.  Everywhere, by everyone.

Hosting (The server space where your website lives)

Unless you are creating a free wordpress.com website, you will need to “self host” your wordpress.org website.  If you want things like e-Commerce, marketing automation, memberships, subscriptions, and all sorts of other extras, you will want a self hosted WordPress website and not a free blog.  If all you are planning to do is blog, you can stick with wordpress.com.  Hosting refers to the space you “rent” on a server somewhere where the files and databases that make up your website physically live.  NOT ALL HOSTING IS CREATED EQUALLY!  Buyer beware.  Things you should ensure you have are: adequate server space, memory, daily backups (on and off server).  Investigate what potential extra charges there may be for extra emails addresses, bandwidth (if your site becomes popular), server space (if you upload a lot), etc. etc.  There are many different options and payment packages … expect to pay roughly R150 or more a month for good hosting.

Also check if they have support which can assist you to install WordPress or preferably if they have a “1-click install” of WordPress – if they don’t have this facility, they probably aren’t a good enough host and you should stay away!  And certainly you would struggle to DIY your website without this facility.

Now that you have a website address, and WordPress installed, let’s get on with turning your website into something you are proud of …

Theme (What your website looks like)

The first thing you should do is choose a theme – here again … buyer beware!  Themes can range from free to over R4500 or even more, depending on the theme.  The theme choice is very important because this determines the basics of your website like your header area and logo and menu placement, footers, and then also styling of things like your blog posts and pages.

Avoid Themes with Bundled Plugins – Depending on the theme you choose, some come packaged with plugins as well that can do things like adding animated sliding banners to your pages for example or creating custom areas on your site where you can add things like Team Members, Testimonials, Portfolios, Galleries, or whatever is included in the theme.  This can have major ramifications if you need to change your Theme down the line and then lose things like your testimonials or team members or something else.  Be vary cautious with themes that come bundled with all sorts of plugins.  They have been created for the DIY market but they hurt you in the medium term and should be avoided.

Then there’s the actual setup and usability of the theme.  Unfortunately every theme demo looks amazing, and you only discover after buying it and installing it how it actually works and how easy it is to actually setup and change things.  It’s not unusual to go through several themes when you are learning.  Even as professionals we go through several themes over the years (that is part of what you are paying us for is the benefit of our learnings over the years).  So imagine paying for 3 themes until you find the right one for example.

Then there’s the renewal cost for updates and support.  The average cost of a paid theme is around $59 or so BUT you need to check for what period that licence is.  Most themes you buy the cost is for a licence to receive free updates and support (WHICH YOU NEED) for a period of 6 months to 1 year.  Thereafter you need to pay again to renew this licence to continue to receive updates (VITAL) and support.  Sometimes the renewals are available at a discount and sometimes not.  So read the small print!  And understand these ongoing costs.  We will explain more about the reason for updates further on.

Plugins (What your website does)

Once you have chosen your theme and you have spent the time getting the overall look of your website perfect, you may need to add some extra functionality to your site and generally this is done via plugins (especially if you are inexperienced and can’t write code yourself).  Exactly as with themes above, plugins range in cost from free to several hundred dollars, and again this is normally for a set period, and needs renewal in order to continue to receive updates and support.  So the same ongoing costs apply as with themes above.

Replacing Plugins – It’s important to understand that plugins are written by all sorts of developers all over the world at various skill levels and that as an inexperienced web developer you may end up choosing a plugin that suddenly stops working or worse breaks your site after your WordPress is updated.  This is not uncommon!  Even experienced website developers can encounter this – but we normally have the skill and connections to the right people to solve this rapidly.   Would you?

Because I build sites day in and day out I have developed an arsenal of plugins I can rely on, made by companies I can rely on, with track records and history.  And because this is my business and my passion and I have my ears to the ground I can anticipate problems, and adjust my offerings as the market and the industry changes.

To give an indication of costs here – on my sites I build – I install a theme worth $100 and plugins worth over $350 for my entry level sites.  This totals $454 worth of theme and plugins before you put your logo in or I design a page.  This collection allows me to create any look and feel I want for my clients but still hand over something that is super easy for them to edit and maintain!  There are more bad plugins out there than good - so definitely reach out to someone like myself for advice if you are going the DIY route so you at least use the correct plugins to start with.

