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Design Boom 

July 16, 2014 View Original Article

anyone can become a web designer in an afternoon

anyone can become a web designer in an afternoon

it may just be that in our increasingly abstract technological world, it doesn’t matter much how something works, but simply that it does work (and looks good doing it too). relatively few among us, after all, really feel the need to probe programmers to reveal the inner workings of a website, even when we’re sticklers to its most minute of spacing or typographical details.

 perhaps this explains the rise in website builders, web-based services that allow anyone to become a web designer simply by following a few steps. you can choose from a pre-designed website template, customize it, and publish it under their own domain for next to nothing – and all in the span of a sunday afternoon. it’s like taking a professional photo with a point-and-shoot camera.

website under construction

artists, architects, designers, and entrepreneurs are all too often plagued by the curse of sitting on an un-built website. the cost involved in hiring someone else to build and design an online portfolio is considerable, and finding the time to learn to code (let alone to sit down and map out the architecture of a website) is a luxury that few freelancers and small businesses don’t have. as a result, a long-awaited website tends to be left on the backburner, its hopeful ‘coming soon’ message left as the only glimmer of hope. 

this internet un-professionalism can easily lead to hundreds of missed opportunities, with clients turned away simply because they can’t get a quick, clear, and concise picture of what you do.

at a loss for information, the most adamant of potential clients might conduct a google search on a name only to come up with a slurry of disjointed data – a mere thumbnail of an exhibition or project, or out of date contact details. what makes this online invisibility all the more problematic is that it is easily avoidable. with dozens of free website builders to choose from (read on to find out about two of our recommendations), just choosing from the vast selection of builders and templates may be the hardest part of getting your website online.

3 steps to creating your own website 

no matter the website builder you choose, there are three basic steps to follow:

1. choose a template:

with a website builder, you can choose from either a blank slate or a professionally-designed template. templates help to pre-structure a website, removing any doubt as to where a button should go, or how much spacing is needed between blocks of content. templates can be molded and re-formed to become almost unrecognizable from their original state, allowing for experimentation as you collage and add elements together.

matters of design taste aside, choosing a template comes down to what goals you want your site to achieve. do you want visitors to click a ‘buy now’ button, or draw attention to your upcoming projects? do you want your website to serve as a platform for transmitting new ideas, or simply as a business card for clients to get a quick, enticing peak of your work?

Transient

2. customize with a drag & drop editor

the real simplicity of website builders lies in their drag & drop editors: content is added by dragging content into place, sometimes without the need even to provide login information (as with IM creator). images and videos are automatically re-sized to become web-ready, and copy can be customized by way of a range of typographic tools, from spacing and tracking to an array of web fonts.

3. publish

once everything is in place, the only thing left to do is to hit ‘publish’. web builders usually offer two alternatives for getting your work online: you can choose between a free domain (linked through your website builder), or connect your existing domain to your design for a monthly fee.

short reviews of two recommended website builders for creatives

whether your goal is to build a webshop or an online portfolio, there are website builders to suit your needs. here are two that are designed with creatives in mind:

Squarespace

Transient

squarespace offers templates specially designed for artists, bloggers, designers, photographers, musicians, and weddings, as well as a smart system for setting up web shops, including features for managing orders, printing packaging slips, and handling email requests.

squarespace’s editor, meanwhile, provides plenty of tools to customize your design, including google web fonts, and an automatic image re-sizer. for portfolio websites, squarespace allows you to download their pages for iPad ad iPhone. musicians can add playlists and event calendars to their pages, while restaurants can integrate opentable reservations to their website with the click of a few buttons. squarespace also offers plenty of social integrations to sync your website with your many profiles.

Transient

three plans are available on squarespace, from their basic $8/month package that comes with a custom domain, fully integrated e-commerce, 500gb of bandwidth, 2gb of storage, and a limited number of pages and products to sell, to their $24/month “business” package that comes with unlimited pages and product sales, integrated accounting by xero, and unlimited bandwidth. All plans come with 24/7 customer support, and can be tried free for 14 days.

See IM Creator's review on Design Boom!