Want 2 websites. Got 4-5 months & a small budget. Learn, hire, both?
May 13, 2019 8:54 PM   Subscribe

I have a small budget and 4-5 months to build a couple of websites. One for a small business and the other for personal interest that could become a small business. Both are probably going to be pretty simple, but I'm a complete novice. In fact, I purchased a Wordpress site (because every time I liked the look of a website it seemed to be Wordpress) with "support" thinking I could figure out the rest; but, I need more foundational knowledge to orient myself to even know what to ask in the chat window. What steps would you recommend to this novice? More in the extended.

I'm prepared to be a diligent student, but I need someone to guide me through. I don't think I know enough to choose the best online resources, not to mention it's very overwhelming. Ideally I'd like to hire a tutor/ coach to get me started from square one, but a quick search online showed a rate of $50-$150, which wouldn't get me very far with my current budget. I don't know if this is naive, but I'm wondering if it'd be possible to work with someone new to Wordpress who is looking for a project to work on for practice or for a reduced fee. Ultimately, I'd like to not be so completely in the dark about websites so that I could make adjustments and maintain the websites to my creative liking as inspiration strikes, instead of being dependent on someone for the smallest tweaks. I'm open to all ideas and any affordable classes or resources would be appreciated. If I'm being totally unrealistic and should hire someone from the start, I'd like to know that too. What I'd like help with is deciding the best route to get these sites up and running given the parameters. What steps would you recommend?
(Note: I'm making my way through the resources here ,but my concern is that it's outdated; and with my slow pace, I'm concerned that I won't finish in time.)
posted by bestillme to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You actually have two problems you're trying to solve simultaneously which I would argue are better addressed separately:

1) You need two smallish WP sites built in 4-5 months on a budget.
2) You don't know how to build a website, but would like to not be beholden to someone else for ongoing maintenance.

I'd suggest paying someone to solve problem 1, and using online resources like Khan Academy, free HTML tutorials, etc. to solve problem 2. You're going to have an easier time of learning at your own pace, while on a parallel track you can spend the budget on paying someone to get your sites off the ground. You don't say what the total budget is, but probably there's a lot more range in rates out there than a 'quick search' would suggest (try looking overseas, although outsourcing comes with its own perils like communication and sometimes-subpar work product). Don't try to pay people in 'experience' or 'exposure' -- that's BS, and freelancers hate when people try to pull that trick. Pay them in money. Unfortunately I don't have better specific advice about how to find a good subcontractor, since I don't ever do it (I'm a professional developer -- I'm the guy doing the building).
posted by axiom at 9:35 PM on May 13 [3 favorites]

I say this as a web developer who has in the past worked as a WordPress developer: you are probably better served by something like Squarespace for what you want to do. WordPress is a fantastic tool, but turning it into something fit for a commercial venture requires an ongoing maintenance effort that you are probably going to find a hassle. Many of the compromised sites I had to recover and restore were a direct result of people ignoring or cheaping out on their sites upkeep. If you go check out a technical podcast, such as Accidental Tech Podcast, you'll be able to find a Squarespace coupon somewhere in their archives that will bring your costs down even further.
posted by sincarne at 2:29 AM on May 14 [12 favorites]

If you start with a tool like squarespace (highly recommended) you will have the following benefits -

1) predesigned templates that are probably better than something you, as a new developer/designer can come up and deliver with in 4-5 months
2) a managed server that has security updates
3) ability to update your site (a content management system / editing system) that is integrated into your site
4) some accessibility and performance considerations which are, again, probably beyond what you as a new dev/designer can come up with and deliver in 4-5 months
5) a site that works on mobile AND desktop (responsive template)
6) probably some stuff like form processing

If your small business is an online STORE you may wish to look into Shopify or other similar store tools.

SHOULD you learn web development and design cause you have an interest? 100%! Join us! But even diligent self study is not going to get you a great website in 4-5 months. Get your website running, then keep studying and figure where / what you want to change and improve. When you outgrow squarespace you can use your skills then to choose or build something new/better.
posted by kellygrape at 5:03 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]

Having done the WP for personal stuff and having go badly as described above and then having helped / watched Mrs Gotanda start with WP and then hire someone part-time on a monthly basis to fix and then maintain hers, it ain't painless. The Squarespace recs above look helpful and had me thinking about it. So I started looking. Seems the go to for learning something on a budget is lynda dot com and poking around their Squarespace offerings looks promising and not budget breaking. You can usually get a promo code off a podcast.
posted by Gotanda at 5:52 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]

In case you belong to a library, it might offer Lynda.com for free.
posted by NotLost at 6:34 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]

Just to note, the poster said they purchased a Wordpress site, so it's very likely that their vendor will take care of all the patching and security updates. You might still need to update themes and plugins now and then, but if the vendor you went with manages those as well, it's not as bad as some have made it out to be.
posted by advicepig at 6:43 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]

WordPress.tv has loads of tutorials for beginners and also archives of every speaker talk from various WordCamps across the globe. You can check out Meetup.com to find a local WordPress group meeting near you - our local group does weekly blogging sessions, monthly open help desk sessions - all for free. WordCamps themselves are $40-50 for an entire weekend conference with a variety of talks for all levels of WordPress users.

