Web Design

Building your own website? Read this first

Tom Garfield

Co-founder & MD, brand new notebook

You’re thinking about building your own website? Great! Before you click on your first template or choose a CMS, I’d love you to weigh up the pros and cons of a self-build.

You might think as a web designer that I’d be dead against business owners building their own websites. But I’m not! With the right tools, you absolutely can do a good job by yourself. But with years of experience and exceptional skills, I can transform your ideas from ‘good enough’ into a great website instead.

Can new business owners build their own websites?

Of course you can, and a self-build might be a good option for people with:

  • Limited budget
  • Some existing skills
  • A curiosity to learn 
  • The time to take on the challenge

Self-builds can be a cost-effective way to save some money in the early days of a new business, and if you navigate your way around a self-build site, you might be able to get a good site up and running. And it’s not as if they aren’t popular tools. In 2022, it was reported that a massive 42.9% of all websites were powered by WordPress. I think WordPress is still best regarded as a tool for professional designers and developers, but with the popularity of pre-made themes and visual builder plugins, you can assume a good proportion of WordPress sites are self-built. However, and it’s a big ‘however’, taking the self-build route won’t be for everyone. 

Website templates — are they worth it?

There are loads of options out there to build your own website, and they all need a different level of skill and patience to use. Whether you use WordPress, Wix or Squarespace, the allure of templates can make the job of building a website look easy. But even the simplest template needs some degree of skill from you. They are tools, and tools take practice.

If you’re prepared for a steep learning curve, then go for it. But choose wisely! There are lots of things a template can’t help you with. Such as…

Information architecture and how to structure your pages to flow well

Even the best templates can’t tell you where to put the most important information or how to arrange the finer details. Structure, sense and flow aren’t a template’s forte. Only you know what’s important for your website and the flow of your pages.

Make sure you start with pen and paper – think and write and map out how you think your site should flow and what elements you might need on each page before you start jumping in.

Conversion optimisation principles

Does a website template know how best to convert visitors into engaged website users, or even into your future clients? Probably not. Among many things, your visitors need to see content they can trust, on relevant topics to your business and clear next steps for them to take.

Which call to action you should focus on

Speaking of clear next steps, do you want visitors to get in touch with you, to read more pages, or to interact with your content? If you’re not sure, a template won’t know either. It can only offer suggestions to help you prioritise calls to action.

You need a solid strategy, a deep understanding of your visitors’ motivations and what’s going to get them clicking that CTA!

How to write effective content

Without strong content, your website is going to feel pretty flat. Even the best looking shop window is meaningless without stock on the shelves. While templates may be able to help you to arrange your content, they certainly can’t write it for you and don’t have your valuable expertise.

What information you should prioritise

The template won’t be able to tell you what information comes in what order. Without careful consideration, it’s easy to create an info-dump of all the information in one pile at once, or to accidentally scatter bread crumbs of details throughout the site that would serve you better in one place.

How to write effective case studies

Case studies are the lifeblood of a successful business owner’s website. Case studies show that you know your stuff, have worked with clients before and have been trusted with the big juicy details of some exciting projects. You already know where I’m going with this… do templates know how to write effective case studies? Nope. That’s another task that’s down to you, your experience, and your confidence in writing your own content.

4 top tips for building your own website

All that being said, I’m not staunchly against self-builds. I think in the right circumstances, they can be really effective tools and shouldn’t be ruled out. Here are my top 4 tips on how to approach a website build.

1. Plan before you build your own website

Avoid the temptation to jump right in. Plan out your website, including your messages, calls to action, content and information architecture. Decide on what’s most important and put that first. You can even sketch it out on paper if you want to help you figure out what information should come first.

2. Remember: copy is more important than design

Like a shop with no stock, a website without good sales copy will sell nothing. The design and layout of your website needs to provide a framework for your copy and content to sit inside and do all the hard work. Whether or not you want to write your own copy and content is up to you, but if you’re unsure then there are plenty of copywriters you can work with to make sure your website is working as hard as it can.

3. Have fun!

Building your own website can be a lot of fun, or a massive headache, depending on your appetite for learning! Before you start, think about your skills, your interest in building your own website and whether or not it really is the saving you think it might be. 

You can get a cost-effective, flexible website that you can change yourself without having to go back to a developer. As a bonus you’ll get a great sense of accomplishment and a site to be proud of, as long as you’re fully invested in doing the best job you can. 

4. Try a hybrid approach

My final thoughts? Well, if you’re dead set on building your own website, perhaps we could do it together. If you’re doing a self-build, it’s easy to get started and lose momentum or interest when you start to hit a few snags. And that’s okay! With a hybrid approach, you’ll build the site yourself, and I’ll help you create the strategy, and be around for advice and guidance and feedback throughout the project. Then you’ve got a cost-effective way to get an expert involved without us building the whole site for you.

Building your own site takes time, patience, and more patience. Stop tearing your hair out trying the DIY route. Drop me a line today and find out more about working together. It’ll be easier than you think.