Should you “do it yourself” for website building and social media?

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The Wix.com website, one of the two free DIY sites recommended by Patrick King.

I enjoyed reading a recent blog posting by marketing consultant/expert Patrick King, who suggests — even though he is in the business of providing web design services — there are good grounds in many cases to do the work yourself, using simple templated “do it yourself” website services/programs. (King is delivering a Construction Marketing Ideas webinar on Oct. 15:  Thought Leadership in The Construction Industry, which I encourage you to attend.)

First, he outlines the pros — and names some recommended DIY sites:

  • Low-cost or free.
  • Good for the one-person business, nonprofit or hobbyist.
  • Can be used as a stepping stone to a more professional web site.
  • Good for when you only need a few pages without the bells and whistles.
  • Recommended DYI sites: Wix and Squarespace.
  • Great if you don’t need a marketing strategy.
  • They have support forums, which can give quick answers to very general issues.

patrick kingOf course, he also indicates the reasons you really should consider using a professional consultant/designer to co-ordinate the project:

  • The SEO services that go along with these builders is not competitive, nor does it work on a strategy based on your unique business.
  • Have strong limits on creative control. Most of the time, you’re using inflexible templates.
  • Your site will look like someone else’s. Almost exactly.
  • They often insist you include their logo or they insist on advertising over which you have no content control.
  • A lot of features are flash-based, limiting their usefulness on mobile devices.
  • They lack enhanced functionality that can make a website more of a profitable marketing tool.
  • Should you choose to move to a more affordable hosting company, you’re screwed.
  • You can get detailed support and assistance from people who have a deep understanding of your site.

He concludes:

When you weigh these factors, you can see the niche these tools can serve. I think that they’re perfect for the shoestring entrepreneur, musician or hobbyist that needs a web presence, but can’t afford the rates that professionals charge. For web designers, it keeps them from lowering their rates to some absurd amount, and commoditizing our craft, just to draw in business. And freelancer just starting out can consult with these tools, giving them a start while they perfect their web chops.

I truly feel that these services are legitimate and have their place. Are they a worthy substitute for medium-sized businesses looking for serious growth? Absolutely not.

I agree with King’s perspectives here, with the observation that over the years, I’ve carried some aspects of DIY to an extreme. (But remember, I’m a publisher, not a builder, and my skills are in writing, communication and marketing, not designing, engineering or building real things.)

The best arguments I can give for and against DIY approaches to website development relate to the very early years of this business, when, starting out, I did virtually everything myself, including the book-keeping.

Now, I can think of few more thankless jobs for someone who is more literate than numerate; someone who likes to think big picture rather than meticulous detail, than keeping a company’s books. Everything must line up, balance, and be accurate to the cent — and one buried mistake in one entry can throw the whole thing off.

Sure, there is accounting software designed to simplify the process — but I remember early in the business, spending long hours (probably about a week’s solid work) over the quiet Christmas period trying to sort out the books and add things up to prepare the fiscal year-end reports.

Then I discovered I could hire bookkeepers at surprisingly low cost, with genuine competency to handle these tasks. In fact, there are a lot of bookkeepers around, I found, when I posted an ad looking for one, with a live phone number. (The only time I received more inbound calls in one day is when I received media publicity after I cracked a former US green card immigrant visa lottery — but that is another story.)

Of course, inexpensive bookkeepers cannot really be expected to co-ordinate more complex multi-corporation and international accounting (our business has a U.S. division), so we now pay significantly more — both for bookkeeping and general accounting services. But these professional services are worthy of higher billing rates, especially when the tax authorities decide they want to audit the books.

The same concept, I think, applies for most architectural, engineering and construction businesses when it comes to designing your websites and planning  social media marketing strategies.  Sure, it doesn’t hurt to know how things work, and you’ll be able to better see through the BS when you have enough knowledge of the process yourself. But your time and skills are probably better applied in your business and trade than on web design projects. Don’t be afraid to seek out some expert consultation.

Thought Leadership in the Construction Industry: Oct. 15, 2 p.m. EDT 

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