scattering clouds

Word on the street is you need a website. Pick your poison.

Should you build a website yourself, or hire someone else? Which do you value more, your time or your money?

  • There are countless tools you can use to build a simple website on your own. Problem is, they all kind of suck.
  • If you have the budget, you can pay someone to deal with the headache. But without a proper understanding of the technicalities, that same person can easily pull wool over your eyes and lead you around in circles.

No matter what you choose, however, you should always know how to get a website online. Even just the basics will do.

Why it is important to know the basics.

Speaking personally, it is probably riskier to hire for smaller projects. The scope of work is too small to attract experienced professionals unless you have a massive budget. And the talent you do attract can be wildly inconsistent.

That’s why I chose to teach myself how to build my own sites. I can’t do anything too complex or advanced (yet), but I don’t really have a need for intricate designs.

I can even venture to predict what will happen when hiring goes sour. Several thousand dollars gone, agonizing miscommunication and delays, and eventually, dead silence. And maybe, just maybe, you will receive a somewhat functional website at the end of the whole ordeal.

And it could happen to anyone. Including a misfortunate ex-Microsoft and ex-Google software engineer, who hired an agency to redesign his website:

I Regret My $46k Website Redesign

Two years ago, I created a website for my business. By combining my terrible design skills with a decent-looking template, I created a site that looked okay. I told myself that if the business took off, I’d hire a real designer to make it look professional.

A year later, the business was generating $45k/month in revenue, but my website still looked like a college student’s hobby project. It was time for that professional redesign I’d promised myself.

There were only three pages I cared about, so I expected the redesign would be straightforward. Maybe a few months and $15k. … Except it didn’t take a few months and $15k. It took eight months, $46k, and a lot of headache.

… If you hear that someone spent $46k to redesign three pages of a website, you probably think they’re a rube with no experience in software or hiring. But I’ve done this before! I’m a software developer, and I’ve hired dozens of freelancers, including developers, artists, writers, and editors.

… I’m not trying to bash the agency here, so I’ll just call them WebAgency. They’re based in the US, …

… WebAgency estimated that the rebrand would require 30-40 billable hours over two to four weeks. Their hourly rate was $175, so we were looking at $5-7k for a new logo and branding. That was half my budget, so it was an easy call. …

Michael Lynch, Jul 2022

If you have time, go give Michael’s terrifying-yet-fascinating story a read.

The insane mismanagement and miscommunication from that unnamed agency was so horrible, I couldn’t tear my eyes away. They are the shining example of why I am so reluctant to rely on others for small projects.

$46,000 is by no means small. But for a new logo and a mere three pages, the work at this scope doesn’t qualify as a medium or large undertaking.

And the audacity of that agency to continue charging more and more, for a botched job they initially quoted to cost $7,000 at most, is just… ugh. I have no words for this. Their sheer ineptitude and lack of integrity is flabbergasting.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you want to build your own website or not. You need to know what it takes to put a website online.

It will help you understand what went wrong, so you don’t get blindsided by the unexpected. And I promise you, things CAN and WILL go wrong when you build websites. This is one of the few guarantees I have no qualms in making.

You only need three things to put a website online.

  1. A website domain / domain name. The most unique and recognizable part of your website address.
  2. A website host / web hosting. The server where your website resides.
  3. And of course, the website itself.

When you enter a website address (which contains a unique domain name) into the browser address bar, the browser will find the corresponding host and send them a request. Upon receiving the request, the host will serve up a page from the website stored on their servers.

Let’s talk about each of them, starting from the domain name in the next post >>.

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