There are some things in life that you can do yourself, like building a deck or changing your brakes. However, sometimes it’s best to come to terms with your frugal urges, realize that there are professionals that do these things for a reason, and that maybe you should consider hiring one.
One of these things is hiring a website designer. There are hundreds of thousands of free website templates out there for both WordPress and Blogger, in addition to millions of spiffy plugins that promise to increase speed and traffic to your site. You can even Google videos on transferring your blog from one platform to another. But just like many other occupations that you could do yourself, professionals exist for a reason. It’s not as easy as that Youtube video made it seem, and one innocent slip of the finger could bring your site crashing down.
Web surfers can tell within the first five seconds on a site if they are going to stay or not. You know exactly what I mean. We can all think of sites that have had us reaching for the big “X” before it was even finished loading. Building a site that makes a reader feel invited, and want to explore a little more, is an art. There is a strategy to learning where to place the things that make a new reader click more, and come back again. Even though your recipes may be stellar, if your site looks like it came out of the Geocities era, your readers may not stick around. I hate to judge a book by its cover, but let’s get real people. Your site is being judged by readers and future advertising partners by the overall look and feel of it constantly.
Before you go slinging dozens of emails to every web designer that comes up on a quick Google search, spend a little time asking yourself what your expectations are. Look at the top sites you visit, figure out what draws you in about them, and then try to figure out your variation of whatever that thing is. Look at colors (Pinterest is a great place to search for color boards). Figure out what sort of personality you and your brand are looking to showcase to the world. Are you a stay at home mom, juggling three kids, and learning to laugh everything off one pound at a time? Maybe you want something a bit more whimsical. Are you a young professional who loves to throw classy cocktail parties? A neon pink site with bubbles and daises everywhere probably won’t express this to your readers. The point is, consider not just what you find attractive, but what works for the brand you are trying to sell the world. Outline your ideas and expectations, then start asking around for a reliable designer.
When looking for a designer, don’t be afraid to shop around. Get a few recommendations, check out their work, email them and talk to them. Please, though, if you get a quote that you don’t consider reasonable, don’t go posting it all over Facebook or Twitter. Everyone has their rates for a reason. Just like you shouldn’t give away your photography or recipes for free to magazines, you need to keep in mind the education, equipment and experience an individual has in their field before posting their quote out there for the world to criticize. If you don’t think the designer is worth their quote, then simply don’t go with them, but be respectful.
However, know that you’re getting what you pay for. If you go with the lowest bid, it’s just that. This is no different than putting a new roof on your house. Sure, there’s always someone willing to work for a little less, but what is the overall quality going to be? Will it hold up over time? Does it give you room to grow? Does it convey the atmosphere you want it to? If your blog is something you hold dearly and want to see grow in the future, maybe saving up a little more for a professional web design is something you need to work into the budget. I’m not telling you to forgo anyone’s college education for a spiffy website, but consider the design of your site as an investment in its future.
Once you have chosen a designer, make sure there’s a contract. Sure, your designer may be a friend and have a great reputation, but a contract not only covers you both legally, it also clearly defines the work and expectations of both sides. One of the things that I like to make sure is included in this, is that the web designer is not just plopping you from one platform to another without a little help during the adjustment time. Something as little as 30 days of support while you get a feel for how your new design works or any glitches you may run into after they are done. Most of all, don’t be intimidated by who you hire. You should feel comfortable speaking with them and letting them know if you are unhappy with anything long before reveal day comes. Keep in mind that most designers are average people just like you, who enjoy what they do. Their overall goal is to give you a product you love and will brag about to your friends. Nothing beats a good reputation.
Check out this post from Kim at Cravings of a Lunatic for tips on hiring a web designer, and tips from me about how to prepare yourself for the experience. Do research, and write out your expectations – on real paper! This helps you visualize your design ideas much better then any computer screen will. Consider what the benefits are to upgrading your site. Breathe, and have a cup of tea over it. Have a support group of honest friends who are willing to give you some feedback on what your site needs, and what elements that it should consider getting rid of. Then, start the process. Take these tips, and spend a little time thinking about it. Hiring a web designer is something worth serious consideration, and in the long run, will serve your site much better than trying to do it yourself using a bunch of YouTube videos.