If you have considered establishing a home business building websites for clients, but you have been deterred by the fact that it seems that you would need a degree in computer science to do so, there is good news. With the tools and support available today, almost anyone can set up a home business building a website for clients.
Like all new business ventures, there are skills to be learned. But the core knowledge required in website design and implementation is practical and simple to learn. Then there are complementary skills that can be seamlessly outsourced so that you can provide the complete package to your clients.
A professional looking and functional website requires 4 things:
- Good layout – easy to navigate.
- Legible typography – easy to read.
- An attractive color scheme – to draw visitors into interacting with the site.
- Design elements – page components like icons, background, borders, graphics and videos.
There is a huge array of online resources that teach best practices in website design. And, even if you have no design experience, there is a massive range of website themes designed by talented designers that you can search through to find the design and layout that will suit your client.
Here are just 2 examples:
What Are The Core Skills I Would Need To Learn To Be Able To Build Websites?
To start with, it is essential to learn some HTML (Hypertext Mark-up Language) and some CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). HTML is a system of tags that instruct browsers to display text in a particular way (such as bold or underlined). CSS is a style language that tells browsers how to layout a page.
There are many excellent tutorials online to help you learn HTML and CSS including many good video tutorials. And most of them are free.
To learn html and CSS you can either use a written set of tutorials or watch a video series. You can find excellent written tutorials on both html and CSS at W3 Schools.
This video will get you started with html and CSS:
The complete 30 day tutorials series is on the webpage.
What Else Is Necessary To Build A Professional Looking Website
There are 4 other skills, which you can either learn yourself or outsource to freelancers:
- Graphics: Most websites require some graphic customisation. You can either learn to do this yourself using a tool like Photoshop or GIMP (which is free) or you can outsource it by finding freelancers on a site like ELance.
- Content Creation (Writing): If your client does not already have content, you can outsource writing to a freelancer through a service like Guru.com.
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO): Today, quality content is the most important thing to search engines. However, there are other aspects of the site structure (such as internal linking) that are necessary to make it search engine friendly. It will be important for you to learn the basic principles of SEO in website design. Again, there are numerous resources online to help you, such as WordPress SEO Tutorial.
- Programming customisations, E-Commerce applications and similar enhancements: Your client may require site elements to accomplish specific purposes. Often, these will require scripts to be programmed or secure payment systems to be set up. This can be easily outsourced as a sub-project if there are no off-the-shelf solutions that fit the requirement. Again, ELance is a good place to find programmers.
So, Where Do I Start?
There are 2 common ways to create a website:
- Designing it from scratch using an html editor like Dreamweaver.
- Using a Content Management System like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal.
Over the last 12 years there has been a huge growth in the number of sites and developers using a Content Management System (CMS). WordPress has been the fastest growing by far, although Joomla has advantages when it comes to E-Commerce.
WordPress is ideal if your client needs blogging capability – the ability to update and add fresh content regularly. It is also the least expensive way to build websites and it has many more plugins, themes and extensions than any other system.
A premium theme like Thesis will give you the flexibility to implement a very wide range of customisations.
In addition to the site itself, your client will need a domain name and hosting. Although you could lease hosting capacity and offer it as part of your service, there really isn’t any major economic benefit to you because hosting is relatively inexpensive (and not very rewarding on a small scale). And you would be held personally responsible for server performance.
OK, I Am Ready To Build Sites For Clients. What Now?
It is essential to get a clear brief from your client, record it in writing and get your client to agree to it before you do anything else.
Because web design is all about aesthetics, beauty can be in the eye of the beholder. If you specify things clearly up-front, there is less likelihood of major changes needing to be made later on.
These are the questions your client needs to answer before work is commenced:
- What are your goals from this site? Are they to promote the business, sell goods or services or disseminate information?
- What specific features are required? For example, will visitors need to fill out a form like an employment application form or will you need a secure area like a members’ area?
- Do you have a domain and hosting? If not, what are the requirements in terms of top level domain (.com, .com.uk, .net, etc)?
- What are your client’s preferences for site look and feel? The best way to answer this is to find sites that represent an example of the desired look and feel.
Realistically, How Long Will It Take To Learn Website Design Skills?
If you go about it methodically, it is feasible to learn website design, html and CSS as well as complete your first site in about 2 to 3 months. You will then have a site that you can use as an example to show to clients when marketing your services.
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