Do-it-Yourself Web Site Advice

Do-it-Yourself Web Site Advice

When it comes to any kind of app or Web site, it just needs to work. I was recently approached by someone in my network checking to make sure a connection would be a good referral. The organization has a sizeable Web site which includes event calendars and ecommerce (primarily in the form of registration payments for events), but for a recently designed site I'm left feeling like I time warped back to the 90s.

Everyone who has started their own business has gone through this process when discussing the idea with friends.

You: "I know I need a Web site, but it's going to be expensive becuase I'm just not sure I can do it myself."

Your Friend: "Doesn't your cousin do Web stuff?"

You: "Oh yea, I bet he'll give me a deal!"

From there, things spiral into a 90s-themed montage of you working side-by-side with your family to produce this amazing Web site. The reality is usually cheesier than that montage and doesn't do anything to help your business.

Bootstrapping in the early days is important, but not at the cost of your brand image. If you're going to bootstrap, here are three sound pieces of advice to make sure you don't hurt your image by producing a site that is painful to look at or scares prospects away.

Get a Template

I'm not a fan of templates - they take away the creativity and, often the freedom, to build what is actually needed. What a template will do, however, is help keep you on track to designing something that will work well. It's hard to find a template which isn't responsive (that means it works well on monitors, tablets, and smart phones), which is important and it's doubtful "that person you know who does Web stuff" will take it into account. There's plenty of places where you can get great templates, the biggest being ThemeForest (which works for both Joomla and WordPress).

Don't try to get fancy

If you don't have experience building Web sites, don't try to get fancy with what you put on a page. Stick with the basics. If you try to do fancy layouts, you may break the responsiveness of your site. Let the template and any extensions or plugins you choose (within reason) do the fancy layouts for you. On a related note, animations may look cool, but only if they're done right. If you find an animated image on the Web somewhere that you think looks awesome, fight the urge to include it on your site. Opt for a tasteful video and some great calls to action instead.

Proofread

We're all guilty of this, but it's easier to proofread someone else's work than it is your own. Once you have everything written, have a friend read over the site to check for any typos or awkward content and to check that all the links go where they're supposed to. I recently went over a friend's site for a company he is starting to help him address what he perceived as lost opportunities. The content was accurate, but there were numerous typos and broken links that would have hindered usability. If you're hindering usability, prospects won't want to find out more about you.

Remember, it's your company's image and you don't want to give a bad first impression. Check everything over before clicking publish and if you're not comfortable proofreading your own writing, get a second pair of eyes to look it over - just don't give away the control completely.

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