Website DIY?

Category: Blogging, Web

Friday May 5th, 2017

We live in an age of cheap or free website builders that empower pretty much anyone to create a website for themselves or their business without any technical development skill or design nous.

And, to be fair, there certainly is a place for services like that. Individual blogs, homebrew projects, one-man-band companies – there is a ready audience for a bargain-basement way to get online and in many cases it’s certainly better to have some site than none at all.

But if you’re a business you need your website to make your business case. That means the right user experience, the right style and amount of content, a structure that makes sense not just to you but to your audience, and a technical mix of ‘wow’ factor and reliability to make the site a joy to experience.

You know your business and your aspirations in your market better than anyone else but it’s possible to be too close to something. A professional web designer can help by looking at things from the perspective of a potential customer and can lean on your expertise to make sure the site achieves what it needs to.


The importance of graphic design

Your website will be viewed on a desktop PC. On a laptop. Maybe on a TV or tablet, definitely on a mobile phone. And it has to look the part on all those platforms.

Text informs explicitly but design informs subconsciously – a great design conveys a message even before logos, supporting copy or photography hammer that message home.

Template-based website generators do take some of the strain; their text-to-image ratios and design elements are already crafted in a manner that reduces a user’s chances of making a mess of the site’s look, but they don’t tend to offer much variety in terms of the needs of the site or the user experience. Only a professional website designer can do that.


Picture perfect

If there’s one thing that unites all the ‘best websites’ lists you’ll find out there on the internet, it’s quality images. Nine times out of ten, that means great photography, and despite the prevalence of high-resolution mobile phone cameras making people believe they’re experts, great photography is still an art form and a talent that few truly possess. It can make all the difference to a site and, to be fair, even combined with a DIY site can create stunning results.

More technically-challenging ways forward with website design include bespoke illustrations, infographics and animated elements, though in the case of the latter we would always argue in favour of restraint – some moving elements are nice but you don’t want the site to induce nausea or suffer from epic load-times.


Quality copywriting and SEO

It’s all well and good having an attractive-looking website, but what use is it if a) no-one ever finds it or b) when they get around to reading what you have to say they’re left confused, frustrated or bored? The way a website is written is of vital importance to your two most courted targets – Google search bots and potential readers.

The content of your site is the most important thing Google uses when it comes to ranking it in searches. You can’t just cram it with keywords you like – these days the search bots are too smart for that. In fact, a well-written, informative site that avoids repetition is exactly what Google is looking for, and funnily enough it’s also exactly what your site visitors are looking for too.

That means quality, professional copywriting by someone who understands your offering and your market. Too often sites are let down with dull or repetitive product descriptions, or by crude grammar and punctuation that are a real turn off to potential customers who want to be able to take your business seriously.


Technical issues

We find customers that use template websites tend to suffer as time goes on, with technical issues arising and support hard to come by, or more commonly by a desire to update or change their site and the uncomfortable discovery that it’s not as easily done as they’d hoped.

A developer-created site will always have that option for upgrades and updates because you can simply call up the person who originally created it. They’re also likely to offer technical support if issues arise and will be on hand to implement updates if things move fast for your business.


No-one fits a template

This is the real crux of the piece. We’re working on a website design right now for a very special client (that’s right, it’s ourselves) and the level of complexity that comes into structuring, wireframing, designing, illustrating and writing a website comes from intimate knowledge of the subject matter and the expectations of the desired audience. To accurately nail all of that you’d need a near-infinite number of templates to choose from, and you’d need pixel-perfect assets with which to populate them. And then you still might end up with a site that looks like everyone else’s. We find that, when people are presented with an attractive template they like, they tailor their content and even their messages to fit that template structure; this is completely backwards.

The fact is your priorities are different to everyone else’s. Your brand is different, your tone of voice is different and your audience – no matter in how subtle a way – is different. So planning out and creating your website has to be your own journey, not a cookie-cutter answer.