No theme or plugin is guaranteed to work perfectly forever and this is something that most DIY clients don't understand ... the necessity for upkeep and maintenance of your website is absolutely vital … here is why …

Updates & Maintenance

So I have mentioned the cost of licence renewals for themes and plugins and that you need this in order to access ongoing updates and support.  So you’re probably thinking – “That’s no problem, I just won’t update anything and save myself some money!” – unfortunately that has some pretty dire potential consequences.  Let me explain why …

First of all, and probably most importantly, is security … there are some very bored and very clever hackers out there who spend every free moment working out how to hack websites.  As fast as they manage to figure out how to hack sites, the WordPress developers, and plugin and theme developers figure out how to patch these weaknesses and release updates.  Most hosts will only allow a certain number of previous WordPress versions to remain on their servers (because allowing older versions puts their whole infrastructure at risk) and then will start forcing updates automatically on your website.  So whether you like it or not, at some stage your WordPress will be updated, either voluntarily and manually by you or your developer, or forced by your hosting provider.  WordPress may have patched something that affects something else in your theme or plugin.  And if those are out of date, your site suddenly start looking wrong or worst case scenario gives you the dreaded WordPress “White Screen Of Death”.  That situation alone, if you’re experienced could take you several hours to figure out and fix, if ever!  Ideally you should always keep your WordPress, Theme and Plugins updated to the latest version as soon as possible after the new versions are released.  And yes, sometimes even if you do all that right, something can break.  Again, it takes experience to figure out how to resolve this when it happens.  As a professional I always backup sites and run updates on a copy of the live site to test before doing this on live sites.  Anything less is risky.

The cost of being hacked is a whole blog post on it’s own – and the risk of being hacked increases greatly if you don’t keep things up to date.  Sucuri will charge you $299 (approximately R4500) for their clean your hacked website service for example.  And the risk of the hack would have been reduced drastically if you undertook to maintain your website or paid someone to maintain your site for you.

I definitely recommend that my clients sign up to a Website Care Plan to keep their site updated.  There are professional services out there that can do this for you.  I offer maintenance to all my clients as well.  The first 3 months of maintenance is free for my clients.  Thereafter, most maintenance plans start at around $49 a month or so and go up from there depending on the site complexity and size.

To recap!

You can see that there are only a few decisions to be made to attempt the DIY route yourself but it can be a little overwhelming if you haven't done it before!  So to recap you need the following:

  1. Register your web address
  2. Buy some hosting space
  3. Install WordPress
  4. Choose and Install your Theme (based on the look you want)
  5. Choose and Install your Plugins (based on the functionality you need)
  6. Add your content
  7. Update and Maintain your website
  8. Renew your licenses when required

So what does it cost to DIY your own website?

You do the maths, I would say you are in for at least $200 worth of outlay initially, even going the DIY route and making NO mistakes in your selection!  And monthly costs of at least $60 if nothing needs to be fixed or changed!  Throw in a few poor choices of theme and plugins and you could rapidly be heading way over that mark!  And that isn’t even factoring in your time.

So be aware that even when your DIY your site, there are costs, there are "school fees" you need to pay, you might make mistakes and you might end up having to replace things down the line that don't work.  The Afrikaans saying, “Goedkoop koop is duurkoop!”, the direct translation of which is roughly “Buying cheap is buying expensive!” applies here - be careful as the cheap route often ends up being more expensive than the route you initially thought was more expensive.

It pains me to see clients who have invested time and money on a solution and have to then pay me to start from scratch to do this website thing right!

I’m super passionate about what I do … I know you are super passionate about what you do … there are options ... there are even options that can help you DIY your site.  Please visit my website to see if any of my options can help you out with your needs and feel free to reach out any time for advice on Themes, Plugins or any of the other stuff I have mentioned above.

If all else fails and you decide you can't manage DIY yourself - please check out the following options on my website :

WordPress DIY Web to Wow - this is the answer to your DIY overwhelm >>
Get a one page landing page here >>
Need a full website done?  Try a 1 Day Web >>

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Chantal Edouard-Betsy

Website Expert
1 Day Webs

Chantal Edouard-Betsy is a website expert specializing in WordPress websites done in one day.  She's passionate about getting her clients online with the correct set of tools that can grow with them and their business.  Offering several packages for clients from a DIY inspired one right through to a full done for you website service, Chantal can assist you at whatever stage of your business you are at.