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DIY Website? Fool for a client...

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Building “do-it-yourself” web sites has become an epidemic. There are so many blogs, web sites and even books that "teach" you how to build your web site in a few extremely simple and easy steps. Building a web site has become easier than boiling an egg.
But, is it really so?


Lets get serious about this – if your TV set does not work you call a TV repairman. If your car does not sound as it should you take it to a car mechanic to have it checked by a professional. Even if your tap is leaking, you call a plumber and don't try to fix it yourself. So why on Earth you should do your web site by yourself?

Whenever you call a professional to fix things, you actually save the time and money, not to mention the embarrassment and trouble you might (and probably will) cause yourself with incompetent intervention.

The “be your own webmaster” concept appears really attractive. It looks adventurous, challenging and like something you can actually do, especially with all those WYSIWYG and CMS tools in Cyberspace, making it almost impossible to resist the temptation.
And telling your boss and co-workers that YOU are going to do the new web site is an unforgettable feeling (you could swear you saw the tears of gratitude in the eyes of your boss).

The process itself usually starts with installing all the required software (some photo editing software, good HTML editor - WYSIWYG if possible), or in rare cases selecting a good template for template based systems. Then you arm yourself with piles of photos, written content, charts and reports, make a brief consultation with you colleagues (just to be polite and not exclude them completely, and maybe a little bit to make sure they know who’s running the show here). So that’s it, right? You’re ready now and the new web site is just around the corner, right?

Well, unfortunately, no, I’m afraid you are not even close to being ready. All the wanders of Cyber world “including but not limited to” software, hardware, your enthusiasm, CMS, WYSIWYG, WTH (even WTF) and all other abbreviations can not make it up if you are lacking any of the key ingredients of a good, successful web site:

Great graphic layout - face it - either you have the talent and training for graphic design or you don’t. And if you don’t have the talent, you can’t get it, and there’s no tool to replace it.
Easy to follow, descriptive and intriguing text – state of the art graphics will catch visitor’s attention, but the good copy is what makes them browse your site and learn about your offerings. There’s no use in having great design when your visitors get confused with your explanations.
SEO optimized HTML – even the greatest web site is of no use if nobody visits it. And although there are many roads to your web site, most visitors will come by the “Search engines highway” if they could only find the road sign pointing to it.
Do you see anyone around you having ALL these? I doubt it, for the simple reason that some of these (if not all) are the antithesis to each other – most of programmers are perfect in understanding the Internet and how it works. They are also very good in programming and making search engine optimized code. However, when it comes to marketing and graphic design their capabilities can be measured only using nanotechnology. Most designers, on the other hand, master the colors, fonts, layout design and visual organization but have no clue how their own computer works, let alone the web and Internet. And from their point of view, marketing is some strange thing done by very annoying people that always want to comment and change their work. People from marketing know it all about the market, SEO, customers but they could not care less about how Internet works and how important is the difference between #666666 and #999999 (let alone more advanced design questions like positioning the image with single pixel precision).

Even if you decide to build using a team of people from your company (and there goes that admiration you’ve earned), finding people alone will be quite a task, not to mention that that group of individuals should start working as a team before their retirement. Then again, you have to pay them more for additional work, and that changes the budget significantly, which was the main reason for doing it yourself at first place. And since too many cooks spoil the broth, this teamwork can easily lead to correcting multiple errors and this will produce losses in time and money.

Eventually this entire adventure ends up in the system administrator’s corner. And system administrator is a special (very special, if I may say) kind of IT specialist. He usually lives quietly, locked in some distant, hidden office, where he uses all possible means to make sure your IT system continues to work properly in spite of users doing their best to take it down. He for one does not have neither patience nor time for marketing managers nor designers (especially the designer) and he hates HTML programming, considering it a way for amateurs to make themselves feel like real programmers. It usually takes ages for him to finish the web site (if he ever finishes it in the first place) and final costs are far beyond anything that you would pay to the professionals.

