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Why Do-it-Yourself Websites Don’t Work

Nov 16

Written by:
11/16/2010 1:01 PM  RssIcon

 

Whether you’re a part of a club, have a small business, or have ever considered setting up your own personal website, you’ve probably run across a few online do-it-yourself website programs.

We understand that the process of creating a website can be expensive and often out of reach, as far as cost for a small club or business. 

Because of this, many companies provide cheap, do-it-yourself solutions. "Do-it-yourself" packages claim that all you have to do is "pick a template", "customize it", "add content", and "get found".  Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. The complexity varies from program to program, but they all lack the needed direction and experience that only a qualified developer can provide.

Here are a few things to consider before you decide to “do-it-yourself.”



Templates

There are a lot of misunderstandings about exactly what a “template” is. You might think that it is a quick and easy solution to all your website needs. Most templates cost anywhere from $25-$50 or less.
Think about it this way.  The structure of a website is much like a car. A template is a basic website design, and of course, contains no content. If the domain name and web host is the “chassis,” then the template is like the body of a car. A brand new template is pretty and shiny, just like a brand new coat of paint on a car body. But when you open the hood there’s nothing there…no engine.  Eek!

Often there are many technical barriers with "canned solutions" that the “do-it-yourselfer” faces as he tries to prepare the website. Most people don't understand image manipulation, optimization, color conversion, and other techniques to give their website what it needs to look and perform professionally. The results can lead to a website with distorted images, inconsistent colors, and poor layout alterations, all of which will give your club or business poor credibility.

That’s not to say that templates are useless and impossible to use, but to an inexperienced “mechanic” you're looking at weeks of research and countless hours of editing. In the long run, manually editing a template without the training and software, that professional developers use, is a bit like trying to build a new engine for your car out of scrap metal in a junkyard. Some could do it, but most will probably wish they hadn’t.

Doing it From Scratch

Some folks try to simply start from scratch and put a website together using Notepad or Word or whatever software they might have. This can be done for sure, but often the result is not so pretty.  Don’t get me wrong, there are advantages in the “Do It From Scratch” method, namely freedom to do what you want without the limitations of a template, but unless you have the tools and experience, most sites will look cheap and unprofessional.  The visitors to the site will think, “If this person can't even put in the effort to do a website right, why should I take him/her seriously?”

In short, the ‘Do It From Scratch’ method suffers from the same cons as ‘The Template’ method does: a long process with tedious updates and lack of power “under the hood.”
Capturing the Essence

Most clubs and businesses that we work with have visionary, intelligent people involved with them.  They understand what the club or business is all about, the goals of the organization and the appeal, that they want employ, to attract new members or customers.  However, few know how to translate this into a powerful web experience.  It is the web designer’s job to do this.  To say a business owner or club member can adjust a “do-it-yourself” template to make it work for their group underestimates what is truly needed. 

Functionality

If you were to tell a auto expert that a Ferrari is exactly the same as a Saturn, just sportier in design, well, he’d laugh at you.  If you said to a web developer, “all websites are basically the same, some are just prettier,” you'd get the same response. There are “Volkswagons” and “Ferraris” and “Yugos” on the web; in fact there are probably more types of sites than there are cars, since most websites are custom-built for the owner's exact needs.

Anybody can put some text on a page and call it a website, but can just anybody create a fully automated e-commerce solution that invites interest and sells, as well as receives payment for a product without having to hire a single employee for any of those functions? In most cases, the answer is “no”. Websites have come a long way since their roots in the 90’s; now online stores, newsletters, interactive features, member databases and search functions are becoming standard features, and to most Internet users, a site isn't complete until it has all of these features.

Adding Content

Many “do-it-yourself” website programs claim that all you have to do is "just add content." This is actually contradictory to proper website development. The proper first step is to develop the content of a site based on the marketing plan of business or a club’s mission statement.  Designing, first followed by planning and adding content is like building a house and then deciding how many bedrooms you want. Just as the house wouldn't meet your needs, the website will not be effective.

Brother-in-Law Deals

One popular alternative to working with a website development company is to hire a freelance or volunteer person to put a website together.  We’ve heard a lot of horror stories about sites that were created by relatives, club members who volunteer, or a “friend of a friend”--you know what I’m talking about.  Again, using cars as an analogy, this is like going to your brother-in-law’s mechanically-inclined friend for a used car. Depending on the friend's honest expertise and standards, you will either get one of two results:

  • The friend is a master of the wrench, and he brings you a car that works and you saved some money. 
  • Or, you get an automobile back that drives when it feels like it, doesn't like to start up, makes strange noises and finally breaks down a few months later.
Unfortunately, I’m afraid that Result #2 is often the norm.  Although there are some very talented non-professional designers out there, most don't know a lot about web development. Many will design a workable site for a low cost, but if for some reason he isn't reachable any longer or quits, you are stuck with a site you can do little with until you find someone else to pick up the pieces.  Eek…again!

The Solution

Hire an honest, proven web development company (like Connect 2 Clubs) that will design a site that represents your group well, is usable, is easy to update, and gets your club or business attention on the web.  Make sure this company will provide ongoing support for your administrators and the site itself.

Again, “you get what you pay for.”  Spending a little money up front to “do it right” can save you a lot of headaches, hassle, time and even embarrassment down the road. 

 

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