Over the years, there has been a global increase of DIY, from building and fixing houses to hairdressing. Graphic and web design has not been an exception.
Pre-internet days, pre-blogging, vlogging and video tutorials, design disciplines were left to the professionals. Why? From the most basic through to the most complex design required years of training and a knack for understanding complex coding and computer aided design (CAD). This need for a professional at every turn often lead to frustration and a feeling of constant limitations and added cost implications.
Of course, the average person could use Paint, PowerPoint and Word but they all come with their own limitations of fonts and functionality; if you wanted to be ‘funky’ you would use Comic Sans! Feeling zen? Papyrus was the font for you. Or not really sure, how about a bit of Arial… and that was about it for creative versatility!
Then, like a blessing from the Gods, the doors were opened and a flood of ‘do-it-yourself’ or ‘do-it-for-super-cheap’ was made available. This was an exciting time for the shop owner who can finally create that simple poster to highlight a special offer. Start-ups could now design their own business cards and flyers, and thanks to many companies like Wix and even WordPress, companies are able to design their own websites. Most of these are cheap or free options with no requirement of knowing a good designer, let alone paying them.
There is a lot to be said for these cheap or free solutions. They allow a new business to start on a shoe string, goodness knows they deserve a break in bills – Good move! However, there is a ‘dark side’ to DIY design. With little or no web building experience your business could outgrow your initial design and you may not have time to maintain it, stay up-to-date with design trends or improve your web development skills. You now have a ‘live’ website that doesn’t sell your business in its best light and isn’t functioning as well as it could do with some professional TLC.
It’s like doing your own plumbing, only to find your shower is leaking into the flat below you. Now you don’t only have to fix the leak, but you have a decorating bill for the annoyed neighbour. Bad design wont leak into your neighbours living room, but it will seep into your client’s consciousness and leave them thinking that your business is amateur and potentially unreliable. Much worse, (especially if you have an online store on your site), it needs regular maintenance and security checks that you may miss with a non-professional eye and run a serious risk of being venerable to hackers.
The best way to ensure your website is as secure as possible is to do the following:
- Set it up correctly from the ground up, according to your building tool
- Make sure it is fully up-to-date – running outdated software leaves the gate open for exploitation, the most common way to get hacked
- You must have an SSL certificate – this applies to all websites
- Add a secure plugin – a good one and set it up properly
- Check that nothing ‘strange’ is on any of the front end pages regularly
- Set up your blog access
- Delete junk/spam messages in your mailbox
- Ideally you should be on a dedicated hosting platform (not the shared kind), particularly if you are an ecommerce website, as this type of site requires higher expertise to properly secure. A good example of a secure ecommerce site we’ve recently built is Duncan Dogs Co.
There are also parts of your website you should always keep up-to-date for smooth usability:
- Plugins – They extend your site’s functionality with things like contact forms, eCommerce and much more. That means they have deep access to your site, so it’s vital to keep them up-to-date.
- PHP – this is the programming language we use to build and maintain WordPress. Newer versions of PHP are both faster and more secure, so updating will have a positive effect on your site’s performance. You can find thousands of security vulnerabilities of previous PHP versions on CVEDETAILS with full details of their impacts and sever
Two months ago, one on our clients’ wife’s business websites was hacked. Thankfully it was not an ecommerce site, so they didn’t get any direct financial loss but instead the hackers used the site to send attacks to other websites. The result of this is that the website is blacklisted and Google drops the site off the rankings. From the front end, the site was simply ‘down’ and she had no idea what to do. This is where DIY ends and a specialist is required. We got her site back up and more secure than ever before within 24 hrs. This could have been avoided if the above list had been adhered to or a specialist was involved in the initial build stage.
If you are in a position to do-it-yourself, having a good designer contact details is a good idea. That way, if you fall into trouble, you have a professional to call on that you have already built a trusting relationship with. There are a lot of self-taught and curious folks out there, but us designers are always working on increasing our knowledge in this extremely fast-moving world and can help you in ways you may not even know about. When you come to us for creative input let us free on it to get the maximum out of your budget. We are a passionate bunch and when given free reign we get very excited and throw all our energy and skills into it – you will find it a very worthwhile spend!