The first step to building a website once the domain name is registered and the hosting is chosen is to decide what kind of design you need. The design you will pick must reflect the domain you work in as well as the soul of your business or project. Once your visitors enter the site, an invisible countdown starts; your page will have less than 10 seconds to clearly indicate what it is about. If it fails to deliver your message, your visitors will simply leave. Both your navigation and your website must be user-friendly and clear as your visitors will not go out of their way to find out what it is about. Taking that into consideration and assuming you will want a website that will be successful, you will need to sit down and think it through before you take a decision about your design.
Know your needs
Before choosing whether you want a template or a custom web design, you will need to make a list of all the features you will want to have on your website. This will help you narrow down the type of site you need. Ask yourself these questions and write down the answers as you will need to know this information when you start creating your website’s content:
- What sections do you need to have on your website?
- Who are you targeting or who will visit your website?
- Do you need a blog or a news section?
- How often will you need to update your website?
- What color scheme do you want?
- What is your budget?
The first 5 questions will help you figure out what type of content and features your website will have. Will you need a photo gallery? How about video and audio? Do you need a contact form? A search fonction for your blog? And social media integration? Once you know all that, it will be much easier to pick the right design; you will know what to look for.
Your budget will also play a major role in your decision (we have to be realistic). If you know you are on a tight budget and cannot afford more than 150$, you can put a cross over the custom web design option immediately. I guarantee you will not find any professional web designer that will accept to work for so little. What you will find are self-proclaimed web designers that will purchase a cheap template and resell it to you three times the price. So why bother? If you have very little funds and that authenticity isn’t your priority, go for a WordPress theme or template and install it yourself.
Business or casual?
Once you know what you need on your site, you need to ask yourself what you want to achieve with it. Do you want to build a real professional website or portfolio, or are you just looking for a platform where to share your thoughts with friends and family? The type of design you will need will vary according to how you answered to this question.
Getting a custom web design is great for many reasons; your website will be authentic, shaped according to YOUR needs and will reflect your project or business perfectly. You will be hiring a professional to advise you and give you what you need. And while your website will be taking shape, you will be able to concentrate on your work. It is by far the best option if you are serious about your website and want something truly professional.
That said, templates are a viable option if you want a simple site for a low-cost. It will not be original (hundreds of others will be using the same theme as you elsewhere on the web) but it can still be pretty and clean. It can have the features you need and in most cases you will be able to customize it. If you want a generic site, if you feel comfortable installing WordPress (or any other CMS) yourself and if you don’t mind taking the time of customizing it yourself, this option will be a good one.
Beware of charlatans
If you think a custom web design is the way to go, the next thing to do is to start looking for a studio or freelancer. Before hiring anyone to build your website though, you need to inspect their portfolio. Make sure they have one to begin with as a web designer or programmer without a website is like a mechanic without a shop or a toothless dentist; you shouldn’t trust them. Many so-called designers who offer their services online are in fact charlatans who buy WordPress themes for 50$ (or less) and resell them to you for over 1000$, claiming the work as their own. Some agencies even specialize in reselling templates. Now that you know they pay peanuts for premade sites they merely modify, you know better than to hire such “professionals” that founded their business on the principles of theft and deceit.
Don’t be scared of challenging professionals before hiring them. Ask them about HTML5, CSS3 and Content Management Systems. If they cannot give you an answer, walk away. Look for a studio whose values match yours and who you feel comfortable with. More importantly; look for professionals that will show an interest in your business’ success. If all they care about is your money, they might not be the right people for the job. Always keep in mind that whoever you hire will be the person who will translate your company values into a website for everyone to see and judge. If they don’t believe in you, how can they possibly make your visitors believe in you?
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