Build the website myself, or hire a pro?
July 14, 2007 3:14 PM   Subscribe

My dad's part time photography business is really getting going, and he wants his own website. All he needs is the front page, and I know a smattering of html and css. Is this something I can do? (long)

He has an account with a turnkey system to do the image hosting and shopping cart. All he wants is a front page with a slideshow of his photos and enough information to let customers know they are at the right place, and then they could click through to the turnkey site where they'd enter their event password and be able to browse through and order the photos they want.

I would love to be able to do this for him, but I'm not sure how big a job it is. I've built a few websites in notepad, and I've tweaked a few blog templates with css, and that's about it. I don't know how to make a slideshow script talk to the turnkey's database, but I could probably get one to pull photos out of a folder hosted at the same site as the front page. What I've never done is make sure a website works in most browsers/operating system combinations.

1) How long would this take a professional to design and build? (I'm assuming it would take me 5-10 times as long, so if it's too big a job, I will not have time to do it.)

2) If I were to do it, any advice on templates, scripts, tools etc that are reasonably priced for a commercial site? ("Reasonable" meaning if it cost x in license fees vs 2x to have a professional design it, then 2x is the better deal.)

3) Assuming I put it together and it looks great on my screen, is it reasonable to hire someone else to do the cross browser compatibility stuff, or is this something that should be planned for from the start?

4) Assuming I build it, can someone be hired to do any maintenance, design tweaking, etc? Or is this too small a job to be worth a professional's time?

Sorry this is so long. I hope I don't come across as not valuing the work that a web designer does. If this were more than one page, I wouldn't dream of attempting it. He can afford to hire someone, but I like the idea of doing it for him, and I think he would be delighted. But if I'm completely underestimating the work involved, please tell me I'm an idiot, and I'll stay out of it.
posted by happyturtle to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Almost anyone can do it. A professional could pump this out in an hour of making sure you really say what you want and then 20 minutes of coding.

A unsolicited design point: Click-through really sucks. Make the page functional, not a impediment. For everything you make, ask yourself "am I making this easiest for the viewer, or just masturbating with look-what-I-know-how-to-do exuberance?" Google, good. My local kennel, bad. Very very bad.
posted by cmiller at 3:37 PM on July 14, 2007

1) A few hours, if it's really just one page.
2) You should be able to do this for free, if all you want is the slideshow and some text (and styling). The slideshow can be done with Javascript - there are lots of free scripts out there.
3) I don't think you'd be able to hire someone to do the crossbrowser stuff alone, although I could be wrong. If it's only one page, and a simple one at that, you probably just need to test it in several browsers on multiple OSs (Windows, OS X, maybe Linux).
4) Yes. You might not be able to hire someone to do just the debugging, but updates and maintenance, sure.

Really, though, if it's only one page, it shouldn't take that long - take a swing at it. If it turns out to be harder than you can manage, hire a professional (even if it's just a neighborhood kid). If you start doing it and it looks like it'll take you more than a weekend or two, it's probably more difficult than you're counting on.

Now, all that said, keep in mind that being able to put together a page of HTML doesn't mean you know how to do design. That can be trickier. Still, as I said above, there's no harm in trying it - just make sure you look at it objectively and ask yourself (and preferably others - make sure they know you want an honest assessment) if it looks good.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 3:38 PM on July 14, 2007

I really love DIY, but in this case.. Well, it sounds like the site will be an important part of your father's business. But, and I mean this in the nicest way, it sounds like you are going to treat it like a hobby, or a favour, rather than work. It is a great thing to bring business and profit together with hobby and favour, but balancing those things successfully is very challenging.

Is the right balance a realistic possibility? If the only answer you have to that is "it depends how hard it will be".. Well, I have to think that isn't a very committed answer. If the business is generating enough money that a professional is a realistic alternative, and the business needs the web page badly, it could be time to bring in some help.

