The Reality of Do It Yourself Websites
"I started a website, but I ran out of time."
There are two prevailing views on building your own website, but neither one is precisely the truth.
Many business owners feel that the only way they can afford a website is to build it themselves. This does work for some business owners, but not for others. The reasons range from the simple to the less obvious.
Anyone can build a website. But it takes skill, experience, and a certain degree of innate talent to build a GOOD one. A good designer (at least, an "all in one designer") has to have skills in five different areas:
1. HTML and Web Coding. They do NOT have to learn to write code! But they have to learn how to use software that can write code, and how to recognize certain elements in the code.
2. Page Layout. Specifically, how page layout applies to web pages. Some people are good at this, others create illogical and disordered pages that fail to work effectively.
3. Graphic Design. You have to at LEAST be able to crop, scale, and create a text header for your site.
4. Copy Writing. You have to write well, or be able to recognize whether the person you hire can write well.
5. Computer Technology. You have to understand that your site will look different on various computers, and have an understanding of what can affect the performance of your site. You don't have to be a guru, but you do have to understand certain things.
Website design used to be simple. I learned on the job. I saw my first website just 5 months before I got my first contract with the Town of Medicine Bow. I built sites of my own and studied full time during those five months, and when I did get a contract, it was only for a redesign and ongoing updates for an existing site. I learn faster than the average person (I have a near photographic memory).
Back in those days, if your site looked homemade, it was not a problem. Site visitors had fewer expectations of what they should find on a site. There were no standards for navigation, necessary elements in a site, or even for professionalism.
All that has changed though. Design styles have changed, and the simpler ones are no longer used in business. The web is a fiercely competitive place, and if you don't have a site that looks professional, you cannot cut it in business. The whole picture is just much more complex. There are layers and layers of knowledge and understanding that an experienced web designer has accumulated, and they often do not even realize how much they know!
As a newcomer on the scene, you don't even have a clue what you don't know.
This does not mean you cannot build a site! With the right instructions, you CAN (ask us, and we can point you in the right direction).
It does mean you'll face some peculiar challenges, and that you are GOING to make some mistakes! Here are the things that most often stop a new learner:
1. The learning curve. At first, you are going to feel like everyone else is in on some secret that you don't know, and that they aren't telling you in terms you can understand. Sometimes, it will feel overwhelmingly difficult. It takes a long time to learn to build a site. There are technical layers on technical layers, and multiple facets of the craft to learn.
2. The Time involved. I am a professional - a practiced one. I know the fastest way to do everything involved. It takes me 1-2 weeks to build a full and functioning site (of 50 to 100 pages, including writing the content), working full time. Five years ago, it took me 2 months just to build a little 5 page site, and it was not nearly so good. I worked full time to do that, and most people do not have full time to put into a site. It just takes a LOT of time to build your first site.
3. The mistakes. I did say, you are GOING to make mistakes. And you'll make a lot, and never know you made them, until someone tells you. For some people, that is very discouraging. You really have to have people whom you can trust who will review your site, point out the problems, and tell you how to fix it (email us and ask if you need this service). The mistakes ARE fixable! And having someone review it and teach you will then elevate your experience to the next level. And then, you'll have to be willing to tweak the site and improve it on a regular basis as you continue to learn.
There are people who feel that if you are a business professional, you should concentrate on being a business professional. Hire out those things which you are not proficient at, and you'll do much better.
If you can afford to pay a lot, this is almost invariably a good rule. But if you are on a budget, justifying the cost may be much harder. Please talk to us before you decide you cannot afford to pay for a site.
Others feel that if they CAN do it themselves to save money, that they should. If you can learn it well, and if you are willing to devote the time to getting it right, then you may be one of the people who can successfully build your own site. Consider first though, whether or not you can earn more in that time than what it would cost you - If it takes you 300 hours to do what a professional can do in 10 hours, it really may be a lot more cost effective to hire the job out.
If on the other hand, you are in a position that you have no option but to build your own, please talk to us anyway. We can perhaps point you to free resources that can ease the bumps and pains along the way. We are always happy to offer information to people who are determined to help themselves.
If you are someone who tried, and then found you did not have the time, you are well ahead of most people. You have an idea of what you'd like, and of what you need. You also have a better ability to recognize a skilled designer when you find one. About half of our business startup clients fall into this category.
Interestingly enough, when their site is finished, it looks nothing like what they had tried to build for themselves. Often this is because they were limited to using more simplistic methods of building the site, or had limited graphics, a single template to work from, or other built in limitations.
If you stop in the middle of building your own site, and hire someone else to do it instead, that does not mean you are less intelligent or less capable than those who CAN do it themselves. It just means your talents lie in other areas, and that you have the wisdom to magnify them in the most efficient manner.
We invite you to talk to us about your site. It won't cost you a thing, and we'll help you find the best solution for you, whether we profit from it or not.