PART 1: Prepare
There are two ways to get a website: Do-It-Yourself or Hire a Pro
Let’s start with DIY first. Here’s a quick rundown of the steps:
How to DIY Your Website
- Pick a platform (Squarespace, Wix, Weebly) & choose a theme.
- Write your content to fit within the spaces of the theme.
- Edit and tweak. Edit and tweak. Edit and tweak.
Of course, that makes it sound easy! And if you’re internet savvy, it really might be easy for you. But if you’re wondering whether or not you might be able to pull off a DIY website, here are what I consider the essential skills for a successful DIY website.
You might succeed at DIYing your website if:
1. You have a business plan. Meaning, you know exactly what your business does, how it does it, and more importantly, why. You know who buys from you and what your target market is. Every business (even Target) has a target market, and no one (not even Target) tries to target the whole world.
2. You enjoy making your home feel like you. This might mean that you start on Pinterest, but it means you actually get to the doing part, too. You enjoy trying different throw pillows to see how they affect the mood of the room and you understand that lamps are works of art in-and-of themselves. You enjoy swatches of all sorts, and are not overwhelmed by options. You can pick a palette, choose your items, and complete a room to the point where it’s Instagram worthy.
OR, You enjoy getting dressed in the morning. Just like choosing the decor for a home, dressing yourself takes time and intent, too. You have a style and you are drawn to things in stores that you know will wear well on your body. You know what you like and you know what you don’t – and why.
3. You’re somewhat skilled with one of the Adobe Suite programs, Publisher, Canva, or PowerPoint. Once you’ve decided to DIY your website, it helps to mock up what you want it to look like. By mocking up, I mean creating a really rough sketch of what you want the final to look like. Any of these programs will help you do that, digitally. You can also try this on paper. These programs will also help you create other marketing items, like business cards, flyers, and handouts.
4. You use social media and like figuring out what your cover photo and profile photo will be. You change them and find it fun and easy. At a very basic level, creating a templated website will be somewhat like changing your profile photos, over and over again.
5. You’re not overwhelmed by online services, and you’ve used at least one before. You don’t mind when Facebook changes its layout and you find it easy to navigate software that’s brand new to you. The online web builders all say that they are EASY and that kids can do it. They are right – kids CAN do it, because kids have grown up with technology since day one. It’s different for the rest of us.
If you can answer, “yes!” to all five, you might be able to DIY your website relatively pain free. How did you fare?
There’s no shame in simply not wanting to DIY your website and instead, hiring a pro. My motto is always: you do what you do best, and hire out for everything else. So, that leaves you with Option 2: Hiring a Pro.
How do you hire a web pro?
STEP ONE: Open a new Google Doc. Title it: Possible Web Designers to Hire.
STEP TWO: Become a sleuth. Anytime you visit a website you like, scroll down to the footer. Usually, near the bottom of the website, you’ll find copyright & date info, along with a link to the designer’s website. Check it out! If you like it, add the company name, contact info, and web address to your doc.
STEP THREE: Once you have a few web designers on your list, it’s time to start making notes. Here are a few things you might want to consider about each designer, based on their website:
Personality: Do you like this person? Do you trust them? What’s your gut say? You’re going to be handing over a chunk of change and you want to be certain you’ll get what you sign up for. Testimonials are a good place to check if you are on the fence – as long as you can sniff out a real one from a fake.
Referrals: Do you have a personal recommendation from someone about this designer? If yes, you might feel more comfortable working with a designer who was referred to you. But don’t limit yourself! There are great designers who might fit your needs better than someone you know personally.
Portfolio: Do you like the other sites and logos in the designer’s portfolio? You don’t have to like all of the work, but you should like some of it and feel that it fits with your vision for your business.
Budget: Is there pricing on the site? Many designers shy away from posting their rates online, as most projects are custom. Don’t cross them off just because you don’t have a solid number – add them to the list and move to Step 4.
STEP FOUR: Now it’s time to get in touch! At this point in the process, you may have narrowed it down to a specific designer you really want to work with. But if you haven’t decided 100% on one, get in touch with a few designers via their preferred method and schedule a consult. You should be able to find a getting started, project worksheet, or contact form on their website – or their email.
Pricing note: If the designer you have chosen does NOT list prices on their website, please do not email them and ask for prices right away. These designers did not accidentally forget to include pricing on their website – they want to know more about your project before they give you a number. If you think you really might want to work with them, asking without giving information will simply irritate them and set up a bad relationship from the start. Tell them about your project instead and save the numbers game for the next point of contact.
STEP FIVE: Weigh your options. And then go with your gut.
Honestly, I don’t think I can overstate how important I think it is to go with your gut.
Over and over again, I’ve heard stories from clients about their past experiences with graphic and web designers. Designers who didn’t listen. Designers who missed every deadline – not by days, but by weeks. Designers who simply disappeared. If you get a bad gut feeling, do not hire them. If you fall in love with someone over your budget, make a plan to save up and then work with the person who is #1 on your list.
You won’t regret spending money and getting an amazing site in exchange. You will regret having to hire the designer you wanted all along when the cheaper option (whom you’ve already paid!) disappears.
All right! That’s it for Part 1: Prepare.
At this point, you should know:
- Who your website is for
- What good web content is and what it does
- Why & when you need a website
- Where your website will live
- and How to get a website
Part 2: Organize. But it’s a long one, so take a break and then get ready to make a whole lotta lists.