Read time: 24 mins
Read time: 24 mins
Read time: 24 mins
I think the dominating thought at the beginning of this process is;
"It's a lot of money to pay someone else to build my website. If I do it myself I can save quite a lot of money".
To be honest this statement is true and you really can save a significant amount of money. That could even be the end of this book. We could wrap everything up with that as the closing remark.
However, my hope with this little ebook is to ask some poignant questions, get you thinking, and uncover the vastness involved in building a website. People often think it's a small thing to do and I want to knock that belief system out of the park before we even begin. Building a properly functional website is hard work and has many many moving parts.
I have built my own website, run my own clinic and reached number 1 on Google with my website. I now build websites for a profession. I know first hand all the complexities involved in doing it myself and/or getting someone else to do it for you.
So whether you still decide to go it alone or employ someone to do it, I hope this ebook gives you some gold nuggets to help you on your quest.
Forking out £2000+ for a small custom website is no small thing. However one really must look at it from as a long term investment. Yes, it is a big upfront cost and sometimes it is even a risk because maybe the website doesn't generate the business you were hoping it would.
BUT, what happens if, actually the website starts to generate income within a few months and by the years-end, it provides quite a bit of revenue? That investment suddenly looks good. Also what about the non-revenue, but equally important, brand awareness part? A website can be hugely beneficially in building a brand for you. This is arguably the most important aspect at play here. That is a thread I will cover later.
Firstly let's explore what I learned when I built my own website as an amateur.
When I built my website and it reached number 1 on Google I was monumentally proud of my achievement. I was by no means an expert, but my passion for website creation and design at that point in my life was huge. I spent close to 5 months building that website. It was very slow progress because I spent 90% of the time researching how to rank well on Google and how to make my website perform well. I have written an article about that story too, so check that out.
When it reached number 1 for my city and number 2 for my neighbouring city within only 6 months I was elated. Was it a lot of work? Yes absolutely, you can ask my wife, she had all but forgotten what I looked like.
By the end of the first year, the website was generating 2-3 new patients a week. They were patients that had no prior connection to me or the clinic and so therefore unique. This in itself was a huge achievement because patients talk and refer friends and family. So one new patient often turns into 3-5 patients. Again this was all achieved within the first year.
So from a monetary perspective, if I had paid £3000 for that website, I was already well on my way to paying off half the website in just the first year. However, as mentioned earlier, the more important part at play here, which is true for almost all businesses, was my reputation and brand were growing rapidly.
Shortly after this, I had to leave the clinic and move country for family reasons. I am convinced by the end of year 2 I would have paid off the website. In addition, the website itself would have set a solid foundation for a very successful clinic. All in just 2 years. Even if it took 3 years, which is more in line with the average therapist, it was still a massive boon to have a website work for me in such a profitable way. So in my case would I pay £3000 now for a professional to do it given the results I experienced.
The answer - yes absolutely. Further to this story. When I left the clinic and a new therapist took my place, I offered to sell him my website for a cheap price. This is a website that was fast becoming established. It was number 1 on Google and was growing a solid reputation. The guy gave it little thought and turned it down, saying he had his own website.
His decision although absolutely legitimate does paint a rather nice picture of the stark difference between a good website and a rubbish website.
After a year I checked back in on this new therapist to see how he was doing. He was not doing very well and was definitely not generating new patients. In addition, his website could not be found. Even when I typed in his name I could not find him. The only way his website showed up is if I typed in his actual url. It was a rather poor decision on his part because he blew away the best possible start anyone could hope for when beginning in a new clinic. I was literally handing him a golden ticket.
His website was poorly made, looked awful and ultimately did nothing for him. So here we have a situation where a website was actively working for me and a website that was actively working against him.
The question is which one would you want and how much would you be willing to pay? It is a difficult decision and one that cannot be taken lightly.
As mentioned earlier we can easily get sucked into how much physical money a website makes for us - like adverts, donations, affiliate links, email lists, paid external links, paid content hosting, and paid mentions/reviews. All this can make money through a website.
But how much money can your website make in terms of sales for products you sell or referring potential customers to services you offer and/or attracting customers into your store?
