How complicated is this project?
The first step to figuring out if you can handle this project is figuring out how complex it may be. Are you starting a simple site from scratch, migrating a large catalogue of e-commerce products or content, or most likely something in-between? Do you have a standout brand you want strongly demonstrated, or are you fine using a default theme template and colour scheme?
Today’s modern website builders can empower a somewhat internet/tech-savvy newcomer to do a lot. Many come with boatloads of premade themes and powerful features and plugins to handle almost everything you want to do online — from e-commerce to portfolios to appointment bookings to memberships. On the design side, drag-and-drop composition and the freedom to customize colours and fonts means you can make your site look great without knowing a thing about coding.
Still, you’ll need a good eye, an interest in the design process, and some creativity to come out with a nice final product. On the technical side, you’ll need to be able to work within the confines of out-of-the-box features and plugins. This means that you won’t be able to tailor parts of your website to your specific needs, such as a checkout process or contact form, or you’ll have to buy more powerful plugins to get those enhanced features.
*IMPORTANT TO NOTE*
Beware of too many plugins! Plugins are the most vulnerable places for security breaches on a website. They must be kept up to date to minimize the risk. Additionally, more plugins equals more code, which weighs down your website and reduces the speed. It’s best to limit your plugin use as much as possible, especially now that Google makes site speed very important in their rankings.
So, how complicated is your project? Rate it from 1-5, with 1 being very simple and 5 being very complicated.
Do you have time?
Now that you know how complex your project is, let’s talk about hours.
But before we even get to how long the project might take, do you have any time for it? Realistically, how much time per week for how many weeks can you carve out of your working hours to build your website? Will you work on it during free time outside of your normal workday? Is that sustainable? Keep in mind that even if you end up finding someone else to build your website, it will require some hours on your part to find that person, convey your needs and vision, and create or supply the content like images and copy. This is also a good time to figure out what the timeline of this project is: do you need the website completed within days, weeks, or months?
If you’re making a simple five-page website with a website builder that you have little to no familiarity with, the entire process will likely take you around 25 to 30 hours. That includes everything from reserving your domain name to launching the finished website. The same holds true for simple e-commerce sites with fairly small catalogues and pages with some features like appointment booking and contact forms. If you’re used to working on a computer, it will be fairly straightforward, and the internet is full of answers to any questions that come up while you work. Your desire to fuss with the visuals will determine how close to 30 hours you come.
So, now rate your project on time from 1-5, with 1 being you either have a lot of time and/or don’t need to launch soon and 5 being you have very little time and/or need to launch soon.
Do you have the money?
What is your budget for this project? If you said “$0 or less!”, you can probably stop reading here and move on to finding out which platforms can get you online for free. You can consider bartering for services, but just note that it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get around the cost of your domain and hosting. Assume at least $100 annually for your domain reservation and hosting plan for a simple WordPress site, or $500 if you plan to use a more premium service like Shopify or Squarespace.
If you want to get help building your website, the cost can vary widely. Generally, work is either billed hourly or per project. If you just need one or two new features or tweaks, or a little advice, you can expect to be billed for 2-10 hours and a fairly quick turnaround. For a full website project, costs will likely start at around $2,000-$5,000 and go up to tens of thousands depending on the complexity and the developer. The timeline will also depend on the complexity and the schedule of the developer. Many developers work with a waitlist that stretches a few months long. A premium may be charged for a quicker turnaround on a project.
On a scale of 1-5, with 1 being $0 and 5 being $6,000+, what is your budget for this project?
Do you like solving problems on a computer?
If you’re an entrepreneur, chances are you like to learn and are used to creative problem solving and persevering through to resolution. That’s good because you’ll need these skills and some patience to get your website up and running.
Are you used to working on a computer? Do you have an office space where you can quietly focus on building your site? You will need somewhere comfortable enough to spend the hours you estimated in the last step and where you’ll feel creative and concentrated. When you get your WordPress site set up and it’s giving you a database error, or your images won’t upload, or they finally do upload and they’re all blurry, will you be able to take several deep breaths and figure it out?
From 1 to 5, with 1 being not computer savvy and/or patient, and 5 being very patient and confident in your digital skills and learning, rate your ability to troubleshoot your website project.
Is your website a critical asset?
How important is your website to your business? Is it the only way a customer will find you, book with you, or purchase from you? Would your business be in serious trouble if something were to go wrong with your site? Would you lose sensitive or essential data if your website was compromised? Will you update your site often?
If your website is a critical asset, you will need to be certain that you have everything backed up, all the time. The rule is to have three copies of your files in three different locations. You will also want to ensure you stay up to date on your SSL certificate, domain and host reservations, and any other renewable tools like plugins and themes. If you’re storing sensitive or customer information, security should also be on the list of things to be concerned about.
On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being not critical and 5 being absolutely critical, how critical is your website to your business?
Does your website need to look highly polished or have a specific look?
Does your website need to look professional? Yes, of course it does. And technically anyone is capable of making a professional looking website. There are more themes than ever to choose from, and every day there are new ones. Some are free and some cost anywhere from $50 to $500. Themes are wonderful because they can display your content right away and have been thoroughly tested and often widely used.
*IMPORTANT TO NOTE*
When choosing your theme, make sure that it is updated regularly and has at least 2,000 users. You’d hate to get all set up and discover a glitch in the code and no one around to care about it but you.
The thing is, everyone is googling “what’s the best theme?” and choosing the top answer. You might notice when you’re surfing the web that all those Shopify sites look the same, or every hair salon you looked up has an almost identical website. If you have a strong brand and want that represented, or want to differentiate yourself from your competition, it might take some custom coding to achieve the look.
With 1 being not specific or original and 5 being very specific or original, how would you rate your website project in terms of the look you’re going for?
So, what’s your number?
Now it’s time to figure out if you can actually handle building your business’ website yourself. Add up your answers.
If they add up to 12 or less, you can probably tackle this project yourself. Nice! Next up, figure out what platform will work best for you and what to do about reserving a domain and setting up hosting.
If you wound up at 18 or more, it might be time to look for professional help, such as from me. Otherwise, for small- and medium-sized projects I recommend finding a freelancer for your best deal. Search Google Maps in your area or get in touch with your local business development office. You could also try meetup.com. Developers love getting together to share ideas, so chances are you could bend someone’s ear at their next casual gathering (please only try this at social events, not when a specific topic or presentation is scheduled). For larger projects, go with an agency in your area and contact at least three of them for quotes before making a decision. Ask lots of questions and be as specific as you can about your project and vision.
If you ended up between 13 and 18, it’s a toss up! Refocus on whether you have the time, patience, and vision for this to help you decide if you want to and feel confident in building your website.