So, if this scenario sounds familiar, if the main graphic on your web site is a shining “Under construction” sign, if your system administrator (or friend, neighbor, girlfriend, boyfriend or any other person that promised you to finish the web site) is too busy to finish (or even start finishing) the work, do a favor to yourself, your boss, coworkers and the company and hire the professionals to develop your Internet presence.
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Author:faikdsd
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12 Comments
LVL 38

Expert Comment

by:lherrou
This made me laugh... it's pretty much what I used to tell prospective clients when they complained about the quote I gave them and said they would do it themselves.
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LVL 38

Expert Comment

by:younghv
Exactly why I don't even have edit rights on my own website. I don't have a clue about 'web stuff', don't want to know, and I pay someone else to do it right.

Great advice - and I really hope (some) people will pay attention.

Good stuff!

(Yes vote above.)
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LVL 11

Expert Comment

by:NurAzije
I hope every client can read this article, it would make our life easier :)
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LVL 70

Expert Comment

by:Jason C. Levine
faikdsd,

+1 for being well written and well argued but I think you are overlooking some things.

With the rise of WordPress and the associated theme and plugin developer communities, it is entirely possible for someone to create and maintain a typical small business web site without any real help from a web designer or developer that satifies your bullet points.   What is usually lacking is knowledge that options exist and how to get started with the tools.  The more savvy people are capable of learning on their own once you point them in the right direction.  The less savvy ones (like younghv) are the ones who need a bit more hand holding in the beginning but can be taught to be self-sufficient with the tools in a matter of hours.

So why would we want to do this and cannibalize our customer base?  Personally, I think it is far better to spend fewer hours with each of my clients at the beginning stage and only be on call for issues they just can't handle on their own (theme design, advanced photoshopping, custom function development) or really do require some advanced expertise.  But overall, the total amount spent on the developer should be less than a completely ground up build and the client should end up happier and empowered with the level of control on their site.  That happiness should generate more referrals and more referrals = more clients = happier developer.

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LVL 38

Expert Comment

by:lherrou
But Jason, don't your points actually agree with faikdsd? You're still talking about having a web designer/developer involved with the website initially, only that once that has been done, the client can do as much as they are able to, to create and maintain it themselves.
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LVL 70

Expert Comment

by:Jason C. Levine
It's not quite the same thing to my eye, but I grant the concepts are similar.  I think that people should consult with a web professional initially to determine their options but one of the options is "Have you heard of WordPress?" and if not, quickly show them some of the free and premium themes available as well as the plugins and see how they want to proceed.  The hypothetical above has a somewhat above average user attempting to create a site and failing because they don't understand the level of knowledge and commitment required for a completely bespoke solution.  WordPress removes almost all of that angst and allows the client to only engage in the level of service needed.  In my experiences in this economy, those services aren't much for typical small businesses.  It's the atypical stuff that will require a heavy dev commitment.

Also, with a bespoke solution the "create and maintain it themselves" is usually beyond the comfort zone for most people.  The dev has to either create a CMS-style interface for the site (expensive) and/or be responsive to requests to change minor stuff (burdensome).  Even if the client opts for the expensive of CMS-like functions, eventually they will want to change the sidebar or tweak the menu.  A complete CMS solution makes this easy to do, a bespoke solution is highly dependent on how much was spent and the foresight of both the client and the developer.  

Also, I'm not proposing to explain WordPress and cut them loose.  The dev is still available to answer questions in a support contract situation (although part of my services is also explaining how Experts Exchange is the cheapest consulting around :) but that reduces my touches with the clients to minutes instead of hours and leaves me more time to do other things.  Billing like a law firm (15 minute increments) is actually quite liberating.
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LVL 38

Expert Comment

by:younghv
I think the real problem here is that the rest of you guys understand what you're talking about. To you, this stuff is so basic that the entire presumption is that "anyone can do it"...given a little bit of initial hand-holding and some follow up help on the tough stuff. (Personally, I thought "WordPress" was a web page.)

I think there is an entire perspective that no one has addressed.

