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We’re great believers in technology empowering people, especially in the digital sphere. But sometimes Do It Yourself turns into Wreck It Yourself and people come to us for help.

Imagine this scenario:

A builder receives a phone call from a homeowner asking them to put in a new door. The builder says they can help and goes to look at the job, only to find the homeowner with a door shaped hole chainsawed in their house.

Now, it could have been that the homeowner had decided to put in a door themselves before they realised they needed help part way into their project. Or it could have been that they genuinely thought they were helping / saving money by cutting the hole themselves.

Most of us witnessing this situation intuitively know that something has gone badly wrong. We may not know the details but we understand that doors need more than just holes in the wall. Extra framing, structural support and even building consents are all important considerations for a project like this.

We can sympathise with the builder if they don’t want to take on the project as that would involve taking on responsibility for the actions of the homeowner, which have turned what should have been a straightforward job into a potential structural and bureaucratic minefield.

Unfortunately we run into similar situations in the digital world. The challenge is that digitally chainsawed doorways are generally subtler and harder to explain than a gaping hole in a wall.

Like home DIY there are different levels of risk in digital DIY. Building a basic website, starting a newsletter campaign, creating social media profiles or running a survey can all be achieved with a bit of common sense and understanding of your audience. The risks come into play when financial transactions, privacy, security or business processes are involved.

Sometimes it can be a project that has been started with the wrong digital tools and the person only realises something is wrong when they’ve invested a lot of time and effort into something that’s not fit for purpose. Sometimes a lack of understanding has meant important steps haven’t been taken, which causes consequences when the project is launched. Sometimes enthusiasm overrides common sense.

But here lies the crunch - in an ideal world we’d love to talk to people before they fire up their chainsaws, but just as most builders aren’t setup to teach DIYers how to fit a door, most digital agencies aren’t setup to create technical solutions for digital DIYers on the fly. In both cases one of the biggest hurdles is how to educate people on why something that looks straightforward to the uninitiated is significantly more complicated and time consuming if you want to do it properly.

My best advice for those who are considering some digital DIY is to have a good look online for other people who’ve attempted similar projects. Learning from other people’s mistakes is an excellent way to learn and there’s many online communities created to help people (StackExchange is a great place to start).

If you have a plan you can run it past a digital or development professional for a sanity check. But with two provisos:

  1. Take professional advice as professional advice - they know more than you do.
  2. A “sanity check” is exactly that - a top level check on whether your idea is sane. A fully scoped technical solution is like engineering or architectural plans and requires proper process to reach a valuable outcome.

And if your digital DIY does involve financial transactions, privacy, security or business processes please talk to someone in the know before you fire up the chainsaw.

Banner Photo by Abby Savage