Likewise, there are times when it's important to hire a professional website developer--when you have no time to learn to do it yourself or when you need something more sophisticated than what one of today's features-packed DIY platforms can offer you, for instance.
But sometimes a person's needs are critically juxtaposed: He or she needs a professional virtual presence online but can be found behind the scenes in the physical realm dangling from the end of a shoestring budget. He needs a website; he needs the money the site will help generate; he needs that money to hire someone to build and manage the website. Every hour lost to inaction due to a lack of funds is an hour that perpetuates the cycle by not helping to generate revenue. So waiting until one has the money to hire someone may be working against the otherwise-enterprising business owner.
In fact, it's not necessarily a big time saver to have a site built for you. Regardless of who builds your site, you'll be the one responsible for collecting and creating the content to be posted. This is where many people get "stuck" in the process of getting the site built; they underestimate the amount of content they'll need to collect or create and how much time it actually takes to do this. Often a person designates a couple of days for completion of this task and then runs out of time, sets the task aside in order to get back to his or her regular work schedule and ends up putting the entire goal on hold, indefinitely. The same concept will apply any time you want to make a change: You'll have to collect or create the content you want posted; if you've hired a webmaster/developer, you'll forward the content to that person and he or she will post it. Many people today, however, are saving a lot of time and money by applying the discipline necessary for preparing a developer to build and manage their sites to learning how to work and enhance a good DIY platform themselves.
Hence, I'm a big fan of taking the enterprising spirit up a notch to learn quickly and easily how to build and manage your own site--the right way. And you might be surprised to learn that the DIY website solution is not just for the "needy." Professional website designers build on these turn-key platforms too, for numerous good reasons. To name a few, they're easy to build, easy to manage and easy to further customize if/when necessary. But not all DIY platforms are the same; some are more generous, up-front and user-friendly than others.
Online site development companies such as Weebly, WordPress and others offer DIYers and developers/designers alike the tools they need for fully functioning, easy-to-mange, professional websites with low to no monthly hosting fees. Some more than others are geared toward newbies, offering self-explanatory drag-and-drop features that on the "back end," from the DIYer's desk, are simple to understand and to quickly implement while functioning the way visitors to the site would expect and demand. For example, within a few days/weeks (or a few hours in a Step-by-Step workshop) the most intimidated newcomer can design and build a self-manageable, fully functional, professional website for her small business on the platform of our choice, complete with customized theme, font and color choices; photos; video; slideshows; unlimited pages of content; blogs; contact forms; surveys; sponsor ads and other links; and much more. A $3- to $5-per-month upgrade gets her even more at this surprisingly respectable low rate. The company of our choice doesn't charge for things like pointing your own domain to the platform. This company, a pioneer in the DIY website-building movement, is fair and up front and has been exceeding expectations for years.
Other site-building platforms may require a bit more expertise, more of an investment of time, research and money for the tech-prone DIYer who plans to take advantage of a veritable buffet of constantly evolving features. For those who fit that profile, the draw is less about speed and simplicity and more about the fact that the buffet options are abundant and extensive. Typically, these platforms require advanced knowledge and more of a time commitment.
A platform's free or most basic tier will typically offer less in terms of features/options and data size, storage and accessibility than its incrementally more-inclusive tiers will, but there's a beauty in that. The free level gives you the power to decide what features you need when and to pay as you want them. Beware, though, of getting pulled in to free trials by which you may begin to build the kind of following or momentum that eventually you will either have to pay to maintain/grow or will lose if you choose not to upgrade. This issue is not uncommon in the realm of digital newsletter providers.
If you've chosen the right platform, and with the right information, insight and guidance, you can incorporate important SEO techniques and associate essential tools. In the future you or a hired professional can also redesign or further customize your site via HTML/CSS. Or, as long as you own your domain name (this is essential; I address this in a July, 2012 blog post and in my workshops), you can rebuild your site elsewhere if you'd like, incorporating even more sophisticated elements if you need them and/or delegating ongoing site maintenance to someone else, when time and budget allow. (If you've built a WordPress site and get to the point that you need/want some seriously advanced hosting/handling, consider looking at WP Engine's services, which are loaded with features and top-notch technical support, starting at around $29 per month.) So building something now doesn't lock you in to a specific site or provider forever. Instead, it enables you to begin your online business activities without the expense of hiring developer, hosting company and webmaster/manager unnecessarily. The key is knowing which platform, registrar, tools, techniques and other things to use in building and developing your site, and why and how to put them all together.
So when is it appropriate to design, build and manage your own website?
My answer's simple: It is very appropriate to build and manage your own site if the platform serves your short- and near-term (maybe even long-term) needs, as I've said. Don't hesitate for a lack of confidence or money; just find the most time-efficient and cost-effective means of good instruction and the platform that best suits your needs and budget. Good instruction includes knowledge and insights about design and SEO found at sources such as Google Webmaster Tools and the blogs of good, reputable website developers and SEO companies. Let the following questions help guide your decision:
- Will the DIY platform allow you to showcase your products or services using photos, video and plenty of written content?
- Can customers contact you via your site?
- Does the platform facilitate commerce via an online payments provider (bank/provider fees always apply) if you need this service? If so, does that company charge additional fees for using a shopping cart or third-party payment collector on its platform?
- Can you use your own domain name at the free-hosting tier?
- How satisfactorily can you customize the look of your site with ready-to-go themes and font, color and layout options?
- Will the platform host post other companies' ads on your site if you don't upgrade? If so, do you understand that you won't earn revenue from the process and is that okay with you?
- Does the platform help facilitate search engine optimization (SEO) and mobile-device compatibility?
- How easy are the features to understand, add and implement?
- Do you have as much control on this platform as you want and need for your current situation?
- Does the tier that best suits your needs also suit your budget?
- Does the platform enable you to convey the kind of professional image you need to convey?
- Will you be able to access tutorials, articles, forums and a company representative for support and assistance if/when necessary?
In my Design, Build and Manage Your Own Web Site workshop, as in all of my Step-by-Step DIY Presentations, the theme is simple: If I can do it, you can do it (at a surprisingly low cost), and here's how . . .
You're amazing; now go be yourself,