DIY Danger Zone

A few short years ago the do-it-yourself website building landscape was a mess. Sure, the tools were available, but everything a lay-person created with them was recognizably bad. Some interfaces were easier to use than others, some came with better starter themes than others, price models varied, but what they all had in common is that at the end of the day, you would reliably wind up with a pretty bad looking website. At best, it wouldn’t be horrible, but it would still very clearly be a DIY site.

Things have changed. Tools like Squarespace, Shopify, and some high-quality drag-and-drop WordPress themes have changed the game. They come packed with slick, polished starter layouts, lots of well-designed modules and components, and have intuitive interfaces for manipulating layouts, fonts, colors, content and imagery. To the lay-person, a DIY site might be indistinguishable from a professional site. This is great, right?

Well… yes and no.

Today, it’s easy to create a website that looks good. You spend a few days futzing around with the builder. You drag elements here and there, tweaking to your preferred colors and fonts. You sit back and take it in and, hey, it doesn’t look too bad! You ask your friends, family, employees and customers what they think and they agree. Sure, it doesn’t have all the “bells and whistles” but it’s fairly polished and looks professional. Therein lies the danger.

Without an experienced web professional’s eye, you would think that your website is pretty good and call it a day. But is your content voice on mark with your target audience? Have you defined your target audience? Is your content structured optimally? Does your layout facilitate a frictionless path to conversions? Do your visuals effectively communicate your brand message? Is your navigation intuitive? Buttons properly planned, sized and placed?

You see, today’s DIY web builders create websites that do what they’re supposed to, in terms of slideshows sliding, photos displaying, layouts adapting. But whether they do what they’re supposed to — in terms of generating purchases, inquiries, donations or other desired engagement, depends on the person doing the planning and building.

Unfortunately, this issue can crop up even when you’re not “doing it yourself”. The ease of these tools creates a low barrier to entry for all sorts of “web designers” who can create a website for you cheaply and quickly. If they don’t have the expertise to plan, strategize and properly build it, though, you won’t be any better off. We’ve had quite a few clients come to us after having learned this the hard way.

I’ll be honest, we professionals fought this reality for a while. The purist craftspeople in us wanted to stick to our elegant professional tools. However, after seeing so many people going astray on DIY tools, we decided to see what we could cook up using our professional expertise. You know what? It’s good stuff.

That’s why we’ve decided to offer a website project package that’s more affordable than any we’ve offered before. We help our clients to properly plan their audience target, their most-desired-responses and secondary-desired-responses, their content structure and voice, their creative brief and their functional requirements. Then our clients trust us to get straight to work and build their new website. We keep it affordable by using modern drag-and-drop tools and avoiding all the back-and-forth of Photoshop design comps — the outcome is a website that is strategic, effective and truly professional.

What is the meaning of this?

Beware the DIY Danger Zone. While DIY (or Do It with sub-par “designers”) builders have come a long way in their utility, there’s no substitute for professional strategy and planning. At the end of the day, the best web builders are still just design tools and it takes strategic designers to wield them with the best results.