Why can't I just create the site myself?
You can. There's a lot of sites and templates and software out there that promise a professional looking site that you can do yourself. Especially if you think that web design is something you would like to learn, I say, "Do it!"
Creating your own site, especially working with the advanced templates available these days, can work out for you.
But web design is deep. You can make a good looking site that is terrible with the search engines, so nobody shows up. Without experience you'll never know what went wrong. You can make a site that looks great on your computer, only to find out it doesn't work at all on a handheld device, thus missing more than a third of the traffic a functional site gets. And honestly, a site that looks really cool to you, because you did it yourself, just might not seem very professional to the majority of users.
Oh, and did I mention that everything in web land changes all the time?
The key is to understand that if you do your own site, you'll need to keep reading and learning, and re-designing your site as you learn.
It's all about marketing. What will sell your product or service more effectively? A full color brochure produced professionally, or a flyer you made at home?
But you've got to start somewhere. So if you think web design is something you want to learn, we URGE you to do your site yourself. And then do it again. And then take a class, and read everything about it you can get your hands on. And then do another site for someone else. Just keep doing it until you get really good at it. That's how you'll learn.
If you don't want to spend the time (or don't have the time) to learn to be a web designer, you just might want to call me.
Here are some issues you, as you learn site design, are likely to encounter.
Browser compatibility can be a real challenge.
The site you make from a template, or with inexpensive software, may look great when you view it on your computer, but you may be in for a surprise when you view it on your friend's iPad.
That's actually one of the trickiest things about web design. Different devices, operating systems, browsers and browser versions all display sites in slightly different ways. What looks great on a Windows machine running Internet Explorer may not work at all on a handheld device. Professional designers have a variety of operating system/browser combinations running on several computers so they can check their work.
Search engine performance is likely to be only so-so until you get the hang of how to optimize your sites.
Professional designers spend a lot of time over the years learning how to code a site to optimize it for search engine functionality, and even more time keeping up with the constant changes to search engine algorithms.
Look at the web as a big library, with a billion books on millions of shelves. When you want to find a book on say, painters of the 17th century, you don't just start walking around reading all the titles. You look up the location of the book first, so you can walk right to it.
Professional designers know the tricks to making it possible for a user to actually find your site among the millions of other sites out there.
Your first sites might end up being hard to navigate.
People expect site navigation to work in certain ways. They expect menus and links to be in certain places. They expect sites to share a fundamental type of organizational structure. They have expectations of where they will find certain key components.
This information isn't written down anywhere. It's information that designers learn by visiting hundreds of sites, year after year. Full time website designers look at sites that feel intuitive, sites that work, and try hard to understand why they do. Designers look at sites that don't work, and spend time figuring out the problems.
Your first sites will likely be kind of boring.
The things that make sites interesting are the things that make them unique. interactive elements, creative graphics, unexpected elements. When you are learning, when you are doing your first site, it's hard enough to get the very basic elements of your site to look and function correctly, let alone make them creative, unexpected or interactive.
A large part of web design is graphic design. That's art. And most people don't really know how to make something look appealing and interesting. That's why web designers spend a lot of their time learning graphic design skills and concepts.