So you could build you a website. You also could cut your own hair and change the oil in your car, but that doesn’t mean you are going to. You may ask yourself, “When should I attempt my own website? How am I going to know when I am in over my head?” Here is when I say go for it:
If you have way more time than money.
Chris owns his own stand up paddleboarding (SUP) business. As someone who has worked seasonally for years in Bar Harbor, he has about five months of downtime when he goes to Florida or the Bahamas, takes a part time job, and recovers from his insane summer. During his downtime this past winter, he spent hours figuring out websites and built his own very functional site. If you have the discipline and desire to spend hundreds of hours learning anything, you are going to be successful at whatever you do.
Malcolm Gladwell in his book ‘Outliers’ says it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. But can you learn enough carpentry to build a table in 100ish hours? Probably. Would it be functional? Yes. But if you did 10,000 of practice could you build a better table? Absolutely. I can build you a better website if only because I’ve spent longer doing it. (Well there are other reasons too but let’s say that one for sure.)
If you want to figure things out on your own, I am not going to be the Negative Nancy saying you can’t. But I will say it may not look or function exactly how you envisioned at the end.
When you see yourself having to do it again.
Do I need to learn how to set up Quickbooks for my online business? No because that is a one time thing. But I should know how to invoice properly? Yes, I will do that repeatedly. Hopefully.
If you run several business and see yourself building several websites over time, it might be worth learning how to do it and applying what you learn several times over. Otherwise, you can just learn enough to maintain your website once it is build. Your time is probably better spent on your business making money the way you best know how.
If what you want isn’t complicated.
Like most things in life, web development can surprise you. As my friend Calvin once said “I spent three hours putting in five lines of code to make a site show up properly in Internet Explorer.” In other words, stuff that looks easy to do might be really hard, and vice versa.
Just as a very general frame of reference, the following items are examples of complicated features to implement in a website:
- Custom search (like if you wanted people to be able to search your rental website for number of beds available, location, and price range, that has to be custom built to search the correct parameters)
- Building an ecommerce site that takes credit card payments (Paypal only is easy since the financial transaction part of it is technically taking place off your website)
- Custom design (this takes layout skills and experience customizing templates with CSS or a programming language like it) and/or running different designs on different portions of the site
- Integrating third party functionality. Whether it is porting in your real estate data feed or making sure your reservation system works when people book a table online, there is some gears that have to work in the background to give your customer a seamless experience.
But if you just want a web page with some information, photos, and, say, a contact form, that’s kind of easy. Go for it if you’re interested!
So are the options to go it alone or pay someone to do it all? Not necessarily. Think about the following alternatives:
1) Take a class. You might be able to find something through adult ed or a local college but if you have a more constrained schedule/budget, there are also some great online courses. I recommend Lynda.com for online learning and at $30/month, that’s pretty affordable professional development. Love this blog so much you want to take our class? Sign up for our email newsletter (look left to where you are reading this on our website) and then you’ll know when we’re having it! Hint: It’s twice a year.
2) Get ‘coached’. Maybe you’ve taken your site so far and just want another set of eyes to look at it or want help with a certain aspect of the project. We coach people and others like us do too. While you’ll typically pay an hourly rate, it’ll save you time, money, and headaches to ‘talk it over’ with someone who knows more.
3) Join an online (or in person) user group. Whether it’s a WordPress group on LinkedIn or a Joomla group that occasionally meets up for beers and conversation, there is something to be said about a group of people talking about the same topic. Usually you can even ask questions of other users in the group for free. The downside is these groups are often nerds talking to each other so get the basics down in terms of a vocabulary or risk being slightly overwhelmed and/or not know what’s going on.
In other words, there are lots of paths you can follow to get to your own website. It all depends on your enthusiasm to learn, time constraints, budget, and talents. With those in mind, you can make the best decision for you and your company.