The DIY dilemma and the fallacy of speed

What if someone told you that they could teach you to build a house in a few quick lessons held with a large group of other hopefuls, and you could all then go off and build your own houses in about three weeks – with their professional supervision – and at a very low rate for their valuable expertise? No need for expensive architects, pushy contractors, and pesky quality controls. Tantalizing, right? Probably, but chances are you wouldn’t do it, because a little voice somewhere would be casting more than a shadow of doubt on these grand claims. Rightly so, because if it sounds too good to be true it often usually is, just like with pyramid and any other get-rich-quick schemes whose originators’ true goal is to make a fast buck themselves.

The truth is that building a house properly and that will be effective as a home, on budget and on time takes a lot of effort. It takes detailed planning; expert technical knowledge on the part of the architects and engineers involved who have studied extensively and honed their skills over many projects; and detailed execution by the construction crew, who exert their own set of trades and skills and must follow strict codes and be subject to quality controls and inspections to ensure they stick to the plans, so that walls are where they should be and the roof doesn’t leak and cave in at the first sign of rain. To say nothing of the attention to detail and scrutiny that needs to go into the finishing.

But hold on – we’re a web development company – why would we be going on about what’s involved to build a house properly? Because the analogy one can draw between the two activities is strikingly similar.

As when building a house, a website development project requires a clear, well thought-out plan. The website plan must address aspects such as:

– layout
– organization of content
– navigation
– usability
– conversion effectiveness
– performance optimization
– cross-browser and cross-platform compatibility including mobile (which in itself requires planning)
– search engine visibility

As the website’s architect, engineer and builder (and often maintenance outfit) a web development company must not only consider the aesthetic aspects of the site but also the broader and more technical details of the end product when creating a plan that will be the blueprint for the development project and stick to it in execution thought to the final product.

As you might imagine, all the above is not learnt in a few days or months but requires extensive experience with similar projects, design expertise, technical, marketing and project management skills.

Clearly there is no one-size-fits-all solution and different projects have different scopes and budgets, but cutting corners on the fundamentals is a surefire path to unmet expectations and disappointing results.

Even the “simple” projects need a good plan. As many designers will confirm, achieving simplicity is often more difficult than throwing everything in but the kitchen sink.

Yes there are website building tools and platforms that do a decent job of getting something done relatively quickly, but these often either cater to specific types of sites (e.g. a photography niche) or need to be so generic that they do not offer much refinement or customization options to make your business stand out from the dozens of other sites that may be vying for your same market. To stay within the house-building analogy, with these platforms one often hits a brick wall. They end up being a stepping stone or quick-fix solution before getting a custom website done. The “quick” part of the DIY website fix is also often an illusion because in reality the learning curve and effort involved diverts a large amount of the business owner’s time away from the core interests of running the business towards something that should really be left to an expert.

So next time you hear sweeping grand claims of a website being built in three days, unless there’s divine intervention involved, consider this – where would you rather live (or have your business) – in a straw hut that takes three days to build but wouldn’t last very long or provide much confidence to your family (or business clients) or in a well designed, aesthetically pleasing and robust structure that takes two or three months to plan and build but lasts a lifetime?

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