Having an online presence is a necessity in today’s world. It’s a key way customers find and interact with businesses, and the ability to gather information and browse products through the web is something most modern consumers expect.
For those interested in website design, the Pacific Northwest is a great place to be. Web design companies abound in Bellingham, making it easy to find someone to create your site for you.
That being said, you don’t necessarily have to pay someone to design your site. Teaching yourself the basics doesn’t have to take a lot of time and effort, and you don’t need to be an expert to use the web design programs available today.
While there are courses available both online and in classrooms, it’s honestly faster to teach yourself—and there are plenty of resources available to help you. If you’re considering embarking on your own web design, here are some tips to get you started.
Tip 1: Start with a blog
Blogging sites like Blogger, Squarespace, WordPress, and Wix do a lot of the backend design for you, letting you focus on the aesthetic aspects like the graphics and layout. Playing around with one of these services can increase your comfort level, letting you experiment with adding content and images without needing to write all the back-end code yourself.
As you’re designing your blog, take the time to look at the code. Some blogging programs have an option for seeing the HTML right in the designer. If yours doesn’t, you can inspect the code of the website. Most browsers have a hotkey to do this.
On Chrome, for example, you can hit Ctrl+Shift+I, while on Mozilla the hotkey is Ctrl+Shift+C. You might not understand just what you’re looking at, at first, but gaining that initial familiarity with the code will be helpful once you start learning it.
Tip 2: Learn how to craft quality content
Knowing how to write code lets you design a website, but what you put on that site is arguably more important when it comes to attracting and keeping readers. If your written communication skills aren’t great, improving them will do more for your website’s quality than even the most sophisticated code.
Not sure how to write compelling content? Start reading it—and pay attention to the details. What tone do your favorite web articles use? How long is the typical post—and how do they keep you engaged the whole way through?
Pay attention to what you don’t like, along with what you do. If you find certain phrases or styles of content off-putting, you’re probably not the only one who feels that way. Once you’ve studied other people’s content, you can better write the kind of content you want to read.
Tip 3: Hone your eye for design
People talk a lot about the technical aspects of web design but sometimes neglect the aesthetic component. You’ll need both to make a high-quality website. Artists, decorators, and other visual creatives have a leg up on this step, since they’re already used to thinking about things like color and proportion. Even so, you’ll want to study up on what makes websites specifically look appealing to visitors.
There are free courses and tutorials all over the internet on improving your design skills. Both WikiHow and Medium.com have a wealth of web design content you can access for free. You may also find it helpful to join an online community, such as a designer subreddit or similar forum. Just like with generating quality content, you’ll find it very helpful to pay attention to the things you like and dislike about the design choices other website builders make.
Tip 4: Learn how to write HTML
HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language and is the programming language at the heart of all web design. It’s one of the easiest programming languages to learn, too. The commands are fairly intuitive once you get used to them and it’s on the whole much more forgiving than other coding systems.
You can learn HTML in a variety of ways. There are plenty of books on the subject, though you’ll want to be careful you’re getting the most recent information available (HTML5 is the one currently in widest use). You can also find an array of online tutorials for free, as well as websites that share coding tips and advice.
As with anything, practice makes perfect. Just studying HTML won’t be much help if you don’t figure out how to implement that knowledge. Many free blog programs let you write the HTML for the site if you so choose, so that can be a good playground for trying out your new skills. You can also go through a site like Codecademy that gives you an interface for typing and testing code in an array of different languages.
Aside from HTML, these two coding systems are the most prevalent in web design. CSS is short for “cascading style sheets” and works in conjunction with HTML, letting you define the overarching layout and design of a page more quickly and efficiently.
Rather than writing the code to specify things like text size, heading definitions, and link colors in each individual page, you can create one CSS document and use it in all your pages. This saves you a lot of time when you want to make changes, too, since you won’t have to go in and rewrite each page individually.
