So you’ve finally made the decision – you need a new website. If that’s the case, you’re probably trying to figure out if you should hire a professional or try to go it alone. If you’re a small business or a tech savvy marketer, you’ve considered doing it yourself or maybe even decided to take the DIY website route. For some, this can be a great decision. For others – aka most – this can be a disaster.
The DIY Website Designer
Lately I’ve received a lot of emails and calls from people who ventured down the DIY website path only to find themselves going astray. They realized – once in the midst of the project – that the whole web design process is a bit more challenging than they originally realized. Many people believe a website is simply comprised of a logo, basic color scheme, and text. Heck that’s easy. So easy anyone can do it. Well, not so much. When website design is done correctly – I stress correctly – it involves a whole lot more than just text, colors, and a logo.
Our website development process includes a 90+ point project plan that is broken out into project kick-off, collection of client deliverables, research and planning, custom theme design, website build, and final optimization for search. This project plan is tracked electronically in a project management software package that manages tasks, owners, and due dates. I use software for this because it is a process. When done properly, the process takes a 6-8 weeks to complete all the tasks and make sure they are all performed properly. Yes folks, that means building a good website requires a lot more than whipping up your logo, throwing in some text, and picking some colors.
I’m not implying the non-web designers can’t create their own website. I’m stating the average DIY website creator has a full-time job other than website design and they do not have the time nor stamina to execute it properly.
But What About DIY Services Like Website Tonight?
How can that be? Companies like Intuit or GoDaddy offer packages like Website Tonight and promise to have your website up and running within minutes. Intuit’s landing page for this shows a case study for a website receiving a whopping 20 visitors a day. Yes I said 20 visitors. Isn’t that just fabulous?
So what’s the problem? Well first of all, real websites typically have more than five pages. And they don’t all look alike and they typically receive more than 20 visitors today. Everyone I’ve ever known who has used one of these services has a website that no one visits. Worse yet, if someone does manage to find it, the visitor bounces (quickly leaves) and the website generates zero leads, sales, or revenue. Why is this the case? Because these sites are built by people whose expertise is outside that of website design and because they DIY website builder does not know what SEO (search engine optimization) is or how to utilize it properly. The other reasons is people who go this route are in a hurry and they whip up the fastest website they can only to regret it months or years later.
The funniest part of the whole Website Tonight process is that GoDaddy has tried to sell me this service on multiple occasions. I’ve had to call the company before and virtually every time someone tries to pitch me this service. I have to cut them off in midsentence to explain I do this for a living, I’m a web designer by profession, and I don’t need a cookie cutter website that no one visits. Okay I don’t say the end part, but I think it in my head. It isn’t the customer service rep’s fault that they have to pitch this service to everyone they talk to, so I try to be polite.
Why Hire a Professional Web Designer?
There are plenty of reasons. A professional website designer will guide you through the process. He will explain why dancing gifs are inappropriate, why thunder sounds on the home page distract from the visitor experience, why Google can’t digest a flash website, and why SEO is critical to driving traffic. The professional web designer will teach you about design best practices and make sure these elements are used within the project.
And if your design firm is good, at some point within the project you’ll hate them because they will tell you your blog post is too “salesy”, your content doesn’t make sense to the average visitor, or that your images are not high resolution enough to use. And then at the end of the project you’ll love them, because you will have a website that is unique, easy to use, and easy to find.
But Isn’t WordPress for DIY Websites?
WordPress is hugely popular and it is a great CMS tool. I love it, because it can create beautiful websites that are loved by Google and Bing. What I hate about WordPress is it gives people a false sense of security. It makes you think you don’t need a professional. And in some cases you don’t. Some people just naturally think marketing, design, and psychology. Some people can actually create a great website all on their own. The problem is that these people are rare. They are few and far between.
What WordPress is exceptional at is empowering companies to maintain their own website. My suggestion to businesses who want to use WordPress is to hire a professional design firm to create a custom theme and help you get the website up and running. Then maintain it yourself in WordPress. Update your own content, add your own blog posts, and moderate your own comments. Just leave the plugins and design changes to the professional, because you’ll end up breaking the theme.
There are many design firms that only give clients limited access to WordPress. They do this to prevent clients from breaking their websites and themes and to limit support calls. I do not do this, but part of me wishes I did because people make changes and break stuff and never see the problems. They don’t notice that content boxes no longer align or links are broken because they are not professionals.
DIY Websites the Right Way
I applaud people who want to create their own websites. Heck I did it myself over a decade ago and it is how I got started in internet marketing. The problem is my website looked like I created it myself and it took years for me to “get it”. Most people and/or businesses don’t have years to wait for success. They need help and traffic and leads or sales now.
My suggestion to those who want to create a DIY website is to hire a professional to get your started with the design, SEO, and build out. Once you have a solid foundation and a strong website architecture in place, manage it yourself and be autonomous.
If you really have a tight budget and you have no choice but to launch into DIY project mode, pick a solid premium WordPress theme from a reputable WordPress developer.
My very first theme came from StudioPress and I believe in their products and their support. So much so, we only create themes based on their Genesis framework. You can also visit our premium theme store and pick one of our premium WordPress themes.
