Don't go it alone with your website

Conceiving of a website for yourself or your business is one of those things that seems simple when you start but somehow snowballs into something far more complex and terrifying. It’s a bit like starting a Saturday thinking, “I might just buy a pair of jeans” — there’s no “just” about it.

Are you the right person for the job?

Jeans-shopping or website-building, both are better with someone experienced by your side. If you’re a top copywriter, visually literate, and effective in employing these tools — terrific: you may be the person for the job. If not, you’re going to need help.

If need-help is you, close your eyes for a moment, take a deep breath, and let yourself really feel the pleasure of your website no longer being your problem. Now it’s someone else’s job. Doesn’t that feel good?

Who you need

Creating or redeveloping your website can be made easier by finding someone who understands copywriting and visual communication — either a professional or someone in your network of friends and family. (If you do use a friend or family member, please pay them or at least do a contra swap of your skills or hands-on-deck for theirs: freelancers do better work when they’re not being exploited.)

Website job roles

  • Copywriter Writes the words for the website (called “text” or “copy”), comes up with section and page headings, company taglines and slogans, and perhaps some Search Engine Optimization (SEO) text too (to help search robots find your website when someone’s looking for your product or services).
  • Editor Reviews the website text and structure and advises on potential improvements to better serve your intended audience or correct any errors in the text. For example, this might include suggesting navigation or URL changes, or cutting and moving text, or combining pages. For small to medium websites, the editor will likely also be the proofreader, checking all corrections have been changed as prompted. Some editors (I am one) also offer developmental editing to help you work out how many pages, what kind of text, and the best type and size of site to serve your audience.
  • Graphic Designer Also known as “Designer”. Creates the visual style, or the look and feel, for the website — the colours, layout of headings and text, and images if you have them. Many designers are happy to do photo research to help you choose images that fit your site and style.
  • Web Developer Writes the code to make the website look how you have decided with the designer and display the text you have worked out with the copywriter, editor, or by yourself. (They write code to display exactly what they’re given, even if it includes poor spelling, grammar or visual-media choices.)

It can really help to get an editor on board early. It may seem a phase-one cost you can cut but it might save you money down the track. Bear in mind that every new iteration from a designer or web developer will cost you, from layout changes to page expansions or reductions, or changes to lists of tags or how visible or not you want such elements to be to the audience. Most freelance editors are used to working closely with designers, and some freelance editors also work closely with web developers: we can help you develop a clearer brief for the designer or developer. We can also be useful at the later end of the process to get you out of a sticky knot of confusion or ugly-page syndrome with a DIY website-builder.

Still flying solo?

Even if you do have the skills to do your own site, you may find you find it easier to pretend the job is for someone else. It can be handy to make voice memos, or send yourself emails, with briefing notes, so that you’re working from given parameters — much easier to create solutions within a framework than to invent from nothing into completely open space. I’d also recommend you get yourself a copy of the Web Style Guide Even going it alone, there’s no need to be alone in the world of web options. Save yourself and your web audience some pain and simply follow best practice.