You want to start a blog (a profitable one) or you have a small business and need a website for your online presence - so what do you do?
Hire a professional to make it for you, or have a go at doing it yourself?
While it might seem weird for us to advocate for doing it yourself, when we are in the business of getting people to pay us to make a website for you, we are not actually here to talk you out of it.
While there are plenty of good reasons to hire a professional for your website - quality and design that you may not have the experience to achieve to a professional standard yourself, the time and learning curve you would spend working it out yourself that you might rather spend on other areas of your business, someone to support & troubleshoot with instead of being alone…
Sometimes you might still want to do it yourself.
Maybe it’s the cost - we’ve been there. You’re just starting out and there are so many things to pay for - if you can minimise the cost anywhere you’d want to do it. Or maybe you are just a control freak - and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I am one myself! I’m glad I know how to do a lot myself, because I actually like to learn it, and I like being involved in getting the details just as I want them, and I don’t want to outsource if I don’t have to.
But another lesson I've learned - just because I can do something doesn't mean I should. You really have to weigh up what is the best use of your time and skills. And sanity.
Ideal scenario: you get a domain name & hosting, set up is a breeze, you find a beautiful theme or template that does everything you want it to, you plug in your photos and your content & you’re away.
But in reality, there can be a lot more to it than that, especially if you haven’t done it before - there will always be some obstacle, whether it’s just gaps in your own skills and knowledge, or more technical problems.
It is not insurmountable of course. Plenty of people do DIY their blogs and business website every day.
So here is a guide to help you work out whether making your own website is right for you.
Is DIY for you?
- You’re willing to invest the time.
It will take you time to learn the skills you need as well as time to actually put the site together. Will the benefits of this outweigh the time lost on other business things? (Benefits might be: money saved, new skills learned that you can continue to use - design, website maintenance, the ability to know every aspect of your business inside out down to the way your website works.) Even if you just want to be able to do the site yourself, for your own gratification, that may be reason enough.
- You can afford the time.
Remember that even if you save money not paying someone else to do the site for you, you are still spending time. And if that time takes you away from income generating areas of your business, then you’ve got to take into account how much money you’re not making as well as how much you might be not spending.
- You’re pretty technology literate already.
Even if websites are completely new to you, if you’re a confident tech user & generally find it intuitive and easy to pick up, then you should handle the website learning curve.
- You like being in control.
Maybe you suspect you would drive your designer nuts, micromanaging them on every single thing. Maybe you just like having your fingers in a lot of pies. Or you just like knowing how everything works and don’t like outsourcing. All valid. Just be sure to count the time investment factors mentioned above, and if you really will enjoy it.
- You like problem solving.
Sometimes I say, I’m not in the website business, I’m in the problem business. Because there always seems to be problems. And I think this is a big one that puts people off - whether it’s a theme not responding how you imagined, plugin conflicts, your website going down, problems are likely to crop up. It seems like tech, computers and websites are just one problem after another sometimes.
Or maybe it's even just sorting through all the information and options available, and actually being able to decide which is the right choice and how it all works together.
Normally when problems arise, it’s actually that you lack a full understanding of how things work - computers are very good at doing exactly what you tell them to do, not necessarily what you wanted them to do, if you haven’t given them quite the right instructions.
This lack of understanding happens at just about any level, even with lots of experience. But when you’re new, the stuff you don’t know can become a really big obstacle. At least with experience, it might not always prevent problems, you start to know where to look for the cause of problems. And you can avoid a lot of the more common ones to start with.
If tech problems make you cry, or if you’re worried that you might end up throwing your computer through a window, reconsider making your own website. But if you don’t mind challenges, are good at researching and following instructions, and are pretty good at problem solving, you’re halfway there already.
And on the upside, once you do overcome these problems, you have got a new skillset you can use in your business in the future. It just depends on whether learning this is worth it to you.
- You’ve got some design flair.
You don’t have to be an artist or designer to make a website, but it helps if you are not completely aesthetically challenged. There are a lot of tools and templates to help you out these days but you’ve till got to know it when you see it, and pick things that actually work together & suit your business. So if you already know you’re not good at making things look good, think twice. Or at least hire someone else for graphics.
- You’ve done a lot of research.
Looked at other websites and analysed what works and what doesn’t. And it's more than just appearance. Even a beautiful website won’t do it’s job if it isn’t intuitive and functional.
‘Don’t make me think’ is the key imperative of web design. People subconsciously know websites, and will decide in mere seconds whether they are going to stay or leave.
There are conventions and expectations and if you don’t fulfil those, you will lose people, no matter how good your business or content. If you don’t have buttons where people expect them to be, if you’ve strayed too far out of what people recognise, if you’ve been too unique with your design, layout or navigation without knowing how to make it intuitive, then you’ve made your site hard work for visitors and very few people are going to stay and do that hard work. You’re almost better not having a website at all, if you're just putting people off.
Still with me? Then maybe you do have the guts and gumption for this! So how do you go about creating a website that doesn’t suck?
In PART TWO I go through a few of the basic options for actually getting your site up and going.