Once upon a time, putting together a good website was as easy as learning a little basic HTML and throwing it all into Geocities. This just isn’t true anymore, sadly; with the advent of Web 2.0, customers and consumers want everything to be better, faster, stronger and slicker. Fancy backgrounds are out, Cascading Style Sheets are in, and adding in a good collection of fancy social media sharing buttons has become an absolute must. But how do you put all this together for your
customers, clients, users, consumers or fans – particularly without having to shell out thousands of pounds for the very best in modern web design ?
1. Do it yourself.
It’s never been easier to make your own websites quickly and easily. Google still has their own site builder a little like the generators of old – and it’s not at all a bad place to start. For many utilities, you don’t actually need a standalone site at all – it’s entirely possible that a blog, Tumblr, Facebook group or other social media page could do everything you need. There are also places like Squidoo, where you can put together a fancy expert’s page about what you do best; MySpace, which has come back from the dead to be once more something of a boon to the music industry; and various wiki generators – which are incredibly powerful tools, once you’ve figured out how to put them to best use.
2. Ask around for a newbie.
Things are developing so quickly that actually, a lot of the time you want to choose a recent graduate over someone who’s been in the trade for a long time – and a lot of these extremely capable people will be trying to build up their portfolios, and can therefore make you up a website at an incredibly reduced price or even for free. Personal recommendation or word of mouth is by far the best way to find such a designer – talk to your friends and family and find out if they know anyone who fits the bill. Web design is a booming industry still, and chances are high that someone will have a name
3. Take some training.
Honestly, building a ‘proper’ website from scratch is pretty easy once you know how. Almost nobody codes by hand any longer – and while us purists like to bemoan that fact, it does mean that a quick cheap course in something like Dreamweaver puts you in a decent position to start putting together your own website in your spare time. Whatever you do, though, make sure you get plenty of advice and second opinions – there’s nothing as useful as a discerning eye in figuring out whether or not you’ve done a decent job.
4. Call in the pros.
Of course, hiring a fancy web design company is still an option. There are a lot of ways to make sure you get a better deal, though – first of all you’ll want to ask around for people’s recommendations, find out who you can get a personal testimony for from someone you know and trust. Secondly, keep an eye out for package deals from brand management companies – many of them will do an awful lot more for you than just build a website, and all for a remarkably reasonable fee.
5. Use a Mac!
Obviously this isn’t a tip that will thrill Windows and Linux enthusiasts, but Apple’s iWeb software is something that’s easy to acquire, easy to learn and easy to teach. You’ll also get more from it if you use a .mac account to host your site – everything’s integrated, which streamlines the process considerably. The application will also teach you about the basics of web design as you go, meaning that you’ll have a little more guidance on what works and what doesn’t than you might with a more free-form web design programme. It’s great for beginners, and once you’ve got it all set up there aren’t any ongoing costs.
Whatever solution you choose, please do remember one crucial thing – any website, however slick and shiny, is only as good as its content. Follow the principles of good web design as outlined on many major blogs, check everything thoroughly for spelling and grammar, and don’t forget to include as many ‘calls to action’ as you can to make sure you get the response you need.