Should You Design Your Own Website?

  • jason turcotte
  • February 11, 2011

So, should you design your own website? Maybe… maybe not. I wanted to talk about when it makes sense, and when it doesn’t make sense to design your own website.

People often ask me if they should design their own website. Typically they ask me either during or just before coming into our office to meet and discuss having Turcotte Data & Design create a website for them.

“Can’t I just do this on my own?” is something I hear a lot, to which I usually answer “Yup, you can…”

There is no doubt that many business professionals can design their own websites. Heck, many hosting companies now include by default or make it very easy to install a copy of WordPress. In 10 minutes you can have a fully operational website! Sounds like a great way to save some money, doesn’t it?

Well, it depends.

Fact is, some people just aren’t good at designing websites (some language on that page is a bit “colorful”). Some of those websites even are built using professional looking templates, but don’t function.

That’s really what I want to talk about… function.

Websites need to do more than just look good, they need to function. They need to be easy to navigate. They need to be good at communicating the message of the products/services/companies they represent. If you’re sitting down for the first time and punching in words to your newly installed WordPress install, you have to honestly ask yourself if you should be.

One of the best things a professional website designer brings to the project is their knowledge of what makes a website effective and what makes it function. Yes, we make them look good (most of us, anyways) but we also look at your products and services in a way that you don’t you can’t. That’s right, I said it… but let me explain what I mean.

You should know your product, services and company better than anyone. This is great! It’s what makes you good at what you do, allows you to be successful. The problem is that you know your product, service and company better than anyone. You have the curse of knowledge! (cue dramatic music) The “curse of knowledge” means that because you know your stuff better than anyone else, it makes it difficult to explain what you do to other people. It comes natural to you, and at times, people assume that everyone knows what you do/make/sell.

Let’s use something simple as an example. Let’s say you manufacture toothbrushes. Everyone is familiar with toothbrushes and just about everyone uses one on a daily basis. Seems simple, right? People have teeth - they need a toothbrush. All I have to do is throw up a website telling the world that I make toothbrushes and I’m good. “I’ve been making toothbrushes for 30 years! How could they not buy from me?” you think.

Here’s your problem… a million other people make toothbrushes. Let’s say that you make the best toothbrushes, there are no better toothbrushes on the planet. You know what makes your toothbrush the best, you’ve been doing it and refining the process for 30 years, after all.
“Acme Toothbrushes - Makers of the finest toothbrushes on Earth” reads your tagline. Ahhhh… the orders should start pouring in! But they don’t. Why?

Because you have the curse of knowledge, you assume because you have been around for 30 years making these pieces of toothbrush art that everyone knows. You have problems communicating the benefits to the customer. You have problems communicating the “what’s in it for me?”.
This is just one area a professional website designer can help. We look at what you do and how you do it from the outside. We can then help you communicate that to the people that are visiting your website.

“Well Jason, that’s easy… I’ll just work with a great copywriting firm and they will help me craft my message. Ha! So much for your fancy-schmancy website designers!”
Well, have you thought about how your website navigation is going to be laid out? What about the layout of your content? What about colors? What about accessibility for people with visual handicaps? What about search engine rankings? Ahhh… I’ve got your attention again, don’t I?

“But website designers are expensive!” you shout, “My time is free.”
Is it? Your time is definitely not free. You may not be paying cash for it, but you’re definitely losing cash when you’re trying to learn how to create a website. Ultimately, you’ll probably lose more just in the time you are learning how to create a website than it would cost to hire a professional. Of course, this relates to your hourly rate, etc. but I’m still very confident in making that statement.

The $500 Designer

“Professional? Great, I just found a website designer that said they could create my website and it would only cost me $500!”

Ok… ok. Let’s talk about the “$500 designer”. There are people out there that charge around $500. Some are even ok designers but honestly, most are not.

You risk having a website that can do damage to your business’ reputation by having an online image and brand that falls short of your competitors. Does that mean that you can’t get a good website for $500? Absolutely not! The challenge is finding the good designer that charges $500. And when you do, ask yourself why they only charge $500.

This may be the time when you want to use a template based WordPress site… until you can save the money to have an established professional assist you in your online branding.

Can you do it yourself? Absolutely!

Can you do it inexpensively? Absolutely!

Should you? It depends.

Think about what you invest in all forms of marketing in your business. How much do you spend on yellow pages advertising? What if you scaled back on the cost of your yellow page ad and put that money into a website? We have some clients that have foregone advertising in the yellow pages entirely because their website was consistently out-performing their yellow page ads.

We make websites. We want you to have a great, effective website… however you get there.