Why Your Kid Or Neighbor Or Friend Shouldn’t Build Your Website

Obviously not a web designer or marketer...

Obviously not a web designer or marketer...

Image © Cam Villay

I'll just come out and say it like this – if you are serious about having a business and not a hobby then you need to hire a professional to design and build your website, not your kid, neighbor or friend. Here's why…

A Website Is Made For Marketing

First off your website is a marketing tool. In order for it to effectively capture and keep the attention of your ideal customers and convert them into paying customers t needs to accomplish a few things:

  1. It needs to attract your ideal customers.
  2. It needs to speak directly to them and talk about their dreams, failures, fears, suspicions and enemies
  3. It needs to keep their attention (see #2)
  4. It needs to have some type of a funnel in place to capture the interested people as leads and convert them into paying customers

If your kid (or neighbor or friend) can:

  1. Help you define your ideal customer
  2. Do the hours of research required to find where these folks live online (if they are online)
  3. Capture the language they use to describe your products/services
  4. Write copy that captures the attention of your ideal customers
  5. Understand how to create lead capture mechanisms
  6. Understand how to collect information using web analytics and use that information to improve the website and increase conversion rates

… then by all means consider them for the job.

Let's Talk About Employees For A Second

On a recent project an employee of the company I was contracted to do a website for used iWeb to create a “case study” page, showed it to the bosses, and then said (and I paraphrase):

See it isn't that hard. Why do we have to pay them to do this?

His “case study” was missing a few key elements:

  1. Substance. The “case study” consisted of two paragraphs, most of which described a conversation between he and the client.
  2. Any context for the information. He mentioned the client's name once but never said who he was, why they were doing the project, what the results of the project were, etc.
  3. A testimonial from the client.

Also the case study wasn't integrated into any of their existing assets (no navigation), didn't match up with their branding, didn't relate at all to their corporate mission and the image they want to portray… I could go on and on.

A Website Is An Investment

Businesses spend money on a lot of things:

  1. Capital assets – building, equipment, computers
  2. Employees – payroll, benefits, continuing education (hopefully)
  3. Sales
  4. Marketing

All of these are investments that bring a return. Back in the 1990's when the web was new a website may have acted as a brochure, but today it's a living entity with a job to do. It needs to evolve with your business and customers and be making you money.

Would you stop doing sales? Would you stop purchasing the equipment you need to do your job? Would you not invest in education that can help you bring in even more cash?

Then why won't you invest in a website that will help you get more customers and clients?

Investing in your website is simply smart business.

Advice For Those With A Crappy Website

A “crappy” website has the following attributes:

  1. It's static
  2. You are unable to manage the information on the website yourself
  3. It doesn't have a blog component
  4. There is no way for your visitors to share your information on social media websites
  5. It has no way of capturing leads
  6. It doesn't reflect your or your brand
  7. The design instantly turns people off or sends them into an epileptic seizure (there are sites online like this today, believe it!)

A website that matches one or more items on that list is working against you. It is literally making people click away and not even give your business consideration.

Business is built on relationships. Whether you're selling products or providing services, once someone hears about your business I guarantee they are looking for your website. That's the where the zero moment of truth comes in.

The first impression is the one given by the person talking about your business. The next and very critical impression comes when the person goes to find our more about you – your website. If you don't keep that fantastic impression going you're S-O-L.

Don't think people judge you on your website? Keep thinking that. I wish you luck.

Invest In Your Website

So please, please I urge you see your website for what it is – an investment. It is a direct reflection of your business. It is often times the first impression someone gets of your business, and many times the deciding factor for whether or not they do business with you.

Put your best foot forward online. Keep the site up to date and ensure it always speaks to your ideal customers.

Put in the time and money required to make it work for you. Invest in your website.


  1. This is so true, so many of my clients start this way and then realize the mistake they made. Thankfully they are ready to spend money after learning the hard way, putting in all of the time and effort that ends up with a crappy result.

  2. As with so many parts of our businesses, we get out of it what we put into it. If our websites are a cornerstone and, therefore, part of our foundation, why on earth would we build or make the site, “on the cheap.” To my way of thinking, that just means I’ll have to go in at a later time and fix the corner that is crumbling. I’d rather spend time and money on decorating the “the top of the house,” rather than fixing the basement!

  3. So what happens when your kids are professional web designers? Are you still suggesting that they still not do the website? So, instead of using me for free, they should go out and spend unnecessary money?

    • That would be the exception Nina *if* they understood (or could ask the questions to be able to understand) the business and create a website that ties into business objectives.

  4. It’s amazing to see businesses here setting up websites according to their own ‘knowledge’ or perception towards a ‘great’ website – whether it is the choice of colors, content placement, flash intro pages (omg), complicated landing pages and etc to the extend that the consultant / users opinions does not matter.
    I recently have a client that came to me saying “since we’ve already broken most of today’s web standards.. why don’t we…” Shocking. But true.

  5. Yes, I agree with you Robert!

    For a business to succeed, you will have to make investment; whether it is money, time or effort.

    For people with limited budget, they could use sites like Fiverr to find excellent designers (you can find a lot of designing experts) and give them the job. Otherwise you could spend good money on hiring professional companies 😀

    When I started out, for the most part, I used my own skills with designing to design my banner/logo. But, when I switched to my new blog, I hired people from Fiverr to design my logo and eBook cover (both of them turned out to be great).

    So we have three options in total:
    1. Hire a real professional company
    2. Find professionals in sites like Fiverr and hire them,
    3. Develop your own skills and use them 😀

    Thanks for the awesome post, Robert!

