Do-It-Yourself Web Design

Remember to get results online you don’t need Detroit Auto Show quality design engineering.

The first rule of Do-It-Yourself Web Design is:

Do as little as possible.

It true for a lot of reasons, but here are the most compelling ones:

* Chances are (unless you are a web designer) you will do it very badly
* The amateur look will cost you visitor and sales
* Most of the work is done when you get a WordPress theme
* Lots of great web designers that will do good work very affordably

Now for the definitive guide to DIY Web Design…

Since you are probably going to do most of your competing online, in the search results, start there. Pull up Google and search on a few keywords you think your prospective customers will use. Better yet, search using a few of the keywords you want to rank for based on your keyword research.

Look at the websites. These are the comparables your customer will be using to select a solution. Therefore, get a vision for what is strong (and you might duplicate) and what you might do to stand out.

The good news is that most small business websites are pathetic and just a touch of professionalism will give you a homerun.

The next few tips I give you will make your website better than 95% of the business on the Web!

Unless you’re an artist, creative, or have a ton of time on your hands to become a professional—leave web design to the professionals. This is critical advice.

Ignoring it will cost you sales!

Web and graphic design is hard. You have to master a lot of skills from color pallets to CSS, not to mention mastering the kludge word of Photoshop—then put it all together without looking like a Red Light District.

This is the smartest strategy. You already know I am an evangelist of WordPress. What’s not to like? It free and it comes with a push button install on most Web hosting providers.

After you push WordPress install button cruise over to one of the two theme providers I recommend and use on all my websites:

* Studiopress – This is my primary WordPress theme provider. They have a lot more standard designs for business and various niches. They run about
* Thesis – I have used this theme framework in the past and it is great for an advanced user that wants a lot of flexibility. However, I think it is a bit complex for the first time user.

You get a professionally designed theme for a fraction of what a Web designer costs (even for an hour, much less a full design). With a simple download and upload, you will have a professional web design at your fingertips.

The set-up menus in these themes make them very simple to get started with a basic layout. Meanwhile, as you get more comfortable with the theme you can achieve a near infinite number of custom layouts.

This is another one I am passionate about. Customers want to see you! They want to know whom they are working with and what it might be like. Stock photos just can’t give that personal feel.

Stock photos can have a role in your website, but they are generally to convey more abstract concepts and services. A perfect place is on your blog to draw attention. However, they never belong on your About Us or Contact Us pages.

If you need stock photos I recommend the two options I use regularly:

* Dreamstime – I use this one the most. It’s a little cheaper and I can usually get the perfect image for about $1-$3.
* iStockPhoto – Really there isn’t much of a difference. They’re newer and can be more aggressive on price with discounts and specials.

There are a lot of great designers that will work for very affordable prices. Often they are less experienced and willing to charge a fraction of the going rate to quickly build a portfolio. That might sound like a negative, but don’t let that fool or deter you. They’re learning and they’re still 100 times better than us commoners. (Disclaimer: you may get some bad stuff, but that is the risk of cheap)

Here is where I get my fill in design work done:

* Crowdspring – I use this process for primary business logos. They generally run anywhere from $300-$500 to run a competition to source you a premium, unique logo. However, that gives you about 80-100 designs to choose from and revisions.
* Fiverr – I love this service! I use it for a lot of things, but in the design area I use it primarily for quick micro-site logos and promotional banners. Just like the name says it’s $5. For that price you might have to throw away a few results, but you will be surprised at the quality from most.

There you have it–DIY Web design for your small business website.

Do you have any questions? If you follow these instructions to launch your website feel free to post a link to it in the comments. I’d love to check them out.

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