Further, how much money can your website save you in terms of doing a lot of work for you, freeing up more time for you to invest in the money-making side of the business? For example, if you are a clinic or small business that deals with clients, like a hairdresser. Having an automated online booking system.
How much time does that save you? What about tradespeople that can automatically generate pricing and quotes quickly through their website? Depending on your business I am pretty sure you can get your website to do some of the common automated work on your behalf. One just has to be creative.
How important is the opinion of a customer when they look at your brand?
I am a huge advocate of the belief that if something looks good and looks professional it will, more often than not, directly translate to how the business operates. I am a sucker for giving my business to companies that have a beautiful website (and call centres in the UK). I want to pay and be a customer of a business that makes life easy for me and takes little effort on my part to find the information I need.
Have you ever been on a website looking for information on a particular subject only to find yourself lost 5 minutes later without finding what you were looking for? This is a BAD user experience and it is something I am extremely anti. If I am in a pinch I don’t want to have to spend 5-10 minutes looking for information. Worse, I don’t want to have to call them because then I know I have to wade through 5 levels of press this button or press that button.
To me if a business can't be bothered to present their information in a clean orderly way, having the important subject matters readily available or easy to find, why should I trust their product will be any different?
Society today has completely shifted their mindset and people are far more willing to give their trust and custom to companies that are transparent and honest.
In this day and age, a website is an absolute necessity, it is without question a vital part of your business. Not having one can often have a detrimental effect on what your potential customers think of you. There are very few reasons why someone doesn't have a website and topping that short list is money. They either can't afford it or they are cheap and don't want to invest their money. Both reasons do not fill me with confidence to become their customer.
Even if your website is literally a page that only offers potential customers your opening times, address, and contact information. That is better than nothing and can still communicate so much positive information about who you are and what your brand stands for.
99% of the time your website will be the first thing potential customers see. What do you want that customer to think? It takes less than 7 seconds for someone to form an opinion of you and your business. It is extremely difficult to reverse that opinion once made. Given your website is most likely the first port of call - don't you think it should be something that wows potential customers within 7 seconds?
Do you want your website to show up in searches when customers are looking for similar businesses? What opinion do you want that customer to make when they can't find you? Worse than that. What if a customer heard about you through a friend and knew what they were looking for and still couldn't find you? Wow, now that is damaging. For me, that stinks of unprofessionalism and laziness.
People spend lots of time and/or money on making a business strategy. However, in my opinion, it's a little pointless if customers can't find you or when they do find you they see a brand that bleeds a lacklustre amateur feel. Would you trust that company or move on?
I am sure you are aware if someone calls and you don't pick up the phone you have almost certainly lost that customer. Customers are far more likely to give their business to someone that has answered the phone. It is that human contact will all want. It builds instant trust. Your website does that same thing. Make it count.
So, in summary, your website is a direct representation of what you hold dear and value. It should be a mirror that reflects your business and reflects YOU. You should want and desire to have a website that does this and does it well. Your website is the beginning of your brand. Shortcutting at this stage and doing it on the cheap is ultimately what will be returned to you.
If I am honest this was actually one of the main reasons I built my own website because I didn't trust anyone to do it better than me and I wanted complete control over how the website looked going forward. If I wanted to change the content or the look, I didn't have to wait for someone else to do it for me. I could do it instantly.
On reflection, though there are a number of reasons why this is a potentially harmful mindset, although a fully justifiable one.
As I mentioned earlier when I built my website it took me 5 months (full time - 7 hours a day) and that is no exaggeration. In the Appendix you can see a rough outline of all the processes involved in building a website, it is quite extensive. Most people simply do not have that kind of time to dedicate to building their own website. What they end up doing is the bare minimum, ultimately making a shoddy representation of a website, through no fault of their own.
Further, people don't have the drive or desire to invest so much time and knowledge into a project as big as building a website. I was so driven when I built mine, that I was constantly fuelled to keep going. Believe me when I say this. There was so much information and things I had to learn. I endured some extremely painful days where error after error occurred and the sheer frustration of not being able to fix it boiled over. It was a constant up and down, highs and lows, journey. Some days I hit success and other days I hit the floor - hard. There were tears and there were fist pumps. Overall it was VERY difficult.
