The Truth about DIY and Building a WordPress Website from Scratch

    Lavanya Deshmukh
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Before you look for another, “How to build a WordPress website from scratch?” tutorial, I recommend you to pause and read this article first.

Did you know that “500 sites are built with WordPress every day, compared to just 60-80 on competitor platforms like Shopify and Squarespace? (source)

That means, every day someone takes the leap of building a WordPress site either by themselves or by hiring an expert. 

Now, with a beginner-friendly CMS like WordPress, that is certainly a choice you can make. But before you jump in, be very clear about what you’re getting into.

With this article, I want to give you an honest, inside look into the whole WordPress website-building process. And hopefully, help you make an informed decision about how to build your WordPress website.

Let’s get right into it.

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If you’re a tech newbie, there is a Learning Curve

Right off the bat, you should understand one thing – WordPress is easy, in comparison to other similar CMSs.

Both Joomla and Drupal are developer-centric and require a thorough knowledge of HTML, CSS, and PHP. Relatively, WordPress is more beginner-friendly and has a large repository of plugins and themes. So, it gives you more freedom to plug and play.

So if you choose to build a website from scratch, WordPress is a good choice. But it still requires you to learn the know-how of website development. So, if you’re a complete beginner be ready to commit to spending some time studying up on it.

The basics are fairly easy to get down. You can find ample resources and tutorials on how to set up your WordPress website. (If you’re starting out WPBeginner has great resources for everything WordPress.)

It gets harder as you move towards incorporating features and customizing the website to make it your own. It is advisable to have a working knowledge of HTML and CSS for the same. We’ll talk more about building and customizing your website in the next section.

But before that, we’d like to remind you to ask yourself a few basic questions :

  • Do I have enough knowledge of WordPress website development to build the website I want?
  • If not, do I have the willingness to learn about it and put in the effort?
  • Can I carve out enough time from my other work (creating content or products, taking care of business) to devote to it?

If the answer is ‘No’ to any of the above, consider hiring a WordPress developer to help you out.

WordPress is a great CMS, but it doesn’t a website make

The core function of WordPress is to give you an easy way to manage your website content. But building a full-fledged working website involves more than that.

The basic process of setting up a website as we know it is:

  • Pick out a web hosting plan 
  • Register a domain name 
  • Install WordPress
  • Choose a theme 
  • Add functionalities with plugins
  • Customize pages and add all your content

In theory, it sounds pretty straightforward. But in our experience, that’s not how it goes for most people.

As we mentioned, WordPress is a CMS. To turn it into a working website, you have to separately spring for a hosting plan and a domain name. As opposed to if you were building a website on a website builder like Wix. 

Thankfully, most companies provide managed WordPress hosting plans, so you don’t have to get your hands too dirty. What you do need to do, however, is plan for the future. A lot of large websites run on WordPress, and with the right hosting, you can scale comfortably too.

Setting up a WordPress website is easy. Making it look good is a different story.

You can religiously follow all the steps in the tutorial and have your website set up and ready to go. But are you going to be satisfied with that basic website? The answer is usually no. Most people end up with a website that works, but ‘just doesn’t look right’. 

Let’s talk about website design

When doing it on your own you have 2 options. You can either get in deep and design your website from the ground up. Or you can use an existing theme and customize it to fit your website.

The first option will get you the perfect website you envisioned, but it is a lot of work and is time-consuming.

This is why we usually recommend using an existing theme. So a solid groundwork is laid out for you. Then you can go ahead with customizing your WordPress website. Which in itself might be a little bit of a challenge.

You will also need to make Custom Landing Pages, home pages, and blog pages. You can use a page builder to do so. Try to use the theme’s inbuilt layouts and features wherever possible to cut down on work. But do keep in mind that a lot of other websites use the same theme. So try to add elements that help your website stand out.

“wordpress has easy learning curve
but some of its themes not
i wasted a lot time learning how add jquery slider on my thesis theme site which pulls post as image slider without result
some of themeforest themes also come with lot options
and if u using plugins like wpspire for landing page etc it is more difficult
also some plugins conflicts each other”

via the Comment section on WPtavern

Adding Features and functionalities

Adding features like an e-commerce shop, contact forms, and courses will require plugins. The good news is that WordPress has a huge plugin repository. The bad news is that if there isn’t one available for the exact function you want, it will need to be custom-built. 

