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Want to Start Designing Websites? Just Do It!

By February 1, 2016October 22nd, 2017No Comments

I studied storytelling for a long time, and I know that it is never good practice to tell your reader that the story they are about to read may not be unusual, unique, or worth their time.  Then again doing this could go along way in establishing credibility – or the authorial ethos – making a story that much more compelling, more desirable, more interesting.  You be the judge.

Sitting at a desk job downtown, grading a stack of papers, an epiphany came to me like a D comes to a much-deserving poorly composed essay: “the world is LARGE and we were meant for more office jobs and 9 to 5s” – I told you this was going to be cliche.

So I quit.  Cashed in my savings and decided to travel the world.  And I did that for a while, until I quickly discovered how expensive traveling actually was.  I started thinking how I might be able to make some money to sustain my sojourner ways, and after exhausting pleas to friends and families to support me through “philanthropic” fundraisers, I turned to web design.

Having never designed a website before, I sent out emails to as many companies as I could pleading with them to let me overhaul their websites.  “No, I don’t have any experience, but I promise I can design you something better than what you currently have!”  After sending emails of this sort for weeks, one organization consented – a benevolent company called Peace Passers.

Now three years later, I have built 2 websites for this non-profit organization, and between the two websites we have thousands of visitors a month!  The first site is a more basic specimen of what WordPress is capable of, and the second site is a more robust crowdfunding platform, similar to GoFundMe or others of the same ilk: See It Here!

Here I am roughly 20 websites later, and while I am not completely reliant on websites for income, they have afforded me the ability to prolong travel and make connections with international businesses and clients; it has genuinely been a rewarding endeavor.

Of course, in each scenario I might have done some things differently – as is the case always when you do something new – but I have learned from each job and have gotten better.  Always get better.  Try, make mistakes, and then fix them.  And if you want some pointers, here is a short list should you have the desire to brave the new frontier of web design:

1. Leave Adobe Dreamweaver Alone

I will let you into a secret: TEMPLATES are the way to go.  I have designed a website in Dreamweaver – knowing Adobe Premiere, Photoshop, and After Effects helped – and it was WAY more work than necessary.  Save your time and energy by starting with either a free WP template or a paid one.  You can thank me later.

2.  Urge Clients to Select Content Wisely

There is nothing worse than sorting through someone else’s collection of photos to find “THE ONE” you need for each page, header, or slider.  For that reason, don’t fall into the trap of being tasked to sift through a client’s Dropbox gallery or SmugMug gallery.  Tell them up front, they are responsible for providing pictures and information.  If the pictures are bad, you can make other arrangements.

3.  Clearly Establish Expectations in Contract.

There are SO many things to consider with a website that is beyond the design: updates, seo, edits, plugins, social media, security, performance, analytics, products… the list goes on.  Be clear on cost and what it includes, otherwise you might end up selling yourself short.  If you would like to see a sample contract and an itemized spreadsheet, shoot me a message: Email Me Here!

4.  Local Host vs. Coming Soon Plugin

I used to design websites with a software program MAMP on a local host and would transfer all the files to the live site via FTP, Like This.  Now, I use THIS PLUGIN that allows you to create a landing “construction” page where you can tell visitors pertinent information for the projected site launch.  The perks of designing a site locally is that you can completely polish the site before making it live, but the migration can be cumbersome.  Design the site live with the plugin.  It is easier.

5.  Don’t Fall into the WIX or Weebly Trap.

There are website-building websites that offer domains, hosting, and templates.  While these sites are tempting, since they provide an all-in-one solution for web domains, hosting, and design, they tend to be more pricey, AND they lock you into their services forever.  In other words, if you design a site with these companies and want to migrate your site to a different provider, you are SOL.  You will have to start over, as that CMS (content management system) is not compatible with other companies.

* Domains are cheap, around 10$ a year, and hosting can be around 5$ a month!

I have other morsels of info and suggestions, but this is enough to get you started.  Hope that you enjoyed these tips and biographical anecdotes – if you ever have any questions, please feel free to contact me.  And for some ideas and samples, check out My Websites.





The Denster

Author The Denster

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