It can be tempting to skip design firms and hire the teen next door, or to do it yourself…
If you are first starting out, the most tempting option might be the neighbouring teenager who has learnt a bit about how these things work and is keen to show off their talent for a few pounds. Depending on your business plan, this may well be a good option, but the questions you will have to ask yourself are:
- Can they deliver it on time? Website building is time consuming and highly detail oriented. What may seem like a simple thing to you may be a nightmare to your web developer, and waiting weeks or even months is not uncommon.
- Can they deliver what you want? More importantly, if they don’t, are you going to get in trouble with your web-keen nephew (or his mother), or pay for something you will never use?
- Will they be able to keep up with your needs? You might start with something simple, a ‘brochure’ style website that will have a contact form, and a page that explains who you are and what you offer. A modern site will need more: content management so you can keep up with changing schedules and fees as you grow, blogging and other features so you can keep in contact with clients old and new, class registration and on-line payments, and other advanced features — and, finally, someone who can help you with your search engine optimization, online marketing, and social media engagement.
The do-it-yourself websites have disadvantages similar to our theoretical neighbouring teen, but they also have one big advantage: low price. But to do it right, you will need to a learn a lot about present-day web marketing and site design. This doesn’t mean that you will need to become an expert and know your URLs from your URIs and understand the difference between FTP and HTTP,* but it will help if you understand how web hosting and domain hosting work, along with some key concepts about how Google searches work so your customers can find you on-line. Creating your own website does help you become familiar will all these details, but the problem is then that you are often left on your own to learn these, and any rookie mistakes will be public mistakes. The biggest disadvantage to DIY here is that it is actually quite difficult to design something that looks professional, and a web site should be consistent with the professionalism offered by the firm it is promoting. Clients should feel confident that yours is a reliable and thoroughly well-managed business, and a poorly constructed web site can have a substantial negative impact there.
Hiring a professional is the reliable way to build a business site, but much depends on who that professional is. Hiring a web developer is a bit like hiring an accountant or a mechanic. You need to find someone who intuitively understands your needs, and with whom you can have a good working relationship. Do you want someone who is going to build you a website then offer no support afterwards? Or someone who will insist on controlling everything themselves and charging £150 every time you want to cancel a class or add a new one? A good web developer should be willing to work with you, doing the things you cannot do yourself while encouraging you to do the things you can — not at all unlike a good trainer!
As with life, there are no easy answers and every business is unique. Whether you are using a cheap and cheerful tool to build yourself a website, or finding a friend or relative to build your website for you, or hiring a professional, you need to think long term: a website is more than just a brochure. It should be an evolving marketing medium that supports the entirety of your work. It should keep you in touch with current clients while encouraging old clients to return, and offering reasons for new prospects to become clients. If you would like to hire a professional, please contact us at Ultimate Gym Websites. We always happy to answer any inquiries; we feel that the only stupid questions are the ones not asked!
*for the very curious: URL, ‘uniform resource locator,’ and URI, ‘uniform resource identifier,’ are ‘addresses’ for a site. So my site URL is http://www.ultimategymwebsites.com/, and that is also a URI. However, my name, ‘Ben Waymark,’ can also be a URI — but it may not be a URL. FTP standards for File Transfer Protocol; it is a method for copying files from your computer to the internet. HTTP stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol — what browsers like Firefox and Chrome use to retrieve and load webpages.