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DIY web design, how hard can it be? Part 1

Updated: Mar 8, 2020

When Rob and Jenny Gill, owners of Hastings HIVE, needed a website for their premier co-working space in the Hawke's Bay, they created their own. This a three part series about their DIY design and authoring journey, for business owners considering creating their own online presence.

Before we start, there are three things you need to know about the editor:

  1. a complete newbie, with the design talent of a computer literate five year old

  2. default task management approach - ready, fire, aim, bin ... repeat...

  3. business partner (wife) a linguist, proof-reader and general "know-it-all"

Sound practise would have been to hire a professional web designer to develop a website, where all we needed to do was the provide content and admiring comments at regular intervals. So what's the problem, you might ask? Well, all your editor could envision was missed deadlines, writer's block, failure and frustration. No, this needed to be a user-driven project, not out-sourced to an expert, and therefore we needed a design tool that a reasonably competent five year old could navigate.

Your editor spent a busy week researching website creation for pre-schoolers and various hosting platforms and came up with the WIX cloud-hosted solution, for no other reason than it provided attractive user templates. Most importantly, it claimed to take care of the housekeeping and security management duties associated with anything that the public can access over the internet, or re-direct to a Russian dating site.

The editing floor was cleared, coffee machine cleaned and digital waste-bins emptied. Let the creation process begin. Which turned out to be an anti-climax, it being as simple as choosing the best template to suit a co-working, shared office space business such as Hastings HIVE, with elements like spaces for rent, plans, customers, appointments and of course a blog.

Armed with our brand, newly minted logo, brand colours and fonts from our interior designer and sign-writer, our unique looking website was created with a just a few check boxes, even fewer data inputs and the push of a digital button. Hastings HIVE had an online presence ready to publish to the internet, albeit one full of pictures of people having the time of their lives playing lawn bowls.

Ok, maybe using a retirement village as the "closest" template to our business wasn't the smartest move, but it had the hilarious consequence of WIX pushing photos of smiling retirees into every page we tried to create, most of whom looked fitter and healthier than us.  (Editor's note: do human teeth get naturally whiter after 60?) 

Stock WIX image, that could be replaced with our own, or other stock images

What we found so easy with the WIX ADI (artificial design intelligence) environment, was the "back-to-the-future" display of our content, automatically saved in an unpublished version with an instant preview mode. This suited your editor's ready, fire, aim working style and in a few days we had created 80% of what you see now.

But the ADI had drawbacks. Unless we were super vigilant, it (the ADI) would enable a small change in the page we were working on, but then without warning make the same change in every other page on our website. This resulted in back pedalling to restore a previous website version, extending well beyond your editor's patience. The only way to fully control edits for a single page, seemed to be to enter the scary grown-up world of the WIX editor. This simple step came with ominous warnings that, once entered (the WIX editor), the newbie designer could never go back to their ADI security blanket - the digital equivalent of losing your virginity!

Next up, we cover the WIX editor and what we learnt when Simon, a personal friend and professional website designer, reviewed our draft website.

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