What 20 years of creating websites taught me

When I started my marketing agency in 2003, we were really just a website design company. Since then, we’ve expanded our services to include many other digital marketing services. But creating and maintaining websites is still one of our core areas of expertise.

If you’re good at math, you’re probably saying, “Tim, it’s only been nineteen years since 2003.” While that’s true, I created my first website back in 1996. Since that’s been twenty-six years, I decided just saying twenty years was fine.

Here are the two major lessons I’ve learned in the past twenty-plus years.

Lesson 1: Anyone can make a website

Back in 1996, I built my first website on GeoCities. But by 2003, you really had to be a professional programmer to build a website for an organization. I was going to school for programming, which is why I felt—at the time—qualified to build a website.

Fast forward less than a decade, and tools were starting to emerge that made it much easier to build a website. Today, you can create your own website with tools like Wix, Squarespace, or even WordPress.

Over the years, it became clear that being a good programmer was no longer necessary to build a website. In fact, while my first hire fifteen years ago was a programmer, I haven’t had a programmer on staff in over ten years, aside from myself.

Just about anyone can make a website now. Many of the tools out there make it pretty easy to make a good-looking one.

It was apparent that I needed to pivot my expertise to bring something unique to the table and be able to help my clients. The bar had been raised.

Lesson 2: Not just anyone can make an effective website

Not all websites are effective websites. An effective website requires expertise in several areas:

  • Design
  • Writing
  • Photography
  • Search engine optimization
  • User psychology
  • Effective communication

If you’re just starting your business or nonprofit, making your own website or having a friend or relative with technical know-how do it for you may make sense.

But if you want a website that accomplishes your business goals, you’ll want to hire a professional with experience.

To clarify, it’s rare for one person to have expertise in all those skills. A professional will know where their strengths lie. And they’ll bring in other team members to help in areas where they’re not as strong.

For example, I’m currently working on a project for a nonprofit where I’m pulling in five experts in addition to myself. For most websites, we use at least three experts.

So what has twenty years of working on websites taught me? If you want an effective website, don’t do it yourself or hire an individual. Hire a team of experts.

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