It ties into the previous point nicely. How much time invested in building a website for yourself is time lost making money with your actual business or more tragically away from family? For some people, it is not very much but for others, it can be quite significant. That is reason enough to pay someone else to do it so you can focus on family or the money-making part of the business. Luckily for me when I built my website my first child was in my wife's tummy. Otherwise, had it been half a year later I would have categorically not been able to do it.
The key to be aware of is this. The gap between a functional website, a website that is built quickly and put on the web cheaply, is literally a canyon away from a professionally built website. What we see when we visit a website is akin to the iceberg concept. 90% of the iceberg we cannot see as it is underwater. Similarly, a large percentage of the website's build quality is behind the scenes or hidden in the overall structure of the website. Again check out the Appendix for a list of the various components involved in building a website. The divide from an amateur and professional build is massive, but unfortunately not always easy to see.
You may very well get a website up and running but one should really ask the question is this helping me in the long run or could this be damaging me? Does the website look professional? With all due respect, if you built it most likely it does not. Is it built to harness the Google ranking system or with high-speed performance in mind? Again most likely not. Can this affect your presence on the web and what customers initially think of your company and brand? Yes it most certainly can.
Would I recommend someone first starting out to build their own website? Not really. I only succeeded because this was the second website I had built, I had a lot of time (key factor), I had a fair amount of knowledge already, but mostly because I loved it and was HUGELY motivated.
Without any of those scenarios, my website would have looked rubbish. In fact, looking back it did look awful, embarrassingly awful. It certainly would not have ranked on Google. Most people don't achieve ranking well on Google, even professional developers don't achieve this and they know how to build websites.
Finally, there is comfort in knowing the website is being built well and in the hands of a professional. It's that peace of mind which can really be a great feeling, especially when you have hundreds of irons in the fire. I do have a word of warning about this though at the end so make sure to read that before moving on.
So in summary, if you really want to build a website yourself, then make sure you have the time to invest in a huge project like this. Remember not doing it well can hurt you in the long run. Doing it right can really help your business hit the ground running. So what to remember.
Alternatively, let's explore the pros of employing a professional to build your website for you. In this case - me.
Firstly we would discuss the purpose of the project and everything that needs to be achieved. This discussion can be really helpful in determining the direction you want to go and what you want your website to communicate. Talking these things through will definitely shed light on the whole process, which can be hugely thought-provoking.
What kinds of things work with your existing setup? What will a new website achieve? What goals do we need to meet in order to be successful? How can we improve the current setup? What have you learnt from your previous mistakes? What are your competitors doing well and not so well?
In fact, if you employed me for this stage alone it would help you massively. A problem shared is a problem half as they say.
Additionally, this stage is beyond critical if you want to rank on Google. The structure and ‘the how’ your website is built is without question the most important part of ranking on Google. What content do you need and what content is required to rank on Google? DO NOT neglect this stage.
What do you actually want your website to communicate? Often what you start out thinking the website should say is completely different to what it ends up saying. It is a question of want versus need. Need usually wins. Communication on a website needs to be simple, minimalistic and punchy - to the point. It is an art to get it right.
We can also discuss whether your website needs any advanced functionality? In what ways can we make your website work for you? For example, using online booking, online customer forms, and/or a communication portal like a blog, events and/or calendar.
What strategies can we put in place to attract more customers to your website, services or store?
When we talk about the design component we explore the psychology of colours. Colours set the mood, what mood do you want your website to have? How do you want the colours to contrast? What is the colour theme?
The psychology of images. You want images to speak more than what can be communicated in a paragraph, otherwise what is the point of having them. How and where do we place the images? What are the images trying to say? Do the images match the colour scheme? Do you want the images to dominate or compliment?
How do we enthuse your website with your values and ethos throughout the design process?
One massively important point to note here is as follows. When I design, I design in accordance to how it can be translated to the web. The web is complicated. You cannot simply take a design and make a replicate of it for the web. You have to, unfortunately, code the design for the web and it is the web that dictates what your design will look like not that other way around.
You can have the best graphic designer in the world make a stunning design but if it can't be coded then it is impossible to translate to the web. It is called designing for the web and it is very different to designing for posters and print media. This creates a common problem in the industry.
Employing just a designer who does not understand the complexities involved in coding a website has its problems as the design is not replicable. Alternatively, developers natively are not good designers and so sacrifice looks for functionality. As with all things, you can find professionals that blend the two very well.
