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10 Reasons DIY Website Design is a Bad Idea

Are you thinking about building your own website? Maybe you’ve seen ads for a simple content management system that seems easy to use without a developer. Or, maybe you’re determined to learn web development over the weekend and start practicing by building your own website.

The good news is that anyone can learn how to build their own website. The bad news is that you can’t learn how to build a website over the weekend, and even content management systems can be difficult to use.

When you need a website, you’re always better off hiring a developer to at least get you up and running. Otherwise, you’re taking the following risks.

1. You might choose the wrong CMS platform

There are a host of content management systems to choose from. There’s WordPress, Shopify. BigCommerce, Joomla, Drupal, Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and several more.

Every CMS claims to be the easiest, but that’s not always true. In fact, experienced developers struggle to use some CMSs.

In addition to some CMSs not being easy to use, each system is better suited for a specific type of website. For instance, Shopify and Squarespace are perfect for ecommerce websites because everything you need is built into the system.

WordPress, on the other hand, can be used for ecommerce, but requires multiple plugins. Using plugins isn’t bad, but it means you’ll have to know which plugins to use, which ones to avoid, and how to make them all work. Shopify is far better for ecommerce than WordPress.

While a CMS can make it easy to build a website, it’s important to consult with a professional developer to figure out which CMS you need. From there, a developer can set you up with a basic website and teach you how to make your own edits.

2. You risk making cybersecurity mistakes

Hackers are always looking for ways to insert malware get into websites that contain databases full of customer data. In today’s world, you can’t afford to skip cybersecurity. Unfortunately, when you build your own website, you have the highest risk of making cybersecurity mistakes.

A well-known IMB study found that 95% of cyberattacks are caused by human error. This means that 19 out of 20 security breaches would not happen without human error. Most errors are unintentional oversights. However, when you don’t know basic cybersecurity practices, the risk is greater.

The most common errors that cause cyberattacks are:

  • Failure to create secure passwords
  • Sharing passwords through email and text messages
  • Not updating core website files and plugins
  • Employees who fall for phishing and spear-phishing attacks
  • Not encrypting data while in transit or stored on a server
  • Stolen laptops that aren’t password-protected and contain saved passwords in browsers
  • Failure to install updates and patches to software applications
  • Not changing passwords after terminating employees
  • Using the same password across multiple services
  • Sending email to the wrong recipient
  • Companies that provide unrestricted access to a network

Usually, teams make one or two errors. When you’re not a developer, you’re far more likely to make a bunch of errors that can lead to your site getting hacked on multiple fronts.

The biggest mistake is thinking a content management system is already inherently secure. For instance, many people mistakenly believe WordPress is inherently secure. No CMS is secure unless you make it secure.

Do you know how to secure your WordPress website by creating a custom table prefix, adding salts and keys, and password-protecting your admin directory?

If not, hire a developer to create a secure website foundation for you. Once you have your foundation, you can make your own edits and additions.

3. One small mistake can make your site disappear

The tiniest mistake can make your entire site disappear. Most mistakes are easy to fix. However, without development experience, it’s hard to know the solution.

For example, what would you do if your cat walked across your keyboard and renamed or deleted a core file from your server? Would you know how to verify all files are present without having to open each folder and manually verify thousands of files?

A developer would use FTP to upload a fresh copy of all core files and skip overwriting the files already present. Then, they’d use a simple program to compare folder contents to see if there’s an extra file or not.

If there’s an extra file that got renamed, it can be deleted if it doesn’t contain customized information. If it contains customized information, it can be named back to its proper filename.

Small issues are simple for developers, but can make DIYers go in circles for days or even months.

4. You might need to set file and folder permissions (CHMOD)

If the idea of CHMOD makes you scratch your head, you should hire a professional developer. Website files and folders need to have specific permissions that grant the public and administrators access to read, write, and execute.

The wrong permissions can lead to a data breach and/or a hacker destroying your website. When permissions are set too strictly, you could end up with a broken website.