About 80% of my (non-retirement) income is derived from repairing malware infected computers - most of which have had some kind of amateur (“anyone one can do it”) attempts at initial repair.

In most cases, the amateurs cause me to spend two or three times the hours than if they had just left it alone. This simple fact also doubles or triples the cost, so there is a silver lining to that cloud.

“Could” I learn enough of this to get by and maintain the web work someone else set up? Probably. Is there any legitimate reason for me to do so? No.

I make X dollars an hour doing what I know how to do. My lawn service charges about .25X for their weekly visit. Should I spend about 4 hours mowing, trimming, blowing debris, etc every week when I can pay them with the equivalent of 15 minutes my work? (Not to mention that it cuts down severely on my beer-drinking time.)

I can understand IF someone had a basic interest in doing web work that they might want to go the route described by jason1178. For those of us with no interest – nor aptitude – or we simply want to maximize our income focusing on our specialty – there’s a really great quote that comes to mind:

“A man’s gotta know his own limitations.”
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LVL 56

Expert Comment

by:Scott Fell, EE MVE
Perception is reality and folks can only perceive what they physically see and don't even care the ramifications because the joy they get "creating" and spending 10 times the amount of their time then it would have cost to pay to it have it done right and fully understand the markting and seo aspects.    

You just have to fire those clients and find more that think like younghy.  If your client can't get the concept of doing what they do best to make money, your marketing and seo won't matter to them.   Just let them fail on their own and don't waste your time.     All creative aspects are in the same boat - printing, photography, video.....  
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LVL 70

Expert Comment

by:Jason C. Levine
younghv,

Obviously.  But if you needed to make a change to your billboard page (new phone number, say) and everyone's out of town, wouldn't you appreciate a designer who had the foresight to think ahead and make sure you were empowered to do that?
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LVL 38

Expert Comment

by:younghv
jason1178,

Time for an 'Ooops' moment.
I checked my email messages (from June '07) and I actually do have access and the password - and the designer encouraged me to learn some of the basics.

With that correction out of the way, let me answer your question with a question.

Given that my website was created in June 2007 and went from start up to number one in the Google rankings in less than 5 months, why would I have the temerity to consider logging in and changing anything? Am I going to improve something?

Anyone doing a Google Search (in my area) for computer+repair+(my city) sees my little one man shop as the first hit. To me, this is the ultimate "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" scenario.

I fully understand the thought of the 'owner' of a website having access to - and the knowledge for editing - their own web site, but there are also those of us who simply have no interest in anything but the results.

My slice of the IT world is this infinitesimal little chunk known as fighting malware and I do OK at it. I'll leave the rest of the pie to those who know what they're doing.
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LVL 70

Expert Comment

by:Jason C. Levine
>> Anyone doing a Google Search (in my area) for computer+repair+(my city) sees my little one man shop as the
>> first hit. To me, this is the ultimate "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" scenario.

Well, yeah...
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LVL 4

Author Comment

by:faikdsd
I'd like to thank you all for voting my article helpful. I did not expect such interest (and definitely did not expect to start this discussion).

The idea for this article came from years of experience with corporate clients. Many of them came to our company to build SECOND version of their web site, mostly after unsuccessful attempts to build decent web site with in-house staff. In their defense, I have to say that those companies are among best clients and that working with them is a real pleasure – once they embarrass themselves with their web site, they’re ready to accept any professional advice, and that makes them 100% cooperative.

Generally I was not talking about startups and small businesses (very few of those have an in-house system administrator and in their case the boss is usually both the owner and the person that is going to build DIY web site), but about corporate clients that actually do waste both the time and money when they try to do things that are not their core business. And of course this is based on my own experience.

I do agree that enabling user to change the web site using some CMS is a good thing and all of my clients, (corporate, small business and individuals) always have that opportunity (although most of them choose to pay us for making changes).
However, I do not agree that having a professionally created web site (even if it is just a setup of Wordpress or any other template based CMS – OpenCart, Magento, Joomla, etc.) can be considered DIY web site.
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