How to DIY Design + WordPress
Sometimes entrepreneurs and business owners find their way to me, but can’t afford my services at the time. I’m often asked what I can recommend for those who aren’t able to hire a professional, but really need to make changes to their branding, get some marketing going or update their website.
If you need to DIY your brand, design or website, then this post is 100% for you!
I’ve compiled my best recommendations for those who can’t hire a designer, but still want to get their brand, website or marketing up and running.
Nothing can replace quality professional design work, but these resources should help get you going until you can afford the real thing:
Canva: The most popular free design-for-non-designers resource, Canva provides starter templates, royalty-free images, free fonts, tutorials and unlimited downloads. Many of my clients use this for quick graphics and even have me design Canva templates for them to use on an ongoing basis. Templates are helpful for recurring social media posts or newsletter images.
Google Fonts: Free fonts to use on desktop or web!
Stock Photos: Pexels, Unsplash, StockSnap and Burst are just a few places to get free stock photos. Honestly just Google “best free stock photo sites” and you’ll find a fully updated list from a variety of sources.
Gimp: offers free open-source image editing software, similar to Photoshop, complete with tutorials.
Adobe Free Trial: Want to get a little more technical and are willing to learn? Adobe, creator of the design software I use for my work, offers a free trial and lots of tutorials.
There are endless tips, tricks and software to help you create your own website or make updates.
My best tip is to simply google your question. There is very likely someone who has had that question before and/or who has answered that question.
For more specific tips on getting started:
WP Hosting: If you’re really just getting started and need a WordPress website, you need a host first. I personally host my clients on Flywheel, but can also highly recommend Siteground and Bluehost. They all have excellent customer service and rates for every kind of website.
If you’re looking to launch a website and don’t want something as DIY as WordPress, I recommend checking out Squarespace or Wix. Those paid platforms have ready-to-go templates and dedicated support teams to help you make your vision come to life.
Themes: A theme is like an empty template for your website. It’s pre-designed for you, so you just need to install it and then fill it with your content. There’s literally thousands of free and paid themes out there. You can try out the default WordPress theme that comes with your hosted website, OR you can opt for a paid theme from somewhere like Themeforest. Paid themes will come with instructions on installation and how to get started, as well as sometimes some premium plugins that they recommend to pair with your theme. They also offer support for customers who’ve bought their theme, so if you have any problems, they can answer them free of charge!
If you want to build your pages yourself, I recommend a page builder like Elementor. It has some basic templates included in the free version and installs as a plugin!
WPBeginner: If you’re a WordPress beginner, I recommend starting here. It breaks down the basics of working with WordPress and the instructions are very easy to follow.
Plugins: This is a list of free plugins that I often use when building sites for clients. If you need what these plugins offer, then install and give them a try. But don’t install plugins for no reason, as too many plugins will slow down your website and can cause issues. Only install a plugin if you absolutely need it and will use it. Go through your plugins regularly and delete any that aren’t in use.
- Wordfence for security
- Contact Form 7 for your contact forms
- Yoast SEO for SEO on your pages and posts
- UpDraft Plus for backups (if your host doesn’t offer backups or you want to have another backup available)
- Monster Insights for connecting your Google Analytics
- WP-Optimize to speed up and optimize your site
- Maintenance Page/Coming Soon so that you can hide your website while you work on it (unless your host is providing you a staging site).
That should get you going on setting up your new WP site! Even if you’re not a pro, it’s always worthwhile to get your feet wet, try things out and get something up just for now until you can hire a designer to make it look extra professional.
DIY SOCIAL MEDIA
Have you ever created a beautiful post, banner or cover image, felt super proud, uploaded it…and it got cut off on mobile? That’s because these images have to be seen across a variety of devices, so you need to make sure your content fits the proper size and template recommendations. Some are really tricky (like Youtube banners), but you can definitely figure it out!
Sprout Social has an always-up-to-date guide to social media sizes. Put those pixel sizes into Canva or whatever software you’re using, and pay close attention to any device-specific sizes.
For example, a Youtube banner is pretty tricky. Here’s the template they show on their Help page:
It can be hard to eyeball that Text and Logo Safe Area; it’s best to draw guidelines if you can (ie. using Adobe software). Plus you need the rest of your banner (that isn’t in the safe area) to make sense, so a large subject-free photo is best if you have one.
Here’s a simple example of how I solved this issue for my client Movegroovebaby:
Their logo is centered in the safe area, with a large image in the background that makes sense no matter what device it’s being seen on. I recommend something like this for Youtube banners.
If you’ve got Adobe Photoshop or XD (free trial or paid), you can download templates for all the social image sizes here. If you’re using Canva, look for templates that look like my example above (ie. large image with small logo or text in middle) and insert your content into their template.
For all social images, I recommend making it at the recommended or maximum size that the platform accepts if possible. That way your image will be as sharp and clear as possible no matter the device it’s being viewed on.
And that’s my starter guide to DIY Design, WordPress and Social Media images!
If you have any questions or would like to see something added that you’re curious about, you’re always welcome to contact me. If you’re interested in learning more about design for non-designers, make sure to subscribe in the sidebar or footer to receive my Ask A Designer update every month!