DIY Website Design: Expectations vs. Reality

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If you are considering creating your own website to save money, you’ll want to consider the various factors that can delay the launch of a new website and generate extra expenses. You’re time as a business owner is invaluable. Don’t take it for granted. Consider the truths behind DIY web design as you make your decision.

Expectation: It’s not going to take that much time.

You’ve seen the ads where people boast that they can create a website in under an hour. Maybe you’ve even heard from a trusted friend in the industry that websites can be created in a day or week. If your site is simple, you have a clear vision for what you want, you have the technical savviness to navigate the various hosting platforms and Content Management Systems, you don’t experience any setbacks and you have the free-time from your other responsibilities, then yes, you can create your own website relatively quickly.

Reality: Even templated web design is tedious.

From finding the right domain name, hosting provider, content management system, template, colors and content, even the simplest of websites requires a lot of decision making and creates a lot of opportunities for roadblocks. If you want to create any custom design choices or features, you may be limited by the template you choose. Be prepared to face limitations and setbacks along the way if you choose to design your own website. You will want to factor this in to your proposed timeline for completion.

Expectation: If I do it myself, it’s free.

Web designers can range between $40 and $100+ per hour. Agencies may charge even more for the development, design and content creation that goes into creating a website. Finding the right agency of freelance web designer that you can trust to work closely with you to consider your needs and put together a functional and engaging website in a timely manner can be difficult if you don’t have a large network. The ability to take control of your online marketing, save money and put your stamp on your website is great for business owners, but it’s not always realistic.

Reality: Upcharges, upcharges, upcharges.

Hosting for your website will be an expense. Securing your website from online threats will be another charge. Backing up your content and data will be a wise purchase. Depending on your hosting, you have to purchase the rights to use a content management system and/or template to more easily create your website without the need for proper coding. Setting up your email to match your new domain will likely be an extra charge. Standard templates offer very little customization, so purchasing a premium version will increase the cost for the overall project. Plugins that can enable you to perform certain customizations to your website without the use of a web designer often have a premium version that is more ideal for a business website. An often overlooked expense is the time spent coordinating and executing the design of a new website. Don’t forget to consider what your time is worth in relation to the costs of working with a professional developer for your new website build.

Expectation: I can make it look exactly how I want it to look.

How hard can web design really be? Sites like Wix, and WordPress make it look super easy. Templates also eliminate half the battle of web design, so making a few tweaks here and there shouldn’t be that hard.

Reality: Templates, apps and plugins are extremely limited.

Web design is extremely finicky. Making even the smallest changes to code can create the dreaded “white screen!” Avoiding proper coding requires the use of CRMs and plugins that offer front-end editing of websites through pre-built, drag-and-drop functionality. This allows users to add most necessary features (images, text boxes, sliders, lists, etc.) by simply dragging them into place.

The caveat is that not all front-end editors are the same and not all front-end editors are compatible with all templates. Further, many templates and plugins have a very limited free version available as well as a paid version. Free versions can be so basic that users cannot make simple changes such as color, font, size, etc.

Want to get rid of the “Powered by WordPress” at the bottom of your site? You’ll have to upgrade your theme. Want your scheduling calendar to account for varied time-slots? There may not be a plugin available for your unique needs. Small details can make the hours you spend in DIY website design worth it, or all for not.

Expectation: Web Design only impacts site appearance.

It’s called web design, which means the visual changes that I’m making will only impact how my site looks. What I do on the backend of my site, can’t be seen by users, so therefore it doesn’t affect my site. Right?

Reality: Site function, user experience and SEO are all affected by web design

Each change you make to your site; every plugin that you add; each image that you place into your media library; will impact the way that your site performs. Making visual changes to your site, of any kind, has the chance to slow down your site speed, create site errors, confuse users and affect the way that Google crawls your site to optimize it to rank well on its search engine.

Each time you add a pretty image or captivating video to your site, it has the potential of slowing down your site speed (hurting your SEO and testing a user’s patience), if you don’t limit the file size. Loading your backend with plugins can slow down site speed. Changing text can impact your site’s SEO if you remove commonly searched keywords. Shifting around menus and other features can impact the way a user flows through your site.

Each change that you make needs to be carefully considered for more than just aesthetic reasons. Make sure you know all of the potential repercussions a single change can have on your site as a whole before editing your website.

How to design your own website effectively comes down to putting in the research to fully understand what you’re undertaking with a DIY website design project. You may go over the list of pros and cons of DIY website design and find a clear solution, or you may unfortunately find the right answer when you’re mid web design and you’re starting to feel overwhelmed. It’s never too late to take advantage of the many resources out there for finding great web design freelancers and agencies to complete your company’s website.

Iggy is an entrepreneur, blogger, and designer who loves experimenting with new web design techniques, collating creative website designs, and writing about the latest design fonts, themes, plugins, inspiration, and more. You can follow him on Twitter

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