So, give it a certain number of hours, and give yourself a deadline, and get whatever you can done. If the result is good enough (or if it looks like it will be soon), great, otherwise, time to bring in help. At that point, your services as project manager will be invaluable. To get best value from a professional, you need to have some knowledge yourself!
Just don't expect the html you do to be useful to the contractor.
posted by Chuckles at 4:53 PM on July 14, 2007

One thing you'll want to consider is: how are people going to find him? If he sticks a site on the web and just expects people to get to it, then he's not going to do any business. Once you've got the basic idea established, you'll want to review the front page and make sure there's enough information for Google to read so he can get local people who may be looking for him.

You can hit me up in email if you want some general advice in this field. Profile's got the data.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 4:57 PM on July 14, 2007

"My dad's part-time photography business..."

Key point: He's part time.

Set up a website, then have him register and upload his photos on and then pick a plugin that will import his flickr photos into his blog front page.

Millions are doing it. Don't make it complicated. When he's rolling in the PROFESSIONAL - full time dough, than he can dump you and get someone to do it for him full time. :)
posted by BigNerd at 5:21 PM on July 14, 2007

I recommend Pixelpost. Use it myself and, with a fairly decent selection of templates, easy to personalize.
posted by chaosscontrol at 6:52 PM on July 14, 2007

Sure you can DIY a one-pager. It's a good way to take your learning up a little notch.

For an experienced developer, the longest part of the job is getting the client to produce a proofed and finalized text, a full set of non-broken URLs with captions, and firm (sane) decisions on design specs. The work itself is a snap. For a novice like you...allow at least a weekend for experimenting with different UIs and aesthetic choices, and putting the pieces together.
If you and your dad don't like how that turns out, you've still built a basis for discussing more robust solutions with a pro.

Note: if I'm wrong in assuming you have a hosting account already and know how to use it, allow at least as much time for that part.

posted by nakedcodemonkey at 7:10 PM on July 14, 2007

The site needs to suit the business, so if it's a small, informal business then sometimes a home-made-looking site with a few rough edges is OK. There are various ready-made slideshow components out there, e.g. SlideShowPro; unless the turnkey service offers some kind of API or widget, you're going to have to use a folder containing some images.

If you want something more professional, and the business doesn't yet have a logo etc., then put together a clear plan (yeah, it's only a logo and one page, but that still needs a design brief, content, requirement, etc.) and approach a web/graphic designer; if you come across as a low-hassle client then someone local might do it really cheaply and take a day or two. You could then maintain it yourself, and get some nice business cards for your dad featuring his new logo.
posted by malevolent at 1:49 AM on July 15, 2007

beaucoupkevin: His website isn't aimed at the general public. He works with kids sports leagues to take their photos and the coaches and parents are given the website info where they can go online and choose their photos. So not much appeal to anyone but the friends and relatives, and most of the photos are behind passwords. He also does a lot of nature photography, but his income is from the sports.

Chuckles: Yes, it would be a hobby for me, or rather a one off investment of time. My free time is very limited, and I couldn't guarantee to be available in the future if he needed something changed. I think perhaps you are right and I should just stick to the role of advisor.

BigNerd: He's part time because he has a full time job that pays well. He does it because he loves it and because he wants it as a way of earning money in retirement (about ten years away). He's been doing it now for about a year and is at the point financially that he's no longer running at a loss (photography courses and equipment are paid for) but he isn't yet able to pay himself for his time. At his current rate of growth, he will probably be earning a nice side income in another year, but eventually he'll hit a ceiling when he has enough business to occupy all of his evenings and weekends.

One thing I probably should have included: He doesn't yet know enough about computers to run his own site. He knows he needs a domain name and a web host, but I doubt he's written a line of html in his life. I have no doubt that he could learn it easily, but that is time that he could be spending taking pictures.

I'd like to thank everyone for the links and recommendations. I'm looking through them all carefully and this should be very helpful in making recommendations to my dad.
posted by happyturtle at 2:19 AM on July 15, 2007

this is obviously more for anyone who finds this via search later, but one great tool i found is homespun websites ( build it through a template, update yourself with no html. easy. i mean, it is simple and has it's limitations, but for a basic website, it's a good tool for those of us who are scared of html and don't want to learn wordpress, etc.
posted by sacho at 1:14 PM on September 28, 2007

i used to use host with lycos which has a bunch of one-click installs for all sorts of software including picture gallery stuff.
posted by browolf at 10:48 AM on October 21, 2007

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