Do it yourself website design.

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Occasionally I get an inquiry from a prospective client curious about do-it-yourself website design. Often hosting companies will offer a variety of templates and some tools to help their customers design a website for themselves, bypassing the need for a web designer and the costs associated with hiring a designer.

One might think it’s counter-intuitive for someone who offers web development to offer advice to a prospect on ways they can use these tools, but I feel that if a client has severe budget constraints, I really have nothing to lose by giving them a little friendly advice on how to avoid some of the common pitfalls of do-it-yourself website design. Call me crazy, but I think that kind of attitude may just win me a contract for future work, marketing consulting (to make sure that what they’re providing is appropriate), or a referral.

Do-it-yourself website providers can be very tempting because they usually offer either no or minimal up-front costs, and a small monthly fee to keep your website live. However, there are some things you’ll want to watch out for.

Some advice I would offer on any website developed in that manner would be:

Make sure you own the domain name.
Most, if not all of these providers will allow you to register your domain name through their system. Not all of them allow you to keep your domain name if you decide to move your site to another provider or choose to have a custom site done and hosted elsewhere. This is their way of keeping you as a customer, because you’ve built business and traffic to that domain, and will be reluctant to change it mid-stream. Check to see that if you register your domain through them, that you actually OWN the domain, or if you transfer your previously registered domain, that you don’t give up rights to it.

Make sure you own your content.
If you decide to move your site to another host, you’ll usually find that you cannot keep the design. It belongs to the company you have been using—you’ve essentially been renting a website, and you do not own the design or the content you’ve created. If you decide, for whatever reason, that you want to move your site or have a custom site designed and hosted on another provider, you need to make sure that you have a back up of your content, or you’ll be starting from scratch. Take the time to create a document that lists the pages and the written content. Even if you want to update or improve the content, it’s always nice to have your old content to refer to.

Carefully investigate the SEO friendliness of your platform.
Many free or low-cost website platforms either don’t get indexed at all by search engines, or have severely limited SEO benefits. If you are counting on your website to drive traffic to your business or level the playing field with your competition, you are better off taking a deep breath and paying for custom development.

Compare the costs.

o   Add up the costs to keep your site online. I know it’s compelling to have a small monthly fee rather than a larger up-front development cost, but take the time to add up the monthly fees, as well as any yearly fees. You may find that in a couple of year’s time, you will have spent enough to have your own custom website that you own full rights to.

o   Do they charge by the size of the site or number of pages?

o   Is the rate guaranteed, is it an introductory rate, subject to change?

Can you get help?
Some companies may offer great customer service, some may not. See if you can find customer reviews. Do a Google search to see what comments you can find from real customers using the system you’re considering.

Make sure your content markets you to your audience.
It might seem like an easy task to tell your audience about your company, but when you’re marketing, you have to think about them, not you. They don’t care about your company as much as they care what you can do for THEM, and what problem or pain you can solve. Writing content for web is a science. It entails creating compelling copy in a way that humans can relate to, but is also Search Engine Friendly.

All in all, do-it-yourself website design can be a blessing for a company with severe budget constraints that wants and needs to have an online presence. If the task seems daunting, don’t despair! I do offer consulting to help your plan your website and your content. I also offer payment plans and ways get you online with a custom website for a minimal cost, with strategies to improve content and functionality as your business grows.

As an outsourced marketing agency, one of the biggest advantages I offer to my clients is the consistency of messaging and brand image across all of their materials. If you’re considering getting online for the first time, or improving an existing website, please shoot me an email for a no obligation quote!

Here’s to your success!