This post is also available in: العربية (Arabic)
If you remember the days of Myspace, then you probably remember the side effect of having too much freedom when designing a webpage.
We learned the hard way that neon backgrounds and bright yellow text simply do not go together, despite how easy (and fun) it was to strew together that stream of code and watch it go live. It gave us Tony Stark vibes, an effortless technological proficiency that is usually only secured by a higher education, a basement overflowing with gadgets, or some combination of the two. However, it usually wasn’t until we pressed “Save Changes” that we realized we should leave the designing to the pros and stick to editing our Top 10.
Drag and drop website builders have that same effect.
When you start making your website on any popular DIY service – Wix, Squarespace, Weebly – you have the option of picking the type of site you want (portfolio, business, music, store, etc.) and then choosing a template based off of that distinction.
Sounds simple enough, right?
Until you start editing.
Click anywhere on your new site and about 10 different boxes will bombard you and ask for attention. Dividers, spacers, videos, photos, maps, galleries, slideshows and sections. It’s like standing on a stage with 10 different spotlights and an audience that still expects a show.
The process can be paralyzing, especially if your only experience in web design is editing that Myspace page. With too many buttons too press, too many colors to change and too many designs to choose from, you realize rather quickly that you’ve now subscribed to too many ways to mess up your website.
It’s the difference between ordering off a menu and making a dish yourself. Except instead of being able to consult a recipe and purchase your ingredients beforehand, you’re sent into the kitchen with a blindfold, given about 40 different cooking tools that you’ve never seen before, and told to make a baked Alaska. Oh, and just about everyone you know will get to witness the outcome.
See, the misleading aspect of DIY builders is that you can do pretty much whatever you want with them. You have freedom! All you have to do is drag that picture, drop that header, and just like that, your mental vision materializes.
In reality, that’s not exactly the case. Sometimes simply adding a text box sends everything into a spiral. You’ll have your headline in the gutter, your main image on the left, and where did the caption just go? Everything is moving but not where you need it to and then you have to start all over because you can’t even find the undo button.
Ultimately, you can end up with one of two different outcomes. A garish, overly bright disaster dotted with seven different fonts (comic sans might make an appearance), or the opposite end of the spectrum, which usually says “I gave up. This is the best I could do,” and will feature the most simplified, drab and heartless design you could muster using your mouse and keyboard. This is the stock photo of websites; the TV dinner that you threw in the microwave because it was too overwhelming to concoct something more appetizing.
Of course, that’s not to say it’s impossible to create something worth clicking on. But that requires a fine mix of time, training, practice and – most importantly – patience. And maybe some alcohol.
In the end, you want your website to be a reflection of you, but in the best possible light. If you have zero design experience, trust us – it’ll show. Even if you’re willing to dedicate yourself completely, you might still end up with something burnt and flavorless. Simply because you didn’t have the proper experience to make it.
Like the baked Alaska from your favorite French restaurant, some things are best when they’re already made for you.