I’ll bet you’ve heard, or read, those exact words, right? WordPress is easy! So easy a monkey could do it. In his sleep. Handcuffed, with a paper sack on his head. Yes, someone actually said that, or something like it, anyway. I’m exaggerating a bit, but the “monkey” part, yes, he said that.
Why would you PAY anyone to build a WordPress site? My pet monkey could do it in just a few hours!
Of course, that someone just happened to be a sneering, college-aged techie who knew, oh, maybe a dozen programming languages and had been coding since he was twelve. Let’s call him Tyler. It isn’t his real name, so why not?
I’m sure he genuinely believes what he said. He simply cannot imagine that there are still plenty of people around — people of all ages — who could not sit down and effortlessly throw together a “good enough” site in an afternoon. Compared to what Tyler does, it is easy. So maybe I shouldn’t be too hard on the guy. He’s trying to help, sort of.
What Tyler Doesn’t Understand About WordPress
I’m not letting him off the hook completely, though. See, for all his techie smarts and his GitHub profile, there’s something he’s missing–a very BIG something, as it turns out. People who need a web site for their small business, nonprofit, or church, need a web site that actually DOES something, not a bland, “brochure” site that brings in zero traffic, has no compelling message or calls-to-action, and looks more or less “okay” but not great.
If Tyler wouldn’t be content with a “do-nothing site,” why should you be?
(Oh, and by the way? Just setting up the site is not as easy as he said, either. The theme you downloaded from Themeforest doesn’t look at all like the one you thought you were buying. And your images don’t look right in those sizes and orientations. And without that logo, your business name in big, blocky sans-serif text on a white background doesn’t look so hot, either. And what happened to the contact form and that nifty Google map on the home page, anyway?)
So what distinguishes a “do nothing site” from one you’d pay a professional to set up for you?
- Web copy — which means writing for the web. It’s a learned skill, and most people haven’t learned it. Your WordPress professional might not write your content for you (though some will), but should be willing to edit it for you.
- Search Engine Optimization — You’ll need to verify your site with Google Search, set up your titles and meta-descriptions correctly, and learn about how to manage your content so you move up in search results, over time. What good is your site, if no one can find you?
- Customization — What if you need a different layout, different image sizes, or any other customizations that can’t be made through the click-and-choose customization panel? Do you know CSS or PHP?
- Copyright Law — A professional will make sure all your media (images, videos, audio) are correctly purchased and licensed, or that correct attribution is given for Creative Commons media, so you don’t receive that “cease and desist” letter–or worse–somewhere down the road.
- Plugin Choices — You’ll need to choose reliable plugins, ones that are updated frequently, have good support staff, and pose the least security risk to your site. You might need custom coding.
- Calls-to-Action — You need to tell your visitors what to do, and make it easy for them (newsletter/mailing list sign-up? free downloads? online appointments? donations?). For this, you’d benefit from some basic design skills–and yes, design is a learned skill. No one “just knows” about typography.
- Hosting Plans — Which hosting provider should you choose, and what really matters in a hosting plan?
- Security! — What’s the best way to “harden” your site? There’s no such thing as a hacker-proof site, but you can make it harder for them. (Hint: It isn’t just about the password.)
There’s much more to building a “do something site” than knowing how to change a background color or add a new page to your menu.
Tyler just wasn’t thinking. (And maybe he was being just a little snooty.)
To be fair, some DIY-ers who are a bit tech-savvy and willing to invest the time and effort, can learn all these things well enough to make and maintain an effective site. Many have. You’ll just need to decide whether you’re willing to make the time investment to create that “do something” site for yourself. And if you do decide to hire a professional, have the “do something site” conversation. Think about what you need your site to do for you, and make sure the content, design, and functionality will help you reach that goal.