Do I Need a Web Designer? Understanding the Realities of DIY Website Building

In a time when information is immediately available at our fingertips, the idea of building a website independently may seem enticing. The prospect of saving money and having complete control over your website can feel empowering, but it’s important to uncover and understand the obstacles and realities of the DIY approach before you start.

the illusion of simplicity.

If you’re someone who’s been researching what it takes to build a website for your startup, business, or organization, you’ll find yourself presented with an overwhelming number of options to get the job done. But remember, just because you can buy sushi at the gas station doesn’t make it a good idea.

tip. A website built incorrectly could end up hurting your business and drive people away rather than attracting and retaining new visitors or customers.

Many people start their project under the impression that building a website is a straightforward process because of the many different builders and template options available today.

Some might think they can easily modify a WordPress theme picked off of the shelf, or possibly use the website builder that comes with their domain name and hosting account.

There are also many popular drag and drop website builders to take into consideration like Wix, Squarespace, Webflow, or Astro; all marketed to consumers hoping to achieve a quick and easy website under the guise of simplicity.

After all, that’s how it’s presented in their marketing.

If other people are involved in your project and you’re going to start with a template, be sure to consider that they might want the messaging and content structure to differ from the demo version. Often times, in my experience, the end structure varies significantly from the template purchased.

tip. If planning to work with a template, make sure that the text and imagery is comparatively equal in size to how the demo version of the theme is designed. Templates often lose their impact and niceties when the length of copy varies, or if images aren’t cropped properly.

While there are some who can navigate their way through the process of cobbling together a half-decent looking website that’s “good enough,” it often fails at one or more of the topics and technical considerations we’ll discuss in this article.

The illusion of simplicity quickly fades when you’re faced with the complexities of designing, coding, and creating an engaging user experience which has been optimized for conversions and success.

design, imagery, and template pitfalls.

Web design is an art that extends beyond aesthetic appeal. An effective design considers user engagement, navigation, and cohesive branding.

Without a professional touch by someone who can effectively communicate through design, DIY websites often fall victim to generic templates populated with subpar images and graphics, lacking the personalized touch needed to stand out in a competitive market.

It’s important to realize that a template is only a starting point. When you’ve completed your build, your website will look considerably different from the template you initially purchased. Templates are useful for ideas, but you’re going to be swapping out all of the elements to so it conveys your personal brand identity.

When considering what kind of imagery to use, it’s important to understand the technical aspects of the type of image you’re placing; things like file size, formats, and compression. Poor imagery is one of the biggest turn-offs for someone first landing on your website.

tip. If you’re searching for imagery to use on your website, don’t download photos from random web pages with the thought that they’re okay to use freely. If the image requires a license, don’t be surprised if an invoice with a letter from an attorney lands in your email inbox. It happens, trust me.

ps. the same goes for fonts.

Aside from the technical aspects of photos, images, and icons, be sure to understand where to source and choose proper imagery. Don’t just search Google, look at the image results, then start downloading the photos you like the most.

Not all images on the internet can be use freely, you’ll either have to purchase a license or source them from providers who offer royalty free licensing.

tip. Look to sites like pexels, unsplash, and pixabay as professional quality, royalty free image sources.

Royalty free stock websites might yield a number of image options, but keep in mind that if you’re working with a web designer, they likely have subscriptions to paid stock libraries with a larger selection that could be leveraged for your project.

Going further, if you’re a solid photographer who takes great photos and can create compelling videos, leverage that on your website to grow your brand. Using personalized photos and videos does wonders for SEO and visitor engagement.

the coding conundrum.

Coding is the backbone of your website, and mastering it requires time and dedication. DIY enthusiasts might find themselves entangled in a web of code-related issues, leading to functionality errors and a less-than-optimal user experience.

A common scenario where you might encounter coding problems is during the customization phase, especially if you’re handling complex data relationships.

tip. Be sure there’s active online communities tailored to the website builder you’re using and look to these groups for advice and assistance. You can also leverage tutorials, whether it be a blog post or video about the specific task you’re trying to accomplish.

While website templates offer a convenient starting point, you’ll often find yourself wrestling with code while trying to tweak the website to their preferences. This can lead to issues with the layout, styling, and functionality as you navigate your way through editing cascading style sheets (CSS,) HTML, JavaScript, or PHP files.

Another potential challenge could be trying to integrate third-party tools or plugins. As you attempt to enhance your website’s functionality you might encounter compatibility issues or conflicts in the underlying code.

This becomes evident when handling complex content management systems or e-commerce platforms, where customization often requires a deeper understanding of coding principles.

tip. Always back up your work before starting to make significant coding changes!. Then, if anything goes wrong you can roll back to the previous version and avoid any potential loss of data. It’s also best to do these types changes on a staging server within the same hosting environment as the production website so you don’t face any surprises.