Tip 6: Gain an understanding of SEO
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is how you get your website into a form that search engines can read. It’s not just about putting keywords into your content that customers will be searching for. Designing the pages and elements in a clean way that Google can make sense of is also important to getting more page hits through search engines.
Generally, the faster and cleaner your website is, the better it will do in search engines. The frequency of updates is something else search engines look at, which is one reason blogs tend to rank better than more static sites. The placement and quantity of keywords is a big part of it, too, and it’s not just about using as many as you can. Too many keywords can actually hurt you, triggering your site as spam according to Google’s metrics.
When Do You Need a Professional?
The first question you need to answer when you’re deciding whether to do your own site or hire a professional is exactly what services you want to offer. If you’ll mostly be using the site for marketing and giving your business an online face, it’s reasonable to do it yourself.
More complex and interactive sites will be trickier for a beginner to pull off. Writing scripts is significantly more difficult than coding basic HTML and can be very frustrating to learn. If you want those kinds of bells and whistles, you’re probably better off hiring someone to get you started.
You should also consider how much time you want to invest in the website. Business owners have plenty on their plates already without adding website updates to their list. If the site will be primarily static, or you just want a place to share occasional articles and news with your customers, doing it yourself won’t be a huge time investment once the site is up and running.
More frequent updates will mean spending more time on it, and you may find it’s ultimately more economical to hire someone than squeeze it into your own schedule.
Security is something else you need to think about, especially if you plan to incorporate an online store. Professional web designers know how to avoid hackers and protect you and your customers’ data. Customers won’t shop on your online portal if they don’t trust you to keep their credit card information and other personal data safe. For any website that’s handling financial information or sensitive data, a professional will give you peace of mind.
Advantages of Using a Web Design Bellingham Service
- You’ll get a unique and high-quality site. It’s often easy to tell when someone’s used a free web design platform. Their included templates run the risk of giving your website a cookie-cutter look. Hiring a professional lets you break free from those limitations and create a site that’s totally your own. They also have the knowledge to give your page smoother navigation and better eye appeal.
- It will get finished faster. Learning web design takes time and you have to practice a lot before you can do it quickly. There’s inevitably some troubleshooting that needs to happen, too, and locating and fixing programming errors can be a huge time-sink. Web designers have the experience to build a site quickly so you’ll be up and running in less time.
- You can take advantage of their expertise. Professional web designers stay on top of the latest trends and developments in technology. They can give you access to tools and options you might not have even known existed, and will be able to point out potential issues with your design vision that aren’t obvious to a first-time designer. Using a designer can often help drive more traffic to your site because they’re able to leverage their past experiences.
- The site can be more responsive. Beginning designers often don’t think about things like how the page will look on a mobile screen. Incorporating interactive elements like contact forms, comment sections, and user forums can be very difficult for a beginner, as well. A web design professional knows how to implement design elements that will make your site more dynamic.
Advantages of Doing Your Own Web Design
- It’s cheaper. This is the main reason people design their own sites. Professional web designers charge anywhere from $30 to $80 an hour, while developers often charge upwards of $100 an hour. That often means a total cost of somewhere between $3,000 and $10,000 for a business website—a pretty hefty expense that you can avoid by learning the skills yourself.
- You have complete control. Web designers will follow your aesthetic vision in the design, but that doesn’t always guarantee you’ll get exactly what you were looking for. If you learn to do the design yourself, you’re in charge of the end result, with no risk of your vision being derailed by creative differences or miscommunications.
- You’ll learn valuable skills. With each passing year, more and more of our lives are happening online. Fluency in programming languages and skills in web design expand your ability to navigate the digital landscape. This can open opportunities beyond just building your own website.
What’s the Bottom Line?
Building your own website can be fun and easy. While it’s not always the right choice for everyone, programming skills are a valuable tool to have in your back pocket no matter what industry you work in. We hope these tips have given you the confidence to explore your web design options. With the right resources and a bit of practice, anyone can become a web design whiz.