“WordPress is easy to use and it’s actually easy for basic development….Can install WP and some plugins and get loads of functionality quickly. Everything’s fine until you want to add additional features and it just doesn’t work with WordPress’ model. And there’s cases were it works but it is inefficient. “

via Reddit

Maintaining compatibility with other plugins will also be your responsibility. So pick your plugins carefully and do your due diligence. Also, keep an eye on the number of plugins you are using because too many can slow down your website. Visitors do not like to stick around slow-loading websites.

This gives us a nice segue into our next section.

Maintenance and upkeep of your website is a never-ending job

Site maintenance is vital for any site that you care about. If you can‘t do all the maintenance, updates, and testing yourself, if server errors or white screens would cause you to panic- you need help. If you want to make money with your site, keeping it operational is vital.

via Reddit

Securing your website

WordPress is an open-source CMS. It’s what makes it widely popular and community-driven but it also makes it vulnerable. So you can go ahead and add to your task list – regular scans for malware, setting up a firewall, securing your WordPress website’s admin access,  renaming the login URL, and configuring email notifications for setting changes and failed login attempts. You can look into various security plugins at your disposal for this. 

Regular backups in case there is a security breach and consequent malfunction of your websites are important. Plus updating all plugins, the theme, and WordPress regularly. If opting for managed hosting you can rely on your hosting provider for these to an extent. 

Optimizing for Speed

To provide the best experience to your customers, your website needs to be fast-loading, lightweight, and optimized. Monitoring uptime and page speed, optimizing database, images, and code, and incorporating caching you will need to take care of. 

Optimizing for SEO

SEO is important to drive visitors to your website and convert them to your business. And you should have all elements on your website work for you. Apart from optimizing your content for SEO, you also need to interlink your pages, create a ‘sitemap’, change your permalink structure, make use of heading tags, and do image optimization. 

White Screen of Death and other WordPress errors you might have to deal with 

Other issues like internal server errors( likely caused by a corrupted .httaccess file) or errors establishing connections with the database can occur. You will need to contact your hosting provider to understand why.

A connection time-out error can occur when the server can’t handle the traffic that’s coming to it. This might mean upgrading your hosting plan.

Also Read: How to speed up WordPress development?

The Cost of building your WordPress website on your own

Copy of Dark Blue Orange Vector Cute Process Infographic 1

Pros and Cons of building your WordPress website from scratch on your own

Pros of DIY WordPress: 

  • WordPress is an easy-to-use CMS and comes with a huge repository of plugins and themes
  • The WordPress community is big and you can always turn to forums for support
  • Complete understanding of the workings of your website
  • Savings in terms of money
  • You know your business best and can design your website the way you want 
  • You are the decision-maker. So you get to call the shots

Cons of DIY WordPress: 

  • You are the only decision-maker, so you have to call all the shots
  • You will need to learn how to implement the things you want to achieve
  • It is time-consuming
  • Learning resources start to dwindle when you move toward customization 
  • You are responsible for everything about your website – from website development to maintenance to fixing issues.

Exploring other options than DIY WordPress

You don’t have to do it all on your own.

You can hire a developer to handle the parts you can’t figure out. A freelance developer on average charges around $50 an hour.

If the parts you can’t figure out outweigh the parts you can, then it might be better to hire them to develop the entire website for you. You can also explore WordPress website development services if you want maintenance taken care of as well. They can take care of the whole process from start to finish and can also act as consultants if you need guidance. 

Last Words

Your website is what represents your business online. Going the DIY route is a great option – provided you have the time, commitment, and energy. Because nothing is more frustrating than putting in all your efforts and ending up with mediocre results.

So even if you choose to DIY most of it, know when you’re in over your head and outsource some of the work. While there’s no harm in taking the DIY WordPress route, getting help from WordPress experts could save you a fortune down the lane. We’ve been in the business for over 10 years, so you can trust me when I say that.

If you’re not ready to invest in outsourcing yet, there’s no harm in discussing your project with experts.

I wish you good luck with your WordPress endeavors 🙂 

Lavanya Deshmukh

Lavanya Deshmukh

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