Do-It-Yourself Online: Yes or No?

They say that a little bit of knowledge is dangerous. In the case of building on the Internet, this is particularly true. What used to be infinitely complex to create is now made simple by a myriad of software platforms that allow almost anyone to build stuff online. For an online business, doing it all yourself can be dangerous.

Websites, e-commerce, and social media business pages are possible for any business, regardless of technical skill, to create, publish and update. Content management systems such as WordPress, e-commerce platforms such as Shopify, and social media for business platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook are inexpensive and easy-to-use for any commercial enterprise. Even the elements of design are handled through the availability of numerous templates where you literally fill in the blanks.

The question is; just because you can do-it-yourself, should you actually do it?

Do it yourself hammer accident

Thinkstock / iStock  

The answer lies not in the technical execution, but in the effectiveness of your efforts. A website or online store that does a better job of turning people away rather than selling your products and services is perhaps worse than not having anything online at all.

Much of it boils down to the writing.

Writing for the web is both easy and hard. Let’s review both sides for some context:

The Easy

In some ways, writing for the web is easier than writing a lot of other business stuff, especially stuff for print. The difference is in the way people read online vs. the way people read offline.

Online reading is more like scanning. People are after something specifically when online, searching for information. Decisions need to be made as to whether the online reader is in the right place or not.

Because of this the writing should be simple and brief. Short sentences and paragraphs. Don’t make the reader work to figure things out. There is no shortage of alternative websites and online stores if your reader should they choose to leave you.

Most lay people overwrite when writing for the web. Maybe it’s not so easy.

The Hard

You would think the messages you are trying to convey online would be easy, but it’s not. It can be very difficult to get right.

The challenge is in writing for your readers and not yourself.

Your readers should be personified as “your ideal customer”. The more real you make this persona the more targeted and effective your writing will be. Describe them in detail; demographics, wants, and problems they are trying to solve.

Another difficulty is in leaning towards what you like to talk about (and write) instead of what your web visitor wants to read. Business people love to talk about their accomplishments and their perceptions of their businesses, like proud parents.

The writing perspective needs to be that of the reader and what’s in it for them. The reader is interested in themselves, their needs and problems. In reality, they are not interested in your company or the fancy features of your products.

Should you do-it-yourself?

This depends on how focused you are on your online message, your target audience and the behavior of online shoppers. You know your business, no doubt, but this does not guarantee success in building a website or an online store.

Anyone can get something up using WordPress or Shopify but there is much to consider in what you say and how you say it through these platforms. You needn’t be a journalist or a novelist to be effective — just convey the right message from the right perspective.

If effective online writing seems daunting, you likely need some help. Don’t risk being misunderstood. Prospective customers are too precious. Seek help from a specialist.