Many of the people we train come on our courses because they want to take control of their own web presence. They have an existing website that someone else has built for them but they struggle to add new content or make changes to it and find themselves either having to go back to the designer every time they want to make a change (which can quickly become prohibitively expensive) or with a static site that never changes.
It used to be the case that building a website was a specialist job requiring knowledge of code or the ability to use specialist web development software. You would no more have considered building your own website than you would wire your own house (unless you’re an electrician of course!). However, modern content management systems such as WordPress, Wix, Squarespace and so on make it possible for anyone who can use a computer to get a simple website up and running quickly and relatively easily.
We’re big advocates of people building their own sites wherever possible, but there are still some situations in which you might be better off employing a professional web developer to help you with at least part of the process.
If you need a complex site with many pages and lots of functionality
It’s very straightforward to put together a simple website yourself using WordPress – indeed people who attend our training courses are able to get the bare bones of a usable site up and running in a day. However, if you need a site with a large amount of content or some more complex functionality then you may be better off hiring a developer to help you put it together.
Whilst WordPress offers a range of plugins that enable non-specialists to add almost any sort of functionality to their site, you may still find that it’s more cost effective to employ someone else to do this for you as they’ll have the expertise needed to advise you on the right plugins to provide the functionality you need as well as being able to do the work significantly more quickly than you would be able to do it yourself.
If you need any bespoke design or functionality on your site
Whilst the number of WordPress plugins on offer means you can in theory add almost any functionality to your website yourself, there are still occasions when you might need something that’s very specific to your particular site and hence requires either tweaks to be made to your existing theme or plugins or some bespoke development. This is the point at which you’ll really need to hire an expert web developer to build this functionality for you.
If you’re in a highly regulated market where site security is extremely important
Obviously it’s important for all websites to be secure but the level of security you need may vary according to the nature of the site. A simple brochure site that presents what your business does without collecting any personal data from visitors or enabling them to transact with you is a different kettle of fish altogether from a financial services website operating in a regulated industry. If you’re in any sort of regulated environment or one in which you’re collecting personal data from clients via your website then it may be worth hiring an expert web developer to help ensure that your site is compliant with all relevant standards.
If you’re moving content from an existing site from a different CMS or a much older version of WordPress
Some of the clients we work with are building new websites from scratch, whilst others already have a site and either want to migrate it into WordPress from another content management system (such as Wix, Squarespace or Weebly) or want to update a site that’s already in WordPress to the latest version.
If you’re moving from another CMS into WordPress and your site is very small then you could simply copy and paste the content from your old site to your new one, which is indeed something you could do yourself. This is unlikely to be practical if you have a site with more than a handful of pages, at which point you’re going to be much better off hiring someone who knows that they are doing to transfer the content over for you.
Indeed, even in the first scenario it may still be worth employing an expert to help you as there are other technical considerations involved in moving the site such as making sure that all the links on the old site are redirected to equivalents on the new one.
Another similar scenario is clients who have sites that are already in WordPress but were built quite a while back in a much older version of WordPress that hasn’t been updated since. It’s important to make sure you’re always running the latest version of WordPress as older versions can leave your site vulnerable from a security point of view.
However, it’s not a good idea to simply install the latest version on a site that has not been updated in a long time as you can run into problems with old plugins that aren’t compatible with the latest version of WordPress so in this scenario it’s always worth hiring an expert to guide you through the process and manage the update in a way that ensures your site still works.
If you want to change your WordPress theme
WordPress is designed to make it easy to change themes, and when you’re early in the site development process or if you only have a very simple site with limited functionality then this is something you can easily do yourself. However, once your site is established with a significant volume of content, or any bespoke functionality, then switching themes can become quite a bit more complicated. This is particularly the case if the theme in which the site was originally built uses a page builder – getting content out of a page built with a page builder into another theme without simply copying and pasting is definitely a specialist job.
If you need to integrate your site with other systems
As already mentioned, if your site is functioning purely as an online brochure and doesn’t include any interactive functionality or collect anyone’s details then you can certainly develop it yourself. You can also integrate your site with other simple systems yourself – for example, it’s a relatively simple matter to set up an email newsletter subscription form that integrates automatically with systems like Mailchimp or Constant Contact.
However, if you are transacting with customers or collecting people’s details in some other way and want to integrate your site with systems such as your CRM system or accounting and stock management system then this is definitely the point at which you should call in a professional.
If time is of the essence
Ultimately our view is that most reasonably technically competent people can do most of the things they need to do on WordPress themselves most of the time. However, just because you can learn to do something yourself doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. You’ll probably want your core focus to be on whatever it is that your business does – plumbing, personal training, selling cars, photography – rather than on learning to be a web developer.
We strongly believe that everyone should take the time to ensure they have a basic understanding of how their website works so that they’re not perennially at the mercy of the person who developed it. However that doesn’t mean that you have to actually build the whole thing yourself. If you can afford to employ a professional then you’ll often find that it’s worth doing so, even for a relatively straightforward site, particularly once you consider the cost of your own time and the opportunity cost of the other things that you could be doing with that time.
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