    Jeevan Jacob John

  6. I feel kind of bad for the businesses that I talk with and offer my services when they say their nephew or brother or someone is managing their website for them along with the design. Especially when they say the person is in college for Web Design. Usually I end up finding a fully flash based site, or a GoDaddy Website Tonight site…

    They really need someone that understands marketing or is at least studying marketing to build the website for them because that is the only way they will get a return on their investment.

  7. Some years ago I ran the marketing department for a manufacturer of construction equipment. We had a website that looked like it had been built by a child because that it had been.

    The teenage son of a senior manager had been the person tapped for the position because he was cheap and the “team” thought it would be good experience for him.

    I was one of several people who advised against doing this. We were shot down because we couldn’t provide the ROI of a website. Some people have a hard time trying to understand intangibles.

    But I hold myself and the others who were on my side accountable for not doing a good job of presenting a compelling case for why it was a mistake not to hire a professional.

    Sometimes the obvious is harder to explain to others.

  8. I am now on my 3rd upgrade for one of my sites! Started with limited budget and even when I did get a web guy to update, wasn’t really happy with result.

    Eventually got what I wanted … and yes it was done by someone who is now a friend but just happens to be good at all that techie stuff that is a mystery to me lol

    Patricia Perth Australia

  9. Great piece! Your website is your calling card – it’s absolutely essential that it looks great and works right. The same goes for your website copywriting – have a friend’s son who is an English major simply won’t cut it for copy that converts.

    The checklist for a crappy website should be a primer everyone should follow to make sure they aren’t falling into the wrong category!

  10. Couldn’t agree with you more on this, Robert! Of course, the hard truth for too many of us is that it’s hard to pull the resources together to pay for a real website. We need to recognize that it isn’t just throwing away money, it’s investing in more business for the future.

    • Pete, That is a great way to look at the cost of hiring a true professional (Thank you again Robert!) – it is not an expense that should be taken lightly, yet it is a necessary one. A website is an investment and it needs to reflect your brand, core values, and clearly protray your business in the best possible way.

  11. A website is made for marketing. That’s exactly what it is. Way too many businesses just want a website, and any website will do, as long as it looks nice. They just want a domain and a website with information about their businesses and their contact information, that’s it.

    I have made it my quest to make local businesses understand the importance of marketing… I believe that a designer shouldn’t be designing a website without a marketer present 🙂

  12. Hi Robert,

    Generally I agree with what you’re saying here.

    Regarding static websites and being able to update them, there is another train of thought I read about recently. In “Should We Always Deploy Content Management Systems?”, the author argues that empowering clients to edit the site on their own is not always a good route. Plus, in some cases, static sites can be OK. You can read the post here:

    I particularly like the point about people who, because they rely on a web professional’s expertise, may not be the best person to update the site.

    I used to work for a web agency who did work for clients, and I now work for a company where we run our own website. I’m the lead technical person for the site. We also have staff in sales, marketing, design, SEO/PPC and product management. I also have a lot to say about blogging and social media, and usability. Not all companies are lucky enough to have skilled staff in all these areas. I do think that while a “web person” benefits from having broad skills across a number of areas, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to outsource to specialists for certain tasks such as SEO. One person is unlikely to be an expert in all of these areas.

    I also think it’s a bad idea to leave a website alone after the initial setup. It should be an ongoing task. Certainly you want to hit the ground running, but that’s not to say you can’t add in new content and functionality down the road. Trying to make the website perfect from day 1 can result in a lengthy and costly release. I’m much more in favour of setting up the basics, then building out from there.

    With an existing website, if you do a huge amount of optimisation in one go, it can be more difficult to see which changes had a positive effect and which had no effect, or a negative impact. This can apply to improving load times, cleaning up HTML, rewriting copy, tweaking keywords, and embarking on new marketing strategies.

    I don’t know how much of this is relevant to the post, just wanted to add some thoughts 🙂


    • Hi Ben you bring up a lot of great points. I agree there is a time and place for a static site or one that doesn’t require a CMS and can be updated with minimal effort. Having said that I work with a lot of people that don’t want to deal with worrying about FTP, editing files using a text editor, etc.. Also these folks do blog on a regular basis and if you’re going to blog you might as well have the website to go with it and have everything in one place.

      Thanks for the link to the post. I’ll check that out. And thanks for your thoughts. Much appreciated.

  13. Eric Mills says:

    One of the most interesting experiences I have had is learning about the process of building and designing a website. Understanding the pros and cons of the variety of content management platforms, storyboarding, ensuring your branding is consistent within all of your online property – certainly not something you want to trust to someone without first ensuring they understand all you have referenced above, Robert. Your site is incredible – I love the points system you’ve developed. Definitely makes your site a lot more ‘sticky.’

    • Hi Eric,
      Happy to see you moving up here. Keep up the activity and you’ll make it to the finish while learning, growing and having some fun.

    • There’s a different between “making a website” and “building a website that portrays the image of a company and can sell.” Businesses need to work with people that can do the latter.

      • Completely agree. I “made” and managed my own website for years, and the last one I actually hated for the day it went live, but I was locked into a hosting contract (yeah, now THAT is a whole ‘nother ball of wax) and running on a totally shoestring budget. The irony is how many people complimented me on the site!
        Now I have professional website that is “built” to work specifically with my business.

      • and by the way, I absolutely love the photo of the kid!

  14. Great post, Robert.
    I’m always scared when any of my new clients mention one of the above doing their site. It makes me wonder if I made the right decision about working with them in the first place. If they can’t see the importance of a professional site, am I really going to be able to help them get where they want to go? Gladly, I usually convince them they need expert help and they end up happy that they went the extra mile.
    Sometimes people just don’t understand the difference until they see it.

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