That said, there are some basic places to start with any website, like 1) defining your site goals (are you selling something? providing information? organizing events?) 2) using your site goals to define both your site navigation (which pages you'll create on your site) as well as the elements you'll want on your homepage or primary landing page. 3) how you'll drive traffic - are you expecting people to find you from search engines? Are you driving traffic from social media like Twitter or Facebook?

This looks like a great getting started guide that walks through all of the initial start up steps right through creating content for your site: https://www.wpexplorer.com/get-started-wordpress-guide/
posted by annathea at 8:14 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]

What about starting with wordpress.com? It's free for most use, though you can pay for things like a custom domain. There, of course, are limitations like showing ads, etc. It's strait forward to move to your own hosted wordpress instance. Hell, I did it with zero HTML or CSS knowledge. You'll have to learn those technologies if you want to customize your own theme (in fact, you can do it on wordpress.com for a fee and you can play around with it for free).

Just a thought. I used the jetpack add-on from automattic which prompts you to do updates (it was a banner on the admin page when I used it in about 2015). Jetpack also brings you nifty wordpress.com features to your self-hosted blog. They are invested in keeping them up to do because it's their product.
posted by kathrynm at 10:16 AM on May 14

I really struggled with Wordpress but created a lovely site VERY easily with Squarespace. Might be worth playing around with it to see if you find it similarly easy.
posted by caoimhe at 10:24 AM on May 14

Agreeing with some of the above, for other reasons.

You have a choice to be a business runner or a website developer. Hard to do both unless your business is website development. Outsource it.

Once it's set up, make sure you understand how to do basic things like create posts and pages.
posted by jander03 at 10:31 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]

You've all been so generous with your answers. Thank you.

I'm going to take a look at Squarespace, but I'd also like to learn more about Wordpress. I've already purchased it, like the look of their sites, and would like to conquer some of my fear around this, so why not?

After reading your posts, I think part of the problem I'm having is translating the audio/ text/ video into actionable steps in real life on my own screen. Variations in how things look or are arranged on the screen, and technical terms can throw me off. In fact, I think I might even need someone to just look at what I've purchased exactly and lay out for me 1) what I'm working with and 2) what it's going to require to get it to function for my purposes. What I know is that I purchased a domain with Namecheap and something called WP Easy, which I'm guessing refers to the site and "support" combo.

I'd love any recommendations for web developers who might be up for a project like this. Also, what would you say is a reasonable budget for just the small business site (not both sites)? The time frame isn't set in stone and the longer I work at my current job, the more I can afford so there's some flexibility there. My site would be for a service and provide some educational information as well.

And thanks for the links and specific recommendations- will be working my way through those.
posted by bestillme at 9:52 PM on May 14

Just as a heads up, I took a look at EasyWP (I think that's what you're using; they're affiliated with Namecheap.) What they offer is a WordPress preinstall, a basic hosting dashboard, and a gallery of licensed themes. You will still be responsible for running non-automated updates such as to themes, plug-ins, and sometimes to core. Make sure you spring for an automated backup, and sign in to the dashboard weekly to make sure everything is ticking along. If you do those two things, you should be covered for avoiding major disaster, and recovering from it if it happens anyway.

If you want to go the ecommerce route, go check out Woo Commerce, and make sure that your theme works with their plug ins (most do).
posted by sincarne at 1:49 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

If you're looking for a more custom-looking Wordpress theme to launch your site with while you work on getting more familiar with the ins and outs of Wordpress and web development, there are a lot of Wordpress themes for sale through Etsy and for some of them, the price includes installation as well as access to documentation/instructions for the theme. Having that detailed information about your specific Wordpress theme might be useful for you when it comes to connecting the dots between a general Khan Academy or Lynda class and how that info applies to your website(s).
posted by helloimjennsco at 9:27 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

Thank you for clarifying that for me sincarne. I appreciate you taking the time to take a look.

So far so good with Squarespace. As easy as it is, it's about what I can handle right now and it's enough to get me up and running so I'm thrilled. I'm a bit burned out in general so to feel some progress is great. Thank you to everyone who suggested it.

Thanks also to those who helped me to see that learning Wordpress would take a while and that I really needed to decide where my energy would be spent. I'm learning that I'm much better at thinking about tech abstractly and total crap at doing stuff with it in real life. This time next year, hopefully this will be less the case.

I've signed up for Wordpress meet-ups so looking forward to some direction in a live setting. Thanks for that annathea.

I'm still working through all the educational resources. For now it's a lot of clicking to understand what the titles are even referring to. But the important thing is I've started the process to learn something I've wanted to be better informed about for a long time.

Thanks again everyone!
posted by bestillme at 4:08 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]

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