When I converted this site from its free blogging platform wordpress.com to a standalone site using wordpress.org software, I had no idea of the difficulties to come. Here I give some insight into the issues I came up against in the hope you can learn from me…
Web designers are awash with work.
Because everyone has a website (or two) these days even the bad ones are busy. If you are hoping for a complete redesign as I was, find your designer months in advance. Tip: if you are out of work then why not train as a web designer?
Web designers are not regulated.
Considering the amount some web designers charge – often it is thousands of pounds for a site, which is the equivalent of an extension on your house, new kitchen or bathroom – shockingly, this is an industry that is not regulated at all. Obviously there are some great web people around but it’s hard to know who is good and who is not. With this website it was originally a blog on WordPress.com and I wanted it to be self-hosted in WordPress.org – so I sought an expert in WordPress! What I did not then expect to find was that I knew more than some ‘WordPress designers’ did.
The top web designers in a Google search are not necessarily the best
I am going to stick my neck out here and say I am shocked by how many website designers operate in a way which is perhaps unethical in that it pushes their own website to the top of a Google search. So for these sites, it’s common to see they’ve put links on customer’s sites linking back to them (but they don’t link back to their customer’s site.) These one way links push their own site to the top of Google. When I mentioned to one web designer that I didn’t want his credit at the bottom to link back to him, he got very upset. I think that says it all. So tip: look for designers which link back to their client’s sites as well.
If you are going from WordPress.com to WordPress.org use WordPress.com’s own brilliant Guided Transfer. For under £100 they will transfer the whole site to a new host. Every designer I spoke to said when transferring my 1700 odd pages I should expect to lose ‘the odd photo or blog’ – something that horrified me. WordPress.com told me I would not and the whole thing only took around 30 minutes with every single post in tact. Absolutely top service from the Americans.
Be prepared to really shop around.
Perhaps I was unlucky but I found many WordPress web designers unusual to say the least. One said he could only ever communicate by email, another turned out to be in Russia and a number seemed incredibly enthusiastic but then I never heard from them again. Then my site was too large for some and too small for others to take on. I couldn’t seem to win.
WordPress themes don’t look anything like their demos: Well, they do – but only after a LOT of hard work and hours of tweaking. When the original designer I chose produced something for this website that resembled a child’s drawing, I decided I would buy a WordPress theme off the net and tweak it myself. As someone who’d tweaked her wordpress.com site many times, I thought how hard could it be? The answer is it was a nightmare. Regular readers were polite, said nothing and I carried on blogging. But behind the scenes my website resembled a string puppet with cut strings – ie: everything was unconnected with nothing working as it should.
Keep an eye on your designer and website at all times. I was fortunate to find someone who did offer to put things right. But as this is a live working site, even that proved horrific. For example, one friday night I casually looked at my site to find all the pages were in gobbledegook (and left like this all weekend.) Another time, I clicked Home and was taken to a rival website’s main page!
Everything will take four times as long as the estimate. As someone who does do her own site, I still don’t understand why designers take SO long. I am thinking of one chap who estimated my site ‘would be working by Easter’ and the original designer who did the child’s drawing. That design took him over two weeks to sort (and it was just a sketch!) Yes, we all know websites are fiddly but come on… I must say here my chap who does Featureworld (very busy so I won’t give him a plug!) is absolutely fantastic. He does HTML sites (I am sure he could do WordPress but it’s not his first speciality) and he is amazingly fast. But for some inexplicable reason the WordPress designers (is it just WP designers) seem to take ages to do the simplest tasks. I can only think they are busy on other jobs…
Many web designers don’t understand SEO Making your site look beautiful is one thing, making Google fall in love with it is another. I’ve discovered web designers tend to concentrate on the aesthetics and not search engine optimisation. Hence, you have to think about that all the time – or you will have a great looking site that no-one can actually find as it won’t come up in any search engine.
There’s a lot of rubbish written on the net Before I transferred my site to wordpress.org I kept reading about this woman who’d transferred her site from wordpress.com to wordpress.org and lost all her traffic. Thus, she told everyone not to do this. But if you have your own domain name (I was already blogging under sellyourstoryuk.com) then when you transfer all the traffic seamlessly comes with you. So I don’t know what she was talking about. Despite the horrors, luckily Google never stopped sending visitors…
Finally, I couldn’t have done this whole site on my own (although I did do an awful lot of it in the end…) but I can’t help thinking it would have been cheaper and easier had I done a basic web course myself in WordPress design. I also noted many charge by the hour for something that can if you know how, be completed in minutes. You have been warned.
Have you had difficulties finding a great web designer or do you have any other tips you can add to this to help others? Do let us know below…