5. You might need to edit your database directly

What would you do if you forgot your WordPress administrator password, and you don’t have access to the email you assigned to your admin account? You can’t use the password recovery feature if you can’t check your email. Now what?

As long as you have access to your webhosting account, you can access your WordPress database through PHP MyAdmin. Once in the database, you can change the email and password associated with your administrator account. However, WordPress passwords are hashed, which means you need to know how to enter a plain text password and then hash it on the spot.

Other situations where you might need to edit your database directly include:

  • Editing/deleting a page when you can’t access your admin panel. If your site broke because your CMS saved two pages with the same name. In this case, you’ll need to delete or rename one of the files.
  • Editing account credentials. To change a username or password if your control panel isn’t working.
  • Replacing text en masse. Say you’ve published 500 articles on your website with a reference to a brand you don’t want to be associated with anymore. You can edit all 500 articles individually, or go straight to the database to edit, replace, or delete all instances of that brand in one shot.

Sometimes plugins are available for this purpose, but not always.

Editing your database directly is always risky. To be safe, you need to export a copy of your database before making any changes. Even exporting a database can be confusing since there are multiple options. If you choose the wrong option, you won’t be able to import your saved database if something goes wrong.

6. Hacking together HTML and CSS can break your site

If your plan is to copy and paste snippets of HTML and CSS copied from other websites, that’s a bad idea. Not only is copying someone else’s code considered copyright infringement, but it can break your website.

If you copy and paste multiple snippets of CSS that contain the same elements with conflicting properties, your site probably won’t work correctly. One day, your typography will be exactly what you want, and the next time you paste in more code, it will look completely different.

DIYers who stick with visual editors don’t need to worry about breaking their website as long as they don’t venture beyond the visual editor. However, once you start taking control of your website by editing the HTML and CSS, you risk breaking your entire website.

7. You might not know how to optimize your images

Optimizing your images for the web is crucial to maintain a fast-loading website. Uncompressed images take up space, but they also slow your site down.

The difference between compressed and uncompressed images is huge. Some images can go from 300kb to 40kb without any noticeable loss. This amounts to huge savings when you have a large number of images.

Whether you’re using stock photos or your own graphics, optimizing your images is a must.

8. You can’t learn HTML and CSS in a weekend

Learning HTML and CSS is fun, but you can’t learn everything in a weekend. If you want to learn the right way, you’ll need several months to become adept at a basic level.

If your plan is to learn HTML and CSS so you can build your website, there’s nothing wrong with that goal. However, if you need your website up and running by the end of the month, you need a professional developer.

9. Troubleshooting small issues will be difficult

When you build your own website, troubleshooting small issues will drive you nuts. For example, say you’re trying to center a paragraph in your visual editor and it’s not working. You look up how to center something with HTML and learn about the <center> tag. So, you head back to your editor and apply the <center> tag only to find this method doesn’t work, either.

If you’re not a developer, you might not know the <center> tag has been deprecated and replaced with the text-align property. To center something, you’ll need to create a <div> or <p> element and assign the text-align property to that element. If you’re not a developer, you won’t know about this option.

10. You’ll struggle to troubleshoot stylesheet typos

Stylesheet typos are common. Developers make typos all the time, but they know how to find and fix them. That’s something DIYers struggle with.

For example, say your text suddenly changed color and you didn’t edit your text color in your CSS file. An experienced designer would know to immediately check the CSS they just edited to see if they omitted a semicolon that ‘broke’ the CSS file.

You might also look for a typo, but without experience, it’s easy to miss an omitted semicolon. On the other hand, experienced designers have developed an eye for CSS formatting and can quickly scan long sections for out-of-place and missing characters.

Let website.design build your website for you

When it comes to building your website, you can’t afford to take any chances, even if the (perceived) cost of website design via DIY is compelling. At website.design, our team of experienced professionals will build your website on the platform that meets all of your needs. You’ll get a beautiful, professional website without having to do any of the work.

We can set you up with an existing template or we can create an entirely unique design – it’s up to you. Contact us today for a free quote and you’ll be one step closer to having the website you’ve always wanted.

Ryan Nead

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