Do I need a professional to design my website or could I do a good job myself?
December 13, 2012 3:32 AM   Subscribe

Do I need a professional to design my website or could I do a good job myself?

I am in the process of developing a subscriber based email newsletter, which I am probably going to run through mailchimp. I need to develop a website as a 'storefront' - so people find out about my newsletter and have somewhere to come and read what it's about and why they might want to subscribe etc.
My only previous website experience is developing and running my own self-hosted wordpress blog, and working within other CMS systems for work-based websites. I have a fairly good eye for design, have a strong sense of what I want the site to look like, and am willing to put the time in to learning how to put a website together. But should I? I am thinking that if I build it myself a) if something goes wrong in future I should be able to fix it (but willing to be told I am deluded on this) and b) I have time on my side so I don't need to have it perfect and ready tomorrow. However I want a professional looking website that works properly.
Factors that might be a consideration:
- I currently have the domain registration. The registration is currently owned by someone else, but comes up for renewal in February and I have it on 'backorder' with godaddy so if it is not ridiculously expensive I could get it. So not sure whether it will be run as the or the (with pointing to it) site.
- I would like to eventually charge for the newsletter. This can be done through mailchimp as an amazon affiliate, but perhaps it would be better to do the payments straight through the website. So I would need to be able to set that up
- I plan to run a podcast at some stage. I know there are lots of good podcast hosts, but again perhaps this is something I should host on my own site
- I don't want to run it as a blog. I know everyone and his dog now runs a blog, but the whole point is I am developing a newsletter, so that is my constant information stream.
posted by Megami to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I would do it myself if I were you, as a self-hosted Wordpress site. Even though you're not running it as a blog, Wordpress is a pretty powerful and easy platform for running a non-blog site. WP Inspiration (though it hasn't been updated in a long time) should be able to give you some good ideas on how flexible it is for sites that aren't blogs, and you should be able to do everything you want with plugins. If I didn't have at least a strong background in CSS I would spend the money on a professional looking theme that fits your 'brand' which you should be able to customize a bit.
posted by matcha action at 4:08 AM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think you could do a "good" job yourself using Wordpress. There are enough decent themes that it should be good enough for want you awnt to do. It's also easy to pay for a decent custom theme that won't break the bank.
posted by Blake at 4:09 AM on December 13, 2012

If you're feeling up to the task of learning the code and building the design, I'd say try that route first. If you get it up and end up hating it, you can always bring in a pro to redesign or update it.

Also, I have never found a down side to learning a new skill or three.
posted by tigerjade at 4:09 AM on December 13, 2012

The question you should be asking yourself is: am I able to create the visual design that I envision? Everything else - coding, integration payment solutions, doing podcasts, - is secondary in your case because that's something you can figure out by yourself.

I say this because I've created many (Wordpress) sites (with lots of coding and customization) for my projects and while I also think I have a good eye for design, design is always the most difficult and time consuming part.

As for the site itself, why not start out with a hand coded single page web site so that you can focus on the newsletter and other content instead of maintaining the site?

Regarding your factors:
- The domain name doesn't matter that much unless it is the (exact) name of your newsletter and you will use it in your branding (" Newsletter!").

- Implementing a payment solution can be really easy and quick (basic version of PayPal) to the ones tailored to your needs. More complex payment solutions come with lots of documentation but require some coding experience (html, javascript, php, etc).

- I don't know much about hosting podcasts but you should consider the implications of hosting large audio file on your own hosting. Often it's easier and cheaper to host them on youtube and just embed them on your site or newsletter. And if you dislike the ugly YouTube player, you can totally customize the look and feel of it.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:23 AM on December 13, 2012

I suppose it boils down to: are you trying to save money by doing it yourself, or do you want to learn some new skills for fun (and will be fine if the final product has rough edges)?

I'll come out and say that I'm a professional WordPress developer, and I spend more time than I like on fixing themes (just because it's on Themeforest doesn't mean it's good code) and plugins because of bugs or design decisions by the author that were incompatible with my current project*. And the ugly truth is, a lot of themes and plugins are made by amateurs or devs with other full-time jobs... many of whom tend to vanish when you need support.

You say you have time on your side, but how much is it really worth? You may want to give yourself a timeframe to try and do the site yourself before making a decision to hire someone. Just keep in mind it's sometimes cheaper to start from scratch than try to fix a bad theme.

At the end of the day, support is your most valuable asset when tackling this project. If you're going the DIY route, the best way to evaluate a theme/plugin is to look at its support forums and see if there is any active community and how responsive the developer is. If it's for purchase, send over pre-sales emails to gauge responsiveness.

* One of my favorite poor design decisions was in a rather popular WordPress shopping cart -- every product in the shopping cart was assumed to ship in its own box. So, if you decided to buy 10 small widgets, they each went into a separate $4 box. Naturally, this pissed off my client's customers to no end. So, after getting nowhere on the support forums and direct email, I coded a workaround (this was 3 years ago). Though I no longer use the cart, I still get a steady steam of other cart users asking to buy my code; the developer still hasn't even acknowledged that his shipping logic is sub-optimal, much less made his own fix.
posted by Wossname at 4:52 AM on December 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

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