In short, when I make designs I make them in accordance with how they will look on the web and most importantly how that one design will be interpreted for mobile and desktop users alike.
And remember we can tweak and adjust the designs until they look exactly how you want them to look. I know very well the feeling of something as important as a website not looking quite how I want it to look. I am a perfectionist and so the minute details matter to me. I want your website to be a perfect extension of what you imagined. My job satisfaction is at it’s highest when my clients are proud of their websites and/or brand.
Once the designs are finished I will start to code the website. You are free to input and add during this process. Naturally, I will be using all my expertise to build a quality website for you. My ethos when building a website is:
You can check out the following list of all the components that go into a website.
Once the website is finished we can have further discussions and then launch it to the world once satisfied. I really try hard to give my clients as much freedom to own the website as possible, even though I have done the work for them. I really do understand the struggle it is to have something so important entrusted to a random stranger. The amount of money and soul put into a website is a lot and I want you to know I share the same passion.
If you do eventually take the plunge to employ someone to build a website for you, please make sure you do your research. Generally speaking, be very cautious about using large agencies. I have been quite shocked at how dishonest they can be and the shortcuts they use. I speak with experience having worked for these types of companies and crossed paths with them.
Large agencies tend to outsource the coding to cheap third party agencies in India or Eastern Europe. Generally speaking, these agencies do not care about the quality of code or indeed you the customer. All they care about is meeting the deadlines of the bigger agencies because they do not want to lose them as customers. As a result, you get shoddy, broken and poor performant code. They do not take pride in their work because it doesn't matter. If the website looks like the designs provided, they have done their job.
Other agencies take a pre-built theme and tweak it to the designs of the project, which is the shortest amount of work required, but they still charge massive prices pretending it's custom made. Watch out for this one as it is rife. Again the output is poor code and crap performance.
Naturally, this does not apply to every agency. I have met some great ones, but they are certainly rare. There is nothing wrong with using a pre-built theme either. Nothing at all. But charging prices and reselling it as a custom-built website is dishonest. When and if I use a theme for a build I clearly communicate that to my clients so they know the pros and cons involved. It's all about being transparent and fair.
To be totally honest it is not the end of the world if it isn't highly performant either, it is just not very professional in my opinion and it will affect the speed of your website and how well it can rank on Google.
On rarer occasions, it can be the client forcing the developer to code or add functionality which can decrease the performance of the website. So also bear that in mind as well.
Finally, be aware of smaller teams or the soloists (like me). Generally speaking, they are a safer option for small companies, but you can meet some very strange people. The problem with soloists or any developer for that matter is knowing how good they actually are. So check their portfolios. Check the performance of the websites they have built.
It is like with all things. Do your homework and don't necessarily always trust the first person you meet. This also includes me.
My advice is to try and meet the team/developer one to one so you can use your intuition and judgement on whether you feel they are the right fit. If you feel uneasy for any reason walk out, that is a good enough reason. Also, ask them directly how they build their websites. What third party companies do they use? Who will be handling your code? Are they using a pre-built theme made by someone else? What tests they use to ensure the website has high performance. Are they using any third-party frameworks, plugins or tools?
Once a website has actually been made, it is nearly impossible to hide how good it is or how well it has been built. There are loads of websites out there that will test the code and performance of a website.
The url for this tool can be found at https://gtmetrix.com.
This is a nice tool that will test the performance of your website. Simply put in your url and hit go.
You are looking for green values in the high 90's across the board. On occasions it is impossible to get high scores depending on the nature of the build, however, simple websites should be getting green with no excuses. Feel free to call me for advice and I can walk you through what the different values mean.
Find this tool at these urls:
HTML testing https://validator.w3.org.
CSS testing https://jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator.
This tool compares the code of the website to the default standards of the industry. This website is like the bible of how everything should be written and work. Ideally, the website should have zero errors and very few cautions. Again this is not black and white but it does paint a solid picture of how well a website has been coded.
I hope this ebook has been of help to you in figuring out whether you should still build your own website yourself or whether to take the plunge and employ a professional. Either way, if you have any questions or queries please feel free to reach out to me. I would love to hear from you.