I was thinking of building a website from scratch this past weekend. It has been some time since I last decided to jump into such a project, and I have learned so much since then. My digital marketing knowledge has altered the way I think about building websites entirely. What was once a design-first mentality is now replaced with a structured vision that prioritizes SEO and authority-building efforts over the type-font family or the colors of a theme.
The truth is, however, the site I would build 2 years ago could actually be completed in a weekend, more or less. With the knowledge I have now, building a website from scratch would take far longer—and for very good reasons. I could not possibly spend 8 hours to simply whip some site together and believe it would have any chance of making an impact. I know it takes more than that to create something of value. It takes planning, proper execution, and time.
I have learned this most recently at home.
The Enlightened Decision
About 7 months ago, my wife finally saw the light. She came to me one weekend morning and said, “Honey, if we aren’t going to be able to take vacations and travel the way we used to, maybe we should just go ahead and build a pool.” I tried very hard to contain the enthusiasm I felt inside from spilling onto my face, lest she perceive an over-eagerness that would certainly spoil the seriousness of her calculated statement.
Was it possible? My two dreams linked to moving from Michigan to Florida six years ago were a boat and a pool. Did my wife’s epiphany have legs strong enough to withstand the financial analysis that was sure to come? My heart was pounding with joyful thrusts, blood filling my arteries at a rapid pace.
“Why baby, I think you’re on to something there,” I calmly replied. My face appeared thoughtful and filled with all the practicality of a seasoned CPA. “We love our vacations, but if COVID-19 is going to screw that up—and who knows for how long—we might as well enjoy life at home. I agree. That is actually a very good idea.”
The Move to Commitment
A few days later, we had called several pool builders and decided to invite one over to give us an estimate. He was an older guy, maybe in his late 50s or early 60s; clearly, the outdoor work environment had taken a toll on his skin. He was a plain-spoken man, and his grey hair spilled from under a worn cap to just over his shoulders. I liked his reactions to our serious questions. He would just grin and offer answers that were uncomplicated. I seem to recall him saying, “If you want that, sure,” or just “Yep” quite a bit.
Afterward, my wife and I felt it was easy to trust him at his word. He had built pools for over 30 years, and by the end of that first chat, we were both confident he was going to be the one to build the replacement for our trips to Caribbean beach resorts.Unfortunate and unexpected events do occur, like the tropical storm that collapsed our pool hole and mangled most of the framing. Click To Tweet
In the same way, before I would begin building a website from scratch today, I would seek good counsel from an experienced pro. What new technologies or performance benchmarks would I want to consider? It may be worth spending time asking yourself if taking on the project yourself is a good use of your time. You could outsource the work, or even enlist a white label partner to handle the job (and future ones). However, before building the website, I should know its purpose and make decisions based on that.
Our pool was not being built for swimming laps, but for leisure floating and relaxation. We wanted it to drop a tropical vibe into the space between our lanai and the 17th green beyond. An organic shape with a submerged bench on one side to accommodate watching nighttime rocket launches would be ideal. Room around the pool for an outdoor kitchen was also part of the plan. Indeed, a plan was being built as we dreamed and sketched, erased, dreamed, and sketched some more.
If I were to build a website from scratch, it would also be a good idea to “dream and sketch” first. Write the main elements I would want on the site and organize, then prioritize them into a sensible layout. Just like pool features, the elements of a website, like SEO and the user experience, should have a function that improves the overall user experience. A good website begins with a well-thought plan.
Framing the Work
After the hole for the pool was dug, workers placed a frame made of wood and reinforcement bars that defined its perimeter, giving it a defined form. The framework would enhance the shell strength once the concrete-like material was sprayed into place.
The new website building effort will present opportunities to decide on framework, too. There are numerous methods that can be used to give the site its appearance and function. These will impact a multitude of things later, so choose carefully. The site framework can impact the strength of a website and future considerations, like its ease of editing. In our pool, we decided where to place stairs for ease of access. We also requested a handrail for safe entry and exit for when we become older and require that extra level of safety.
Taking Precautions when Building a Website from Scratch
Unfortunate and unexpected events do occur, like the tropical storm that collapsed our pool hole and mangled most of the framing. It is important to preserve your progress during website construction. Consider using a platform that will allow offline changes in a staging environment. This lets you evaluate and save new work before committing it to a live (and most likely incomplete if you are building a website from scratch) environment.
Forward progress on the pool appeared stalled for many weeks after the shell was formed and hardened. Piles of excess concrete and discarded planks of wