Building your own website (and reasons why you shouldn’t)

So, you’ve probably heard that designers usually get someone else to do their website for them… But I guess there are a lot of designers, like me, who decided to build their own website, from scratch, just because they can.

Big mistake. I’ll get to the “why” in just a moment.

There are some ups to building your own website, with Having All The Control probably being at the very most tippy top of my reasons why designers should build their own website. I think if I actually made a list, that list would be much shorter than this one… I might write about that in a future post 🙂

 

So, without further ado, here are MY reasons why designers should leave the website building to …someone else (even if they’ve got the know-how), and how to scratch those reasons off this list if you do decide to DIY anyway.

 

1. You want it to be perfect… too perfect.

We all want to put our best foot forward, especially where first impressions matter most. You (probably) wouldn’t set that embarrassing drunk photo from last weekend as your Facebook profile photo or use it on your resume. You wouldn’t put that first-ever design you’ve made for your cousin years ago in the portfolio you’re going to send to that big design school (because face it, it looks horrible).

The same goes for your portfolio website. You want it to be the best, look the best, contain the best samples of your best work. Because that is what will leave the first impression, and that is what brings you your clients.

2. You think you know what you want, but you really don’t.

No, you don’t. I didn’t, at least.

It’s (not) like staring at a blank canvas, but it feels like it. If you’re an artist or designer, you know that feeling. Have you ever started a new painting, design or sketch, but didn’t know where to start, so you’d just stare at the canvas or screen or paper, waiting for it to just “come to you”? That happened to me. And no, it didn’t just “come to me” like an epiphany. I planned and executed and failed, planned and executed and failed…

I don’t remember how many times I restarted the whole thing, just because I couldn’t decide on a theme. I also didn’t know which program to use to build the thing in. I was definitely not going to program it all – that would take forever (especially because I have minimal knowledge of only HTML and CSS). So I ended up building three different sites in Muse, one in WordPress, one in My Portfolio by Behance, and again, one in WordPress (which I ended up using).

 

3. You can’t decide which projects to use

It’s really, really difficult to sieve through your best work and choose the best of the best, because you either like everything, or you hate everything. Especially if you don’t have much to choose from.

One of the biggest roadblocks that caused my two-year delay, and also my biggest struggle, was choosing projects to showcase; mainly because I didn’t feel like my work was good enough. It’s like there was just something missing, and it still feels that way. Sometimes it’s a good idea to just wait a little while. Wait for the right projects to come your way so you have something to showcase, or create something you think is good enough. That does propose another problem, though – the right project might not come soon enough, or you just don’t know what to make that would be good enough to put on your website.

 

4. Your customers are waiting and you’ll fall behind.

One of the many reasons it took me so long to complete my website was because I had too much work to do and couldn’t make my website a priority. I had a full-time job as a designer and had clients (and a boss) to keep happy. I was too tired to work on my website in the evenings and had other things to do over the weekends (even though they were not as important and were mostly just excuses).

Now that I’m a full-time freelancer, I’ve realised that it’s just as important to do something for yourself as it is to work on your clients’ projects, but back then I didn’t know that. I would put my clients first, always. I sometimes worked until four in the morning, skipped lunch, had two-minute noodles or a pack of potato chips for dinner, and so on. But, while I worked so hard to keep everyone happy, I built my portfolio without noticing.

 

5. It takes forever

This is probably my top-most reason why building your own website is a bad idea. I first started building my website (or a version of it, at least) in 2014. It’s the middle of 2016, and it’s finally done.

Building your own website really takes up a lot of your time (and your clients’ time) and needs sacrifices. Now that I’m a freelance designer, I felt the urgency to complete my website. I had to put some projects aside, work in the evenings (even though I now have a strict rule against that), and spend my lunch hours in front of my laptop. The above reasons might contribute to the time it takes to complete your website, but there is a way around it.

 

If you do decide to build your own website, here are my suggestions:

• PLAN, PLAN, PLAN! Decide on the theme, pages and content before you actually start working. You might think it would be a good idea to YOLO, but it’s not. If you’re like me (and most other creatives) you’ll end up staring at the screen. For hours.

• Use a simple website builder, like WordPress, Muse (if you have the Adobe CC package), or any other builder you know of. Behance has this AMAZING website portfolio builder called My Portfolio – try it, it’s awesome. But you do, once again, need the Adobe CC package. It’s so much faster than coding from scratch, and so much easier if you’re not familiar with any of the languages.

• Ask for help, especially when deciding on what you’re going to add to your portfolio. I made a list of what I thought were my best projects, showed it to my husband and he helped me choose the top 20. You can then decide which you want on the website, and which not. I started out with 6 projects and built it up from there.

• Give yourself a due date, and stick to it, no matter what. Think of yourself as a client. Make time to work on your website for at least two hours each day.

• Set goals, like checkpoints, and reward yourself after each checkpoint. I reward myself by playing a game or sitting in the sun for a little while.

• Lastly, don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t be too picky. It’s good to want it to be perfect, but sometimes perfection is just a matter of perception.