It happened to me again recently: A potential customer told me that he was “tech savvy” and wanted to build his business web site himself. He, like many small business owners I have encountered, seemed threatened by lack of budget or by someone else helping him with his business, or has been burned in the past by a previous designer that overcharged him every time he needed an update. He concludes that building the site for himself will save him time and money. This could not be farther from the truth.
Building a web site for your own business, no matter how “tech savvy” you believe you are, will almost always bring trouble in the short run, and most definitely in the long run. It is a bad investment. It will cost you in time — time that you could be spending on managing your business — because the needs for maintaining a modern web site are constant and require knowledge, awareness and skill. Maintaining a DIY web site can get away from you, often forcing you to choose between managing your business or your web site, and you inevitably lose the control that you so desperately wanted for your online presence.
Do you want to be managing your web site, or do you want to be running your business? Do-It-Yourselfers know just enough to create real headaches for themselves. For those in doubt, I offer these insights for not building your own site.
1. You might have the time, but you don’t have the expertise.
Most of the time in business, the idea of “having more time” is an illusion, so we try to find someone who can do what we can’t do. But for small businesses, the funds aren’t always there to pay for outside help. Often, shortcuts are attempted by trying to build a business web site and market yourself. In doing so, a DIYer creates the potential for a lot more work, which takes a lot more time away from what he or she should be doing — running the business.
For example, publishing images requires cropping and image compression to ensure fast page loads. So often I find DIYers completely unaware of file sizes, so they plug the image in and wonder why the pages won’t render quickly. Heavy pages will slow down page views and create a poor user experience. The search engines will ding you, too. You need to understand the relationship between images and server communication with your web site pages. Now you are a graphic designer.
Another thing to consider is that every page should have a call-to-action or conversion expectation, which requires planning and strategy. Have you created or implemented your marketing campaign to know which pages should do what and how? Do you need some, any or none of the social network tools out there, and for which audience? Now you are a marketing strategist.
Also, do you know when enough is enough? Often continual edits over time lose their integrity and the page turns to what we call “screen vomit” — too many words, lots of broken links and poorly fitting images. Are you familiar with what your audience needs or likes? Do you know what and where potential customers gloss over your content? Now you are a content editor.
Building a site yourself will be unusable in the short term if you aren’t familiar with all aspects of modern web design and development. You need time to do it right, and you probably really don’t have that much time. You will be adding many more hats to your already busy business one.
To compliment your tight budget and illusion of time, a DIYer will likely choose free or very cheap hosting. As I recently reported in my post about [the hidden costs of cheap web hosting], you get what you pay for. Unless you pay for top tier recognition, you are just a number for big web hosting companies. There are thousands of web sites on their server and even many more page requests. The server gets overloaded and you are part of the sea of frustration at the mercy of a big company’s customer service call. You can wait for the right person to handle your issue, or you can upgrade, which is what they want you to do. You will pay more in the end if you build the site yourself and rely on cheap hosting to support you. It is a lose-lose situation.
3. You will find yourself the sole champion of your business.
Self service, DIY web design eliminates partnerships for your long-term business plan with someone who can help grow your business, someone who has your back and can take the pain out of the business of the web. When you try to do it all yourself, you become isolated from the broader view. I’ve watched it happen time and again: Folks become almost defensive about managing their web sites themselves, as though someone is going to tell them what to do, rather than help them. A strategic partner can suggest what will work for you. We are successful when you are successful.
4. Updates could be the bane of your existence.
Another major issue regarding building a site yourself is updating. Content, security, passwords, loading images, software updates, compatibility — unless you are diligent and consistent and prepared, more often than not, you will lose momentum to update. It becomes too difficult, a chore. DIYers realize quickly that they have lost control because they are trying to keep too much control. You must keep up with what’s happening on the Internet, or else you will fall behind your competitors.
5. Be the expert of your business. Leave the rest to other experts.
“Tech savvy” is a red flag. It doesn’t mean web developer or web designer, it just means that you know enough to be dangerous with your own web site. Folks in the industry work with each other and build upon each other’s energies and ideas. Knowing just enough “code” or “html” could actually lead to your web site’s demise and business credibility, including and especially if you have failed to backup your data and/or have implemented the screen vomit technique. Do you know how to fix broken code?
You can build your web site yourself, but do you really want to mange your web site? Do you really know how to do it? Do you really have the time to be your own web developer, designer and master? I could put a roof on my house by myself, but it doesn’t mean that I should. I’d rather spend the time playing with my daughter or creating a new product for my company, while the experts handle the roof.
We understand that budgets can be tight and that not everyone has your best interest in mind when it comes to marketing and your online presence, but it’s worth taking the time to find a company that believes in building a relationship with you and the success of your business. Let those that are truly tech savvy manage your web site, so that you can run your business.