5 Dangerous Mistakes Unprofessional Web Designers Make

I often get to work on WordPress websites that were made by unprofessional (and, well, cheap) web designers. “Website revitalization” includes redesign, update to the latest version, code cleanup and performance optimization. But it is often more effective to transfer old content to a completely new and safe WordPress installation because an incorrectly built website can be simply dangerous for your business.

I know that many clients cannot afford to hire an expensive team of web developers. But please, please, please don’t hire someone who promises to make you a website for 200 dollars! Sooner or later this will lead to serious security and/or copyright issues. Read this article to find out common mistakes that cheap web designers make!

1. Not using a child theme

Problem:

Almost every amateur WordPresser makes changes directly in parent theme. This means they write custom code directly in current theme’s files. This code may affect layout, colours, fonts, mobile responsiveness of your website, which is nothing bad by itself, but… 👇

Why it’s dangerous:

The problem with editing a theme directly is that every theme needs to be updated regularly in order to work well with the latest version of WordPress. That means your theme files get overwritten by new, updated files.

Guess what happens to changes your web designer made to original files? They get lost and replaced by new files.

The correct way:

To tackle this problem, experienced WordPress web designers create a child theme, which contains copies of parent theme’s essential files. All custom code goes into child theme. So when theme updates get installed, they don’t affect the code.

2. Disabling updates

Problem:

This is a very common “workaround” for the above problem. Some webmasters turn off regular WordPress updates. This affects core files (those belonging to core WordPress system), theme files (those affecting your website layout and design) and plugin files (those adding extra functionality to your site). No updates = no problems with a theme or plugin that has been directly edited. But…👇

Why it’s dangerous:

Regular updates are essential for your website health and security. It is necessary to update core files, all your plugins and your theme as soon as new updates are available. Poor performance and visual errors are the most innocent consequences of ignoring the updates.

Disabling updates can really lead to your website getting hacked or infected.

Also, the longer your website has existed without updates, the more difficult it will be to repair it without full re-install of WordPress.

The correct way:

As I mentioned earlier, all custom code should be kept apart from parent files. WordPress updates should be always turned on. A good choice is to hire a webmaster for regular maintenance and have your entire website updated once a month.

3. Using fonts without permission

Problem:

I can’t count how many times I’ve seen fonts being used on websites illegally.

You cannot use every font in the world just because it’s available to download for free from some shady website.

Last year, I had a client who was going through a costly rebranding process. They didn’t realize their new logo used a commercially-licensed font that their designer had downloaded somewhere for free. They already had the logo in their new brand book so they didn’t have other choice than to pay for the licence.

Why it’s dangerous:

It can be very expensive to use a commercially licensed font without permission.

These days, big companies that sell copyrighted content such as images or fonts use bots to scan the web for their content being used illegally.

In worst case, you may get sued by font author and have to pay a huge fine.

The correct way:

There are hundreds of affordable fonts available both for web and print. An average web font licence costs about 30-90 USD and it’s really not worth trying to get away with illegal use of paid fonts. Also, there are beautiful open source fonts that are absolutely free to use both personally and commercially. The largest collection of free, quality fonts is Google Fonts that currently features 949 font families.

4. Using unsafe plugins

Problem:

Plugins are components that add extra functionality to a WordPress website. They are commonly used for contact forms and enquiry forms, for translation management on the website, for catching spam, for image galleries etc.

An unqualified web designer who doesn’t care about professional reputation is not too interested in choosing the most trusted, reliable and safe WordPress plugins for the client. Maybe your web designer simply liked the description of plugin, or has read a nice review somewhere on the web.

Why it’s dangerous:

Again, all WordPress plugins should be updated regularly. The most popular ones are updated every week or so. Plugins that have been abandoned and not in line with latest versions of WordPress can be dangerous for your site health and security.

There are thousands of available WordPress plugins (about 50.000 in fact) and a lot of them are very unstable, raw or full of annoying advertisements.

The correct way:

Always opt for those plugins that are not likely to get abandoned by their authors.

WordPress experts know which plugin developers are the most reliable.

Sometimes you can give a try to a completely new plugin just because you trust its developers and predict that it will work flawlessly. But all this requires years of experience and practice. There are also tons of additional information to find out about each plugin, such as rating and reviews, common issues and conflicts with other plugins, performance issues etc.

5. Using too many plugins

Problem:

Another sign that your web developer / designer is an amateur is that they use too many plugins. A plugin to insert Google Analytics code, a plugin to optimize images, a plugin to check broken links… Sometimes a simple web page has 15-20 plugins installed!

Why it’s dangerous:

Too many plugins will definitely slow down your website, which is bad for your visitors and your search engine rankings.

Also, regular updates require more time and effort if there’re many plugins installed. More conflicts between different plugins are likely to happen (conflicts may arise immediately or after a certain update). The database gets bigger because there’s more data being stored by plugins.

The correct way:

There are plugins that can solve multiple problems. One common example is Yoast – a SEO suite that is useful for search engine optimization, sitemaps, social network snippets and many more.

Many things can (and should) be done without plugins. For example, you don’t really need a separate plugin to insert tracking code, it should be pasted into website code directly. Image optimization can be done on the server or via an external service like Tiny PNG / Tiny JPG.

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