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Do-it-Yourself or
Hire a Web Designer?

You're going to have to do much of
the information design yourself,
but you may want help on the graphic design.

I'm very much a do-it-yourselfer so there was little doubt I would teach myself to do simple website design. After all, I'm something of a gearhead anyway. I built ham radios in my youth, I mastered the pre-Internet BBS technology, and I love computers.

Another factor helped make my decision: most of the web designs I saw on the Internet...sucked! They were complicated, gaudy, over-wrought and distracting. They took forever to download over my dial-up connection, and they didn't help me find what I was looking for, they hindered.

So I designed my own sites, and I designed and built simple sites for a few of my consulting clients. (There are now several programs that now make it fairly easy to design simple websites, and here are some free designs.)

After a few years I told one client, "The site I designed is now too basic for you. It doesn't project the proper sophisticated image for your company. My strength is in information design, not graphic design. It's time to find a good graphic designer to put a fresh face on your website."

The client found an experienced web designer and asked me to help commission the work. We told the designer we wanted a website that was attractive but simple to use—like a tour company's color catalog because the company was a tour company and that's what its clients were used to.

When the new website was ready, it had sophisticated graphics, huge page files that took forever to download, elaborate rollovers and drop-down boxes, Javascript coming out of its ears, and a penchant for failure. It was an unmitigated disaster (though sophisticated-looking).

When we presented our concerns, the designer told us the reason the site didn't work right for us was that we had old computers and we should go out and buy new computers and try again.

So that's how we learned why there are so many unusable websites out there: talented designers design sites they and their designer friends will like, even though the people who pay for and use the websites may hate them.

Things are better now (marginally), and on the next page I'll give you tips on how to find a good web designer, but right now let's look at doing it yourself.

Steep Learning Curve
If you're not comfortable with computers, forget it, because you really do need something of a techie-head to make it up the learning curve, even with all the good software programs available to help you.

If you are comfortable with computers, at least give it a try. Even if you later decide to collaborate with a web designer, what you learn in trying to do-it-yourself will help you greatly to understand how to build a successful site.


Next: Website Design Software to Do It Yourself

Previous: What Makes a Good Web Page?

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Tom Brosnahan