Once you’ve got the timing down, the next thing to think about is who should design your website. In fact, the two questions have a lot to do with each other – because, if you decide to hire someone, their schedule and timeline for a site will partially determine the timing.

There are a few different approaches to who should design your site:

  • Design it yourself
  • Templates: what they’re good and not good for
  • Hire someone
    • A graphic designer
    • A web designer
    • A web + graphic designer
    • About hiring different people: splitting the project between multiple vendors

So, today, I’ll discuss the first option.

Design It Yourself: This first option is certainly the least expensive in terms of an up-front investment. But it will take more time and learning to do so. You’ll also lose the perspective of having another person involved in the process by doing this yourself.

There are also quite a few things that you’ll need to learn in order to design your own website. Without knowing all of these pieces, you can’t design a website that will look professional, work well, and represent your company effectively.

  • Some design basics. You’ll want to design your site to look professional and to reflect your company’s brand. So, having some knowledge of some design basics for websites can be very helpful. I’ll be discussing many of those here over the next few posts. There’s also a few helpful books on the topic:
    Non-Designer’s Guide to Design
    Non Designer’s Guide to Web Design

You can also often find web design courses at local community colleges – those might be helpful to you as well.

 

  • A design program. You’ll need to create the design and layout for your website with a computer graphics program. While you can design web sites using Word, Publisher or even Front Page, these tools produce sloppy designs, poorly rendered graphics and don’t allow you to use a wide variety of tools and effects that are available in many design programs.

 

I recommend designing your site using a professional-grade design program such as Illustrator or Photoshop. While these programs are a bit of an investment, they’ll allow you to not only design your own website, but you’ll be able to design other marketing materials as well. I especially recommend Illustrator if you plan to design your own marketing materials – working with type and text in Illustrator is a lot easier than in Photoshop.

You can learn to use these programs in a few different ways. First, there are many books available on how to use these programs. I like the style and simplicity of the Visual Quickstart Guides.

Visual Quickstart Guide: Photoshop CS
Visual Quickstart Guide: Illustrator CS

Alternatively, if book learning isn’t for you, you can get training in these programs in a few ways. Community colleges often offer beginning and intermediate level training in these programs. You can also take professional training courses from software training companies, such as Learn It. If you’d prefer to learn online, Lynda.com offers a lot of training options in many design programs.

 

 

  • A website creation program. After your site is designed, you need to code the design into HTML. I, again, don’t recommend coding your site using Microsoft Word or Front Page. The HTML generated by these programs is typically not very clean, because they tend to put in extra code which makes your site slower to load, more difficult to edit, and the messiness is a big “turn off” to the Search Engines as well.

 

I do recommend professional-grade website coding tools such as Dreamweaver or GoLive. Both of these programs write pretty clean code, and they both offer some advanced coding options such as the option to add CSS to your website (I’ll talk more about CSS in the coming weeks). They are, again, slightly expensive – but you’ll be able to both design and maintain your site using this program, so it’s an investment that will certainly pay off. You’ll also have to spend some time learning the program.

As with the design programs, there are many books available on how to use these programs – the Visual Quickstart series, again, is a good resource for Dreamweaver, and the Adobe Classroom In A Book is great for GoLive.

Macromedia Dreamweaver MX for Windows & Macintosh (Visual QuickStart Guide)
GoLive Classroom In A Book

Many community colleges and learning outlets such as Learn It also offer inexpensive courses on how to use these programs. Lynda.com is an online training center where you can take courses on how to use these programs, too.

And, while I do recommend Adobe Contribute for making small text changes to your website, I don’t recommend it to code your website from the start – it’s just not a powerful enough program to do that.

 

  • Your business’s brand and Visual Vocabulary. You need to create a website that coordinates with your other designed materials. And, your brand is usually made up of much more than your logo – but, you might not have information on your business’s Brand Rules or Visual Vocabulary elements.

 

If you haven’t designed your brand yet, but you intend to design your own website or other materials down the road, then you should ask your designer to make up your Brand Rules and Visual Vocabulary along with the logo. It will usually make for a more complicated and expensive project, but it’s well worth it to have those tools available to you as you design your own pieces.

You’ll also have to have your logo in a format and size that works well for your website. You can read more about logo file formats here.

 

  • Sources for stock photography to use in your site. Using photography is an effective way to engage viewers and to make your website more interesting. Stock photography is a pretty complex can be a post all in itself, though, so I’ll discuss that more in a later post in this section.