You know you need one — a Website to help promote your business. The question is… should you go the DIY route and build it yourself? Or should you hire a pro? That opens up a bevy of other questions like:
- How much is a pro going to cost?
- Do I have the requisite skills and talents to design and build my own?
- Do I have the time to invest in building it myself?
Back when both Kerry Townsend, my co-author in this article, and I started building websites in the early 90s, you had to hire someone to build it for you. There was a certain level of technical expertise needed to create a functioning website.
Not any more. These days, you can build a website easily — or so it seems — using platforms like WordPress.com, weebly.com, and wix.com. Most let you start for free, then pay for upgrades like your own domain name and customizations.
But is DIY the best way to go?
What could possibly go wrong if you attempt to build your own website?
Kerry and I came up with several things that could go wrong with your DIY/Homemade Website…
- It Doesn’t Work Right. When you look at it, boxes are in the wrong place, some are on top of others, and it looks horrible.
- No sales/high bounce rate/it doesn’t do what you thought it would do. This assumes that a few people are visiting but not converting into leads or sales.
- None or not enough Traffic or Visitors. Similar to #2 it’s the “if you build it they will come” mentality — which doesn’t work at all. You’re not getting people visiting your site at all — whether it’s from the search engines or social media. Google is ignoring you. You basically built the site without taking search engine optimization (SEO) into consideration. Some of the DIY platforms, purely because of the way they are constructed, literally obstruct the search engine crawlers from getting to the valuable content on the pages.
- You’re on the 8th page of Google. This is also attributed to bad SEO.
- Failure to test it in all web browsers. It may look OK on Firefox, but what about Chrome and Safari? If you don’t have a Mac, have a friend with a Mac look at your site to see if it looks OK.
- It doesn’t look or work right on mobile devices. Besides testing it on different web browsers, how does it look and work on a smartphone or tablet? Android or Apple? It shouldn’t just look OK on mobile — it needs to be mobile responsive.
- It’s taking you forever to build it. You’ve wasted precious time and may have missed out on selling seasons. Plus, think — How much is your time worth?
- It crashes. It’s up for a while, then it crashes. You have no idea why and tech support at the platform isn’t very helpful.
- It gets hacked. No online technology is completely hack-proof. The challenge is as soon as the good guys build a bigger and stronger wall to keep the bad guys out, the hackers build a bigger cannon. What security measures does the platform have?
- It’s not secure. When you look at your website in a browser, you see “Not Secure” in the address bar. That’s an immediate turn-off for a visitor. You’re missing the SSL certificate at the hosting level. If you don’t have that, you subject your site to malware and visitors can unknowingly download a virus or malware when clicking on something — very innocently.
- Failure to backup the website regularly. If it does get hacked or it crashes, when was the last backup done? If it’s more than a week ago and you’ve added content since then, guess what? Your recent content is gone.
- It doesn’t have a blog. Having fresh, relevant content to keep Google happy is a requisite for good SEO.
- Lack of foresight to determine your website’s ultimate purpose. What do you want it to do? Generate quality leads? Sell products? Set SMART goals first.
- It takes forever to load. This could be because of a lot of code or huge graphics. This will affect your SEO and bounce rate.
- No social proof. No links to your social media networks, no testimonials, and no easy way for visitors to share your content with their friends.
- Wrong color scheme to attract your particular target market. This stems from wanting to create your website in your favorite colors rather than what is pleasant, appealing, and attractive to your target’s eyes. There’s a psychology of color. I remember looking at this one company’s blog and it had this very bright and overbearing lime green background color that literally hurt my eyes. That color matched their logo. Which is fine for the logo, but NOT for the website background.
- You find it’s way more complicated than you thought it would be. You’re in way over your head.
- It starts to cost more money than it’s generating. If you’re on one of those “free-to-a-point” platforms, as you add features, your “rental” costs go up. At that point, it’s time to look into a self-hosted WordPress website.
- You outgrow the “free” site in 6, 12 or 18 months and it’s hard to transfer content from a non-WordPress site to a hosted WordPress site.
So, what do you do?
This reminds me of the HGTV show “Holmes on Homes”. Professional contractor Mike Holmes gets called by desperate, frustrated, and frantic homeowners who attemped to take the DIY route with a major home renovation. Or, they hired a not-so-above-board contractor who left them high and dry with an unfinished project. As a result, they have a mess, where a nice home renovation should be.
The exact same thing can happen with a website.
Your business’s website is the cornerstone of your company’s online reputation. A bad or cheap-looking website is as bad as having a sloppy lobby. It will be a turn-off to potential customers!
You may also have hired a bad web designer. Yes, they are out there. I also recommend not outsourcing outside of the U.S. You have no recourse if something goes wrong.
Get several quotes. Before you talk to a web designer, besides your goals, have an outline of what pages you need, and what you want to accomplish. Know your target market. Be clear with them. Ask to see referrals, a portfolio, etc. Talk to past clients. Get a contract.
What if you’re on a shoestring budget?
If you need to start with a free website, we recommend starting at WordPress.com. We don’t recommend going totally free as you have their domain name and their ads on your site. Definitely does not look professional. It only costs $96/year to have your own domain name and remove ads (and you get a few more features). However, you don’t get cool plugins like Yoast SEO (which is free on the hosted WordPress). For that, you need to spend a bit more and at that point, it will be more cost-effective to get your own, self-hosted WordPress website.
Once you’re more established or outgrow it, you can easily export your content to a hosted WordPress site with more customizations and functions. You can’t export your content from the other DIY site builders, like Wix or Godaddy, to WordPress. It would have to totally be rebuilt.
What about eCommerce sites?
OK, so sometimes it’s better to use sites like Etsy or Shopify than to build a shopping cart from scratch. Read EVERYTHING. Compare costs and fees. What recourse do you have if the site is hacked? Ask questions if it isn’t clear.
So, as you can see, building a website is way more complex than just putting a brochure online.
Kerry and I are both available for free consults on your website plans or current website struggles.