As a consultant to many small businesses, I often deal with frantically busy business owners. Like you and me, most of them are steadily looking for that next great improvement or idea. Quite often, this involves technology and some form of "the next great website."
One of the lines I often repeat is that you almost never need to reinvent the wheel. Sure, if we're talking about a business-crucial process that is repeated daily, weekly or even monthly, then it makes sense to look for a new and innovative way to get the job done. Most of the time, though, this is not the case. Owners see something that a competitor did, and they go crazy trying to replicate or out-impress their competition before taking the time to think about whether something is necessary.
Fear of competition leads busy owners into the vicious cycle of focusing on shiny new things. This cycle can quickly become detrimental to the daily success of any business. It's like setting sail with a captain who would rather spend time in his cabin than get on the deck and look into the horizon. Not good.
Why am I veering so far off topic? Because I want to help you see that the key to running a successful business is to spend a massive amount of time on the tasks that will lead a huge amount of money into your company's coffers. It's called the Pareto principle, and it's key to growing a business. According to this rule, 20 percent of your efforts will generate 80 percent of your success.
I won't go as far as to recommend that you outsource absolutely everything, the way Tim Ferriss does in his famous "4-Hour Workweek," but I will say that it's important to pay attention to which tasks you spend most of your time on.
Let's get back on track. Should you use a DIY platform and build a website yourself? Before you make the decision, ask yourself these three questions.
1. Who is going to create the content?
According to many sources, such as Google and even Bill Gates, content is king.
Content is the single hardest component of a website to produce. Before looking at various DIY options or even asking people in your office if they have experience with web design, you need to have a plan for content.
Don't worry about SEO yet; this can come at a later stage. Look at some of your competitors' sites, read industry articles, and figure out what you would like to put on your homepage. Yes, I said homepage. If your company doesn't have a website yet, the number one thing you should worry about for now is the first page visitors will see. With the right content and information, this page may be all that your visitors and potential clients will need to see.
Get a pen and paper out and jot the following down:
- Explain in a single short sentence what your company does.
- List the services or products you offer. Don't try to be impressive here – just stick to the truth. If you only do one thing, either you're good at it or you will get good at it. There is no need to try to impress by adding secondary services; this will set false expectations and could hurt your business in the long run.
- Figure out how you will get visitors to trust you:
- Reviews – If you don't have any, don't invent one. Ask a customer to write one up for you and make sure you can include their information.
- Certifications or BBB ratings
- Experience in the industry
- Portfolio or example of your work – For example, if you have a customer review, it could be great to accompany it with an explanation of the work you did for them or solution you provided them with.
- Figure out which pictures you would like to use. If you want to show your team online, take the time to have professional pictures taken. If you're looking to get something out of the door, quickly snap pictures that can be used as backgrounds to give a more personal feel to your site.
If you have a team working with you, content creation is an excellent way to get employees involved. Talk to them about your initiative, and you will quickly see if some individuals take a liking to the project.
Now that you've gone through the process of figuring out what you want visitors to see, it's time to ask yourself why you're considering the DIY route.
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2. Are you trying to save money or time?
If your main motivation in building a website yourself is to save time or money, you should also consider looking at some affordable web design options. In most cases, if you can show a service provider that you are looking for something simple and already know what type of content you want to see on the site, you'll be able to get a better rate.
Almost every week, I get a call from someone who either tried a DIY site builder or signed up for an account with a popular host and can't seem to figure out what to do to make their site "look more professional." They have probably read our web design guide for small businesses and know that we focus on helping businesses that can't afford to go all out with the hippest design agency.
When I ask the person seeking advice what they are looking for exactly, they reply with something along the lines of "I don't know, I just need it to look better." I then explain that I can do a much better job helping them if I use the tools I'm familiar with, and those don't involve using the platforms they've already signed up for.
If they signed up for a month-to-month payment, no biggie. If they paid for 36 months in advance or signed up for one of the pricey solutions out there, then I'll probably be told politely that they prefer to ride it out and figure out how to make the best of their purchase.
I have also seen situations where people choose to go the DIY way because they need the website up and running ASAP. I'm sure there are design agencies out there that can deliver sites rapidly, but there is no question that being able to sign up, log in, paste text, upload images, add contact information and even configure a simple contact form can be the fastest solution. If you have a little bit of experience and are willing to watch a few YouTube videos, then you can put together something much more rapidly than a team that has not yet heard about your company.
Now hold your thought for a second and ask yourself the third question.
3. Will you enjoy learning (at least) the basics of web design?
If you don't have an ounce of interest in actually building a website, then DIY is obviously not for you. If you do have some interest and think that knowing more about web design could be an asset that you would reuse in future endeavors, by all means, go for it!
Not all tools provide the same value, and the scope of this article isn't to compare the various options, but here are three bonus tips to help you make the right decision if you do choose to do it yourself.
Bonus tips if you choose to DIY
- Only look at established solutions that have 24/7 support. You will have questions at some point, and you can't afford to waste time on a fringe solution only to find out later that it lacks important features.
- Have a look at what people have created with the tool that interests you. For instance, you can Google "examples of sites created using Wix" to get an idea of what your site might look like after you've put in the effort. Don't forget to visit the website from both your phone and your regular computer.
- Have your content from Question 1 ready and only test solutions that offer free trials. You shouldn't buy an actual domain name (.com, .net, etc.) until you know for sure which platform you want to use.