Issues involving responsive design can often pose coding challenges. Making sure a website looks and functions seamlessly across various devices demands a grasp of responsive coding techniques. The last thing a user wants to do is have to pinch and zoom in order to read content on a mobile or tablet device.

Novice DIY web builders might also find themselves troubleshooting issues related to media queries, viewport settings, or fluid grid systems, impacting the overall user experience on mobile devices.

time, or the lack thereof.

I’m going to keep this section brief. We all value our time.

Building a website is a considerable investment of time and patience. You’ll have to manage the intricacies of the design process while also creating engaging content that captivates the user’s attention.

Around each corner, you’ll find that building and troubleshooting the technical aspects of a website will distract your attention from performing your core business activities.

If I wanted to remodel my entire kitchen in my primary home, it’s not a project that I’d want to take on by myself…and if I did, I would need help.

Lots of help.

The project needs to get done in a reasonable amount of time and completed correctly. If I chose to do it on my own, it would be finished way behind schedule, and then I’d sit and obsess over every last detail that I knew was imperfect.

Because that’s how I am.

seo snags.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a nuanced field that significantly impacts a website’s visibility. Without understanding, DIY builders may struggle to optimize their sites effectively, resulting in lower search engine rankings.

Creating content with well-researched and strategically placed keywords is fundamental to SEO success. Someone without much SEO knowledge may struggle to identify relevant keywords for their niche, or fail to integrate them seamlessly. This can lead to reduced visibility for target search queries.

Common SEO problems could also include Meta Tag missteps or inadequate content structure. Neglecting to optimize images and ignoring mobile friendliness will also knock your website down in search engine ranking.

Also remember that if you’re targeting local audiences, it’s extremely important to optimize your site for local searches.

the hidden costs.

While the appeal of cost savings is a primary motivator for building a DIY website, hidden costs can accumulate. Investing in premium templates, plugins, and fixing errors can outweigh the initial budgetary advantage.

Free templates have limitations in terms of customization and features. If you’re building a website on your own, investing in a premium template to achieve the desired aesthetics and functionalities may seem compelling, which in turn adds unexpected costs.

Many platforms offer a range of plugins, but specific advanced features may only be accessible through premium or third-party plugins. A web designer would be able to guide you through the process of purchasing premium plugins and assess if they’re required for your project, rather than paying additional costs that might not be warranted.

tip. Create and maintain a staging version of your website. This will provide a space for you to make improvements and add functionalities without performing the updates on the production website. If you do create a staging website, it’s EXTREMELY important to make sure it is password protected so it doesn’t get indexed by search engines.

Beyond premium templates and paid plugins, what happens when there are code updates to the core that conflict with other functionalities which renders the website inoperable? You’ll likely be scrambling to find a professional to help who can prioritize your request, all while paying a premium to have the fixes expedited to reduce down time.

the professional advantage.

Hiring a web designer provides a multitude of advantages. A professional brings a keen eye for design, coding proficiency, and a strategic approach to user experience. The result is a website that not only looks impressive but functions seamlessly across multiple devices and screen sizes.

Unlike a template-based DIY approach, hiring a web designer will provide unique customization capabilities. They will tune every aspect of the website to convey a cohesive brand identity and optimized for performance, ensuring a unique and distinctive digital experience.

With a web designer handling the details, you can redirect your attention to core business functions. Whether it’s refining your product or service offerings, optimizing operational processes, or building relationships, you regain the bandwidth to prioritize tasks that impact your business’s bottom line.

in conclusion, make an informed choice.

While weighing out the obstacles and understanding the realities of building a website independently, the decision really comes down to your priorities, comfort level, and eye for design.

By understanding the challenges involved, you can make an informed choice that aligns with your goals and resources. While the DIY path may seem alluring, a professional’s touch is most often the key to unlocking the full potential of your digital presence.

For those seeking a robust, unique, and effective online presence, the expertise of a web designer proves even more invaluable. But, hypothetically speaking, if you’re building a website for your model train club which isn’t focused on leads and conversions, you’ll probably manage just fine.

If you have an extensive amount of time to learn and enjoy obsessing over the finest detail, maybe a DIY website is something that you can pull off. It’s really about knowing what’s within your capabilities and recognizing if it’s out of your wheelhouse.

And, if you are building a website on your own, I hope this article helped you understand some of the potential obstacles and considerations to take when approaching your project.

However, if you’ve come to the decision that the DIY experience might not be the right direction, send me a message, I’d be happy to talk to you about your project.

let's work together.

Request a quote and we'll schedule a free consultation to discuss your project and learn how I can help your business, organization, or startup.

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