Read This Before Using a Do It Yourself (DIY) Website Builder
Posted 6/23/2020 by Ryan Belfore
Tips for making your website a success
Let me start by saying, there are good DIY platforms out there. Wix and Squarespace are big names in the industry offering a wealth of templates and tools to get you started. With relatively intuitive interfaces and easy-to-use drag and drop features, platforms such as these have lowered the entry point for non-professionals to build their own websites.
If you have the time, inclination and wherewithal to tackle your own website project with both arms, it can be a meaningful process. Plus, the gratification that comes with creating something of your own is rewarding in and of itself.
There are challenges, however.
If you're like me, you like to dive in head first and discover the challenges along the way because you like the problem-solving nature of learning and adapting as you go. However, after working in this industry for almost 2 decades, I have met more than my share of clients who have tried this process themselves and ultimately thrown in the towel, only to call us and have us pick up the scraps. I'll walk through some of the common pitfalls to help you assess and navigate these challenges in hopes you don't meet the same demise as some of the less fortunate victims.
If you've ever browsed the sites of Wix or Squarespace, you've probably been wowed by the beautiful websites on display. The featured sites are gorgeous, immersive, inspiring, interactive, and on and on. I'll let you in on a little secret, they weren't created effortlessly. While the sample sites indicate you can achieve this kind of quality simply by signing up and getting started, the truth is a lot of time and energy went into creating them. Let's break it down.
This is why their sites look so good, and why you will be challenged to do the same.
1. They have gorgeous imagery. Great imagery is one of the most powerful tools for creating beautiful websites. The featured websites were built by some very creative minds and knowledgeable craftsmen who went out and captured custom, professional photos of models and products to showcase their offerings.
How to hack it: stock imagery. While not all stock image libraries are created equal, you can find the right images if you're willing to take the time to locate them. Shutterstock is a great resource. They have millions of images available. Unsplash is another option if you're looking for anti-stock images. The images are all free, but there is a limited selection.
2. They have exceptional branding. Considerable time and money was spent creating professional logos and developing high-end branding that includes color palettes, styles, and fonts that all pair well together.
How to hack it: crowd-sourced logos and free Google fonts. Sites like 99designs enable you to pay for multiple logo concepts. They are cheap and a great way to fast-track the process. Choosing the right fonts involves some tinkering, but if you check out Google Fonts, you can find many free options that work very well for the web. Also, check out featured pairings to see what fonts work well together.
3. They have great messaging. This might be the most important and underappreciated part of a website. Everything starts with content. While great imagery makes users stop and notice you, content is what keeps them on the page. If the content is not targeted to the reader, you will lose them. Having a sitemap, and a thoughtful content structure is essential if you want your users to call you. In a succinct and elegant way, you need to tell your users who you are, what you do, and why they should choose you. Then, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to contact you.
How to hack it: write it yourself. This one isn't so easy. It's one thing to be able to write. We've all become better writers by sending countless emails and communications daily. But writing for a website requires a certain finesse. Put on your marketing hat and ask yourself what is the essence of your company and how can you convey it in a concise and pithy way. Think about how a user would navigate your website - what information are they seeking, what do they need to get from the website to make the decision to move forward.
4. They have modern layouts. The templates provided with these platforms will certainly give you a leg up in laying out your content and imagery, however it is a trial and error process to discover which layouts work best with what content. For example, it’s puzzling when you have a title, two paragraphs of content, an image and a video you want to work in conjunction with each other. How do you arrange the elements in a way that’s modern and interesting, yet balanced? Exercises like this can be confounding and probably will consume the majority of your design time.
How to hack it: Learn from your favorite sites. We do this all the time. Inspiration is everywhere. Great websites can be found easily by exploring top brands, whether in your industry or otherwise. Find examples of sites you like and ask yourself why they look so good. Look at how they arrange information and discover their solutions to the layout problem you’re trying to solve.
There are several factors to consider when building a website yourself. I've tried to uncover the most common pain points, but there will be more challenges during the process which are not covered in this post, such as designing for the user (UI/UX design), attracting and nurturing new leads, converting visitors into customers, strategizing a marketing plan, and so on.
Tackling a website yourself is not for the faint of heart and not advised unless you are truly passionate about the idea and the process. In another post, I’ll write about weighing other options for hiring a web designer, but to cut to the chase, If you can find an experienced and reasonably priced agency, this option will almost always be your best bet. The right agency will have the expertise and depth of knowledge to understand your industry and create a tailored solution that is right for your business. Plus, they can offer the necessary security and support to scale the website as your company grows.
After reading all of this, if you are resolute on doing it yourself, watch a few tutorials and learn everything you can about the platform on which you’ll be building your site. There are workarounds for everything in life and the same goes with websites. Research your competition, study the sites you love - what makes them great - talk to your friends, find your inspiration. Get out there and make it happen!