The road to a DIY website
If you’ve followed along for a while, you’ll know that when I started out in business, it was with my clothing label Borne Too. After my first baby, I was looking for breastfeeding clothing that didn’t make me feel frumpy. I had little luck finding other brands I loved, so I decided to dive into manufacturing my own.
I had zero knowledge of clothing design or manufacture – I was working as a Registered Nurse in the 10 years prior to starting a business. And if you’re a nurse, you’ll know that it doesn’t get much more removed from not only the entrepreneurial world but even corporate life. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into!
Why I didn’t outsource my website build.
My budget was super tight because all my capital was going towards the actual clothing production. If there was an opportunity to DIY something, chances are I taught myself how to do it. In fact, I learned how to do pretty much everything myself in my business.
I couldn’t avoid needing a website, too. A big part of my small business was the need for a functioning website and online store. I planned to sell my clothing online and so I started from scratch and built my own website.
After some research, I decided to build my website using WordPress. I already had a blog on the free version of WordPress so I just stuck to what I knew – and it meant I could bring my blog over easily to my new website. In hindsight, I am still so glad I decided to use WordPress and I believe it is what helped my site rank in the top Google searches when it came to my illustration business.
Would I recommend building your own site?
There were a lot of steep learning curves in this DIY web-building process. It definitely wasn’t the most time-efficient way to produce a website but I have zero regrets because it taught me everything I needed to know about not only building, but maintaining my website and online store. I knew how to troubleshoot any errors that would arise and could easily change the look of my website as well as update copy, inventory and anything else that needed editing. I wasn’t reliant on a web developer to help me and at any time of day I could jump on and fix whatever was causing issues or update what I needed to.
Fast forward to the future, when it came time to pivot away from my clothing business, I was able to build my new websites with ease. These subsequent sites took less than half the time of that original clothing website because I had learned so much along the way and I had become pretty efficient in the WordPress website space.
4 tips if you plan to DIY your website (with no prior experience)
1. Use a GOOD theme and you won’t have to chop and change.
I eventually decided to go with Divi after many months of agonizing over a few different themes.
Divi is user-friendly and lets you edit the page as you see it so you know exactly how it’s going to turn out as you’re creating it.
The other thing I love is that you can pay once and have Divi forever- no annual upkeep and plus so many other websites are built using Divi, there’s so much info out there if you get stuck on something- you can find most answers in forums and the like. Their customer service though, is also great so you can always ask them any questions about stuff you’re getting stuck on.
2. Don’t straight up delete webpages or blogs.
Holy moly I learnt this the hard way. I thought when you deleted a page from your site it was just ‘gone’ off the interwebs.
No. This doesn’t happen.
The googlebots continue to crawl these pages and you just end up throwing off a bunch of error codes which makes for a shitty user experience for those visiting your website and also totally affects your SEO ranking!
Solution: I use a plugin called Broken Link Checker and another for Redirection.
This way, if you decide you want to take a page/post off your website – you redirect to another page first.
The broken link checker is great because it lets you know if any of your pages or links aren’t working and then you can redirect them to improve user experience. Plus once Google has recognized enough times that your page is redirected, it will stop listing it.
3. Know about search engine optimization (SEO) for building your pages.
Being able to create pages from scratch – it’s worth doing SEO research so you know what to include on those pages to get them to start ranking on Google and get your shit seen!
I have a free eBook: SEO Rookie, A step-by-step beginners guide to getting seen on the firs page of Google. It has everything I did to make sure my illustration biz was bumped up to the top results for web searches and in time it saw me fully booked. Grab your copy via the sign up below.
Also, I use the Yoast plugin (free) for my SEO, which prompts you as to what you need to include but it’s good to have an idea of what you should be doing, too.
4. If you’re going to outsource your website build – then get someone to show you HOW to use the backend.
After building my website myself, I learned a lot of things the hard (and long) way. I’m not sure I would recommend this if you’re time-poor but I definitely would look into a service that builds your site WITH you instead of simple having someone do it all FOR you.
The reason being, that you really need to have an understanding of the backend of your website.
Tech issues arise all the time and unless you’ve got an awesome web developer on hand 24/7 (and the money to pay for that luxury) then there’s a good chance you’re going to have to do some troubleshooting yourself.
Get your developer to run through how to use the main features in your website so you know what lives where and what it does. nOtherwise you’ll find yourself logging on and thinking WTF which leads to overwhelm and a lot of wasted time.
Some important things you’ll want to find out how to do could include:
- Editing page copy.
- Editing products.
- Editing buttons and links.
- Uploading new photos or images.
- Setting up your domain email.
- What to do if your website if down and where to find your control panel and host dashboard.