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So You Want to Build Your Own Website - Part 3. Do It Yourself?
by William Szczepanek

Article 4: November 15, 2007

Now let’s investigate what it takes for you to do the design and development yourself.

Steps for Creating A Website

It sounds easy enough when you put it that way. Do you like writing? Do you like programming? Do you like to spend time designing things?  Do you love detail work?  Are you not easily frustrated?  Then you have the make-up to develop your own Web site.  The question now is whether you actually want to.

You say you don’t like to paint the outside of your house.  Why not? 

Lack of proper equipment?  Lack of knowledge on how to do a good job?  Would take you too long for you to accomplish the task on your own?  Would you tire of it after awhile? Is it just too dangerous?  Could you get the job done much more quickly by hiring a professional? 

I hate to compare Web design and development to painting or improving a house, but there are many similarities, even though most Web designers and developers would not do difficult home improvement projects for the same reason that most skilled building professionals wouldn’t do their own Web development — they don’t know how.

Finding the right hosting company is an ordeal in itself.  There are thousands to choose from and it is difficult to determine what platform to choose, especially if this is new to you.  Not even experienced Web developers can rely on success when choosing a new hosting company.  Web developers will likely switch to another company after a bad experience and will also stay with a company that they have faith in and are familiar with.  Hosting companies vary considerably in their ability to service their customers. Often as good companies grow they have trouble providing quality service.

The Professional Web Designer

Using a professional Web designer or developer is like going to a fine dining restaurant.  You could choose to try to cook like an executive chef and spend many hours in the kitchen and even get a tremendous amount of satisfaction out of the experience.  Or you can go out to eat and let the chef do the work.  Either way can be a good thing, it’s a matter of personal preference.

Learning a programming language can be fun or a big hurdle.  HTML is a fairly easy programming language to learn, even if you haven’t had much of a background in programming.  Other environments like Dreamweaver or Expression Web can make the job quicker and easier. Programming is a skill not everyone has or wants to have.  Logical thinking and creative thinking when done simultaneously can often result in a big headache. Often novices will go the quick route and purchase tools that allow them to create sites with little programming background, but get frustrated when the tools don’t allow them to implement a specific function they would like.  Templates don’t give you many options for design solutions, just many choices, which sometimes can actually take longer to implement than if you could just sit down and make a two minute programming change. I have seen many people try easy to use tools only to get stuck with websites that they can’t update at a certain point.

Today, many Web professionals are self-taught. Many have come from other industries and have a good deal of experience. Formal education programs are relatively new and completing a limited course of instruction doesn’t provide adequate credentials or experience in design, programming or business, though it is a place to start

Success at Web Design

So, what does it take to become successful at Web design?  It takes constant study in an arena that changes quickly and the ambition to learn a discipline is necessary to be good at it. If pros don’t have an answer they can generally find an answer or an alternative. 

I have conflicting thoughts about people developing their own websites.  On one hand I think it’s great that so many people have gotten involved and have taken the initiative to learn how to implement a site.  In many ways I think it’s something that should be taught in school to everyone, much like woodshop or machine shop classes were taught many years ago.  While not too many people build furniture or machinery any more, the experience gained from those classes can be beneficial. On the other hand we have all seen websites developed by amateurs that are difficult to navigate, hard to use and just plain ugly; though I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

With the cost of goods going up and the shoddy workmanship coming out of China, I wonder what it would be like if we all made our own clothes.  I’m sure we could all learn to do this and I’m sure many would be proud of their work, but we would also probably see lot of poor fitting t-shirts.  I think we’ve all seen a lot of ill-fitting websites.

Most importantly, you must want to do the work necessary to complete all aspects of building a website.  The more you really want to do it and the more time you will spend to overcome the obstacles you will face, the better your site will be.

This series of articles has just touched on various aspects of Web design, but hopefully it has helped at least one person decide whether to attempt this task on their own, or to look to a professional.  Future articles will address methods for hiring a Web designer or developer.