So are DIY websites a good idea? The answer is an absolute, 100% NO.
Not if you want your website to perform as a tool to market and grow your business.
So what’s with my weird smoothie/milkshake/ice-cream-popcorn creation image? Basically to show that even though you might manage to create something that looks pretty, if you aren’t a web designer, then it’s going to be a mess technically.
Ok ok, I know this blog post sounds a little ranty and I’ll admit, this is a question I hear a lot (especially in female/entrepreneur social media groups) and it absolutely gets me fired up.
It gets me fired up because I know so many people spend MONTHS on creating their own website. They use an online platform like my beloved Squarespace or others like Wix. Some even feel confident enough to go it on their own using a WordPress template. And these website builders are designed so that even if you don’t know what you’re doing, chances are you won’t end up with something that looks completely amateur.
The reason I’m writing this today is an acquaintance of mine recently posted her new website link for all her friends to see on her Facebook page. She got a tonne of people commenting saying how great it looks and well done to her.
She is brilliant at what she does (it’s a service-based business) and the imagery of her portfolio is stunning, so it would be hard for her website not to look nice as it is full of gorgeous pictures.
But as soon as I saw it and looked over it with my website designer hat on I saw red flags everywhere. So today I’m going to cover some of the ways using a professional to build your website is vital so that you end up with something that not only looks pretty but is also optimised to work as a tool to market and grow your business.
First things first, optimised imagery.
I’ve written a whole blog on this here, so I’m not going to go into huge amounts of details, but using this friend’s site as a classic example, on her home page she had over 60 images, they were all fairly small to look at, however, NONE of them has been optimized for the web. Even some that when I opened them in photoshop were only 400px wide, were a whopping 1.5MB in file size!!! This is MASSIVE!
Even the full-page imagery I use on some of my client’s websites is less than 500KB, so to have 60 plus images on one page of your site that is each over 1MB in file size is massively hurting your site’s loading speed. And loading speed is one of the most important factors in search engine optimisation.
A (good) website designer will make sure every single image on your website is optimised so that not only does it look great on any device, but also so that it is the absolute smallest file size it can be to increase the performance of your page loading times.
Another important factor with imagery on your website is to make sure that each image has an appropriate file name. Leaving images with names such as IMG_1234 is not going to do your website any favours.
Make sure each image that is uploaded uses a keyword-rich, appropriate file name. And don’t forget about alt text!
Next up, let’s talk about site goals and customer journey
Often when people try to DIY their own website they don’t even consider things like their website’s main goal of the journey their visitors will take through their website to achieve that goal.
But this is the first thing I discuss with my clients when we start working together. We identify their ideal client and their main site goal and then we work out a journey for their clients to take through their website so that they can easily achieve that goal.
There are very few websites these days that serve no purpose, other than to look pretty. Most website owners want to harness the power of online marketing and want their ideal clients to not only find their digital storefront but invest in the business! Whether that be by purchasing a product, booking a consult call or signing up for an email newsletter.
If you make it difficult for your visitors to identify and achieve this goal, they’re going to go elsewhere, and fast!
Following on from here are, of course, Calls to Action!
Back to my little case study website, I was amazed to find as I scrolled through the website that there was not one single call to action on the entire site.
How is this even possible!
For a while, I didn’t even think she had included a contact page which I thought for sure must have been a technical glitch and it just wasn’t showing up in her navigation for some reason, but I was disappointed to find out I was wrong, that it was there, but she had used a cutesy name for it so that I had to click on that link to even realise it included a way for me to contact her.
As I mentioned earlier, this website had over 60 small images on the home page. So, as I was looking at her website on my mobile (as more than half of all users do nowadays – and in my experience for my websites, more like 80% of people) I was scrolling and scrolling and scrolling and I got to the bottom of the page.
At the bottom of the page, what do I see? Nothing. A big fat roadblock with nowhere to go but back.
No sticky navigation so I could navigate out of no man’s land.
No calls to action to lead me to where I should go next.
Hell, not even a footer with some information on what my next step should be!
Calls to Action should be sprinkled through your entire site. Strategically located so that your site visitors are never left wondering where they should go or what they should look at next. This is vital for ensuring your site visitors stay on your website and find what they’re looking for.
There’s a whole raft of behind-the-scenes stuff that a good website designer should take care of for you and I won’t cover them here because I’ve already harped on about that in previous blog posts.
If you’re interested in reading the technical stuff you can read Why doesn’t Google like me, for all my tips on getting your SEO set up right, outside of your own website, and if you’re using Squarespace then take a look at Get the basics of Squarespace SEO set up right in 2019.
Of course, this technical stuff is vital for a successful website, but it’s the topics I cover above that I feel are the things that people really overlook when they’re going it alone and creating a DIY website.
I find people that have built their own website may be aware of the fact that it is lacking in search engine optimisation, but they may feel that techy stuff is just too hard.
But it’s the ability and know-how to design a strategic website, one that will convert your visitors into new customers that is so important.
A final word
I know some people will say they just can’t afford a web designer in the early stages of a small business. If that’s the case then I urge you to find a well-respected designer using your preferred platform and see if they sell templates. There are some incredible, strategically designed templates out there that come from designers who know how important creating site goals, client journeys and calls to action are. These templates will have the right foundations to get you started.
No, they won’t be specifically designed for your business and ideal client, but they will be much better than not including these things on your website at all.
I hope my ranty little blog was more helpful than annoying! And I hope it’s got you thinking about your website and how it could be improved with a little strategic thought!