If you like one of our themes or a StudioPress theme, we’re happy to help install and/or customize it for you. You give us your wish list and we’ll promptly turn around a quote for customizing a Genesis theme.
Jessica Rosengard says
FANTASTIC article. Thanks for touching on this subject with such detail! I frequently have to address this issue as many people today want to either create their own websites or just use WordPress. I often times have to explain that despite the “up and running in minutes” promise, that’s almost NEVER the case.
You are SO right that a good website is more than just a few pages of text. Things needs to be optimized (text, images, links, etc). Many people think “if you build it, they will come” and this couldn’t be any further from the truth.
Again, great post!
Rebecca Gill says
Jessica one of my first blog posts at WSM was “if you build it, they will come”, so I love that you said that in your comment. Joe, one of my co-workers, years ago said that he really thought that was the case at one time. Joe quickly learned otherwise. I am surprised at how many people still believe that is still possible.
Yasmin Bendror says
Rebecca, I am LOVING your blogs! I love your writing style, and each blog has such great, clear, useful information. And I totally agree with you. We are on the same page! Clients really don’t understand what it takes to build a good effective website, although there are different levels for different clients, and of course, budget plays a big part. But even building a “simple” 5-7 page website takes planning, thought, research on keywords, SEO, competitors, content creation, color consideration, social media functionality, collecting visitor information ,and then expansion possibilities for down-the-road… Not to mention Google Analytics insights to see what’s working and what’s not, once its gone live.
Thanks so much for these wonderful blogs and knowledge sharing!
Rebecca Gill says
Yasmin thanks so much for the kind words. I write like I think and talk and honestly I encourage my clients to blog in the same manner.
Google Analytics – how did we ever live without it? It is an SEOs best friend. =)
So true. Makes the job of the dev/designer they hire to fix everything that much harder. People will do anything to save a buck.
Rebecca Gill says
Jason the calls I’ve had over the last ten days validate your statement more than you could possibly know. Some are just darn funny!
Oh, believe me, I know. Sometimes I can’t even believe the site is actually running with the amount of code they have stuffed into their functions.php and CSS files.
The best part is when folks have 7 plugins installed and activated that do EXACTLY the same thing.
Rebecca Gill says
I refer to that as having a “plugin fetish” and I tell clients I will deprogram them and remove their reliance on unnecessary add ons. One SEO client I had loaded 50 plugins for a tiny website. I could only get them to reduce down to about 35, but least we successfully whacked 15.
Keith Davis says
Came over from the Studiopress blog to check out your site – love it, absolutely love it.
Red, white and gray.
Now why didn’t I think of that colour combination.
Agree with you about DIY websites – they look like DIY websites.
If you want credibility, go for a theme that has been put together by a real designer.
Rebecca Gill says
Thanks Keith. Web Savvy Marketing is has a really good graphic artist on staff and she does amazing designs for us. My personality is red, but she brought it all together.
Keith Davis says
Those graphic artist types are worth listening to.
I found you on the Studio Press page of recommended designers and have spent some time on your wonderful site reviewing your web design package, etc.
Thank you so much for this clear article! Very timely for me. I am a newbie who because of budget has just begun building my site— the foundation of a new business—on my own, using a free word press theme. (LOL.) I am pretty hardy and don’t give up easily, but I actually broke down in tears several times, realizing how in-above-my-head I was. I could see that for all my efforts, the results were not going to be favorable to my business—to say the least.
I thank you for confirming my realizations. At the moment, I do not know what I will do next, given my current financial resource; nonetheless, I am extremely grateful for the clarity you offer.
PS. I love the images on the home page with the children…
Rebecca Gill says
AT I feel the same way every time my daughter brings home a Girl Scout patch to sew on her sash. We all have talents and we all have our weaknesses. The key is to focus on what you are good at and try and find affordable resources for what you’re not good at.
For me this is all common sense and natural, but I’ve been doing it for almost a decade. Don’t beat yourself up about not being an SEO or web design guru. I’m quite sure you are good at a lot of other things.
Doug Francis says
Okay, I am at the other end of the blog spectrum with an older StudioPress theme and a couple hundred posts… good posts, decent traffic, links, video, rankings, blah, blah, blah. But I need some help upgrading to a new theme because I don’t want to break the darn thing so it doesn’t work.
Planning and structure are essential!
I have been obsessed with load speed since Alexa has now given up giving me a number… I guess I am now slower than 80%. To do it right I think I need to call in the pros… I’ll send an e-mail.
Rebecca Gill says
Your upgrade from an old StudioPress theme to the new Genesis framework will be easier than you think. That being said, website structure, SEO, and flow are a different animal. Don’t forget if you you change your site structure, you’ll need to make sure redirect your pages and posts. WordPress’ Redirection plugin is a great plugin.
As always, if you need help – we’re here to help. Good luck!
I couldn’t agree more with your article, last 10 years of designing and developing custom websites for my client, I have seen many small business owners tried to do DIY websites and failed and then come to me for doing it professional, by then you’ve lots many potential business though.
It is a very competitive market on the web, is your website missing that edge ?