I receive emails every day from people who want to make their websites look awesome. After all, that’s what I do! But many of the people who contact me are also concerned about the cost of a full website design. It’s a big investment, especially if you’re just starting out and can’t justify spending a lot of money. Last week, someone asked me, “Isn’t there a way I can make a halfway decent website on my own until I can afford to hire you?”
The part of me that owns a business and needs to pay my bills wanted to reply, “Sorry, you’re stuck with a crappy site until you cough up some cash!” But while I do believe there’s no substitute for a professional website design, I’m also a human being. I don’t think it’s fair that someone with more money to spend on a website should automatically be perceived as more capable or competent, nor is it fair for someone with a limited budget to be stuck with a horrible 1990s website.
Here are some tips for a DIY website you can be proud to show the world:
1. Use a great theme.
When it comes to easy, professional WordPress design, a free theme usually won’t cut it. I use the Genesis framework for nearly all my clients’ sites, but Genesis also offers a ton of child themes that look great right out of the box. A developer license for the framework (meaning you can use it on as many sites as you want) is only $59.95, with child themes available for less than $19 each.
Other advantages of using Genesis:
- Most child themes are mobile responsive, meaning your site will look great on tablets and phones
- There are numerous websites and plugins devoted to making Genesis easy to use
- The cost of the framework is a one-time cost – no renewal fees to continue getting updates and support
If you want to create a website without a designer, it simply doesn’t get any better than the Genesis framework.
2. Get a logo.
If you can only spend money for one part of your website, spend it on a professional logo. Yes, you can make a header in a program like PicMonkey or even MS Paint, but the problem with those is that people can tell you made them in PicMonkey or MS Paint. And don’t even get me started on the ones you can buy on sites like Fiverr – I can spot them a mile away, and so can everyone else.
Your brand tells people a lot about you, and your logo is the symbol they use to remember you and whatever you’re offering, whether that’s products, services, or blog posts. You want your logo to be memorable in a good way, not something people can only recall because of how hard they laughed at it. Even if the rest of your website is pretty lackluster, a great logo goes a long way in presenting yourself to the online world.
I offer a ton of branding options, as do many other designers and developers. Don’t scrimp on branding – it’s the most important aspect of your image!
3. Choose good colors.
The color palette you choose for your website will tell visitors a lot about you, even if they aren’t consciously aware of it. For example, a dark website will immediately make me think its owner is (A) colorblind, (B) depressed, or (C) a teenager who enjoys punk metal. Think of some big name companies and look up their websites – you’ll notice that the most professional websites out there are using color wisely, with plenty of white space to break things up.
Choose an odd number of colors – 1 or 3 is usually plenty – and use them alongside neutrals such as white, gray, and black. Don’t overload your visitors with a ton of contrasting patterns – it’s okay for some things to have a plain white background! When a site has too many different colors, it’s hard for visitors’ eyes to know where to look. This color palette website is a good place to start looking for complementary colors.
4. Make sure your site is easy to navigate.
Imagine that you’re encountering your own website for the first time. Is the point of the website clear within the first few seconds? If not, you could be losing visitors. Decide what action you want your visitors to take – signing up for a mailing list, reading articles, making a purchase, etc. – and gear your homepage content toward that action. Don’t assume that any of your visitors know what you do; even if your company name is Bob’s Car Detail Shop, there will always be people who have no idea exactly what you offer.
Anticipate questions your visitors might have and address them through a page like “About Us,” “What We Do,” or “Our Services.” Each page should have a clearly defined call to action, such as a contact form, links to guide visitors to other parts of the site, or buttons to make a purchase. Have a friend click through the site and look for anything that isn’t clear or needs more explanation.
DIY Websites: A Good Idea?
I will always believe that it’s easier to hire a web designer, especially if design just isn’t your thing. That said, it’s entirely possible to make an awesome website on your own. By purchasing a great theme and a logo, using great colors, and making your site user-friendly, you can develop a presence online without spending a lot of money. And just think – when your website takes off and you become wildly successful, you can always hire someone to make your great site look even better!
Have you ever done your own website design to avoid hiring a designer? How did it turn out? I’d love to see your DIY site!