But can’t I just create my own website?
Adverts on TV, pop-ups in Facebook, eye-catching ad’s on a variety of websites constantly tell us that creating our own website couldn’t be easier, quicker or cheaper than it is now. There are literally dozens of solutions out there that make it easy for even a layman to sit down and whip up a passable website in a day or two. With increasing e-commerce integration even an online product list and shopping cart can, in theory anyway, be tacked onto a site with a few hours of work. Even on-site SEO is becoming easier with almost every website builder out there containing plug-ins and updates designed to guide anyone along the path to an effective website.
So in supposedly wonderful world of DIY website design what does professional web-design have to offer? Well, first of all, a professional web designer will bring years of aesthetic experience and an intimate knowledge of user experience maximization and proper site structure. The internet is littered with examples of home-made websites that are all but unusable made using tools that are completely capable of producing professional quality websites. Bad color schemes, bad layout, awkward site structure or just the old fashioned wall of text, all of these can and do ruin websites that would otherwise have every chance of becoming a commercial success.
Websites can and should be much, much more than just an online billboard. Blogging, social media integration, contact forms and other, deeper interactivity options can turn a website into a massive value-add for a business. Getting all of this right takes years of experience. Anyone who has tried to set all of this up for themselves without that experience will know the pain of yelling “but the plugin said this would take five minutes!” at a contact form that refuses to work.
I have spoken to business owners that have had their own website for years and are still spending hours every day chasing down bugs, trying to refine things and updating their code as new security updates and recommendations come out. These are hours that they are not focusing on their core business. Over the course of a month literally days can be poured into this endeavor. With a professional web designer not only can you be assured that the initial web-design will be effortless but adding a new out-reach initiative or contact form is turned from an hour of research, an hour of experimenting and a week of tweaking into an e-mail or call and a professionally designed, slick update.
A few months ago a lady who had created her own WordPress website for her business based in Newcastle asked me to estimate for applying some additions. I won’t go into chapter and verse but when I accessed the WordPress dashboard four things quickly became apparent:
- There were over 70 comments awaiting approval or rejection.
- The version of WordPress was way out of date in fact by over 12 months.
- Over a dozen plugins needed to be updated some of which were actually no longer active.
- There was no security or backup plugins or strategy in place.
So before I could actually do any development work all I had to first address these issues. The owner of the website had no idea people had been registering comments, some were for details of packages, some offered great interaction and real conversation starters and yes some were junk. Not one had been read or approved. Now what do you do when people ignore you? Personally I don’t bother with them again.
Then we came to the issue that both WordPress and a number of plugins were versions behind the current release. When we updated them some were no longer compatible with the latest version of WordPress and some were not compatible with the out of date version of PHP on her host provider’s server. All in all it was a real problem to sort out and it took more time to get it resolved than the original work would have required.
But the customer was oblivious to all of this as they had created a site, knew how to add posts, pages and events and never looked beyond that or even felt they needed to. The site was a ticking time bomb that was going to crash sooner or later. But this is often the allure of the DIY website. The hyperlink works, you’ve done it. You’re on the web and straightaway you are hooked. You want to see your logo, your text, pictures etc. So you immerse yourself in how to do this, often talking days to do so with no thought to the overall site structure, layout and contents. Blissfully happy in the ability to create a website you never give a second thought to security or maintenance alerts. Plugging in a plethora of widgets to enhance your site, you might try several Testimonial plugins before you find the one you like, then leave the previous six active, soaking up performance, memory and database reserves. Personally I love WordPress, there are 100o’s of plugins, themes and forums to make it a joy to work with but a vanilla install with a default admin page, id, etc has a surprisingly poor security score and is ripe for the picking.
Still not convinced, then lets address the last and most important point, security. Earlier this month there was a prolonged brute force attack which saw 40,000 attacks per minute taking place, now read the article describing how attacks could have been prevented if users had kept their version of WordPress up to date.
So, in a world where amateur web design is becoming easier this is one example (and I have many) of where a professional web designer is still required. It’s as important as having a professional accountant. Sure you can do your taxes yourself. But it takes longer, it stresses you out and even when you’re done you’re always left with the sneaking suspicion you could probably have managed a bigger refund somehow. When looking at web design the question is, how valuable is my own time? You can spend weeks designing and endless hours tweaking a website or you can hire an affordable, professional web designer to do it for you effortlessly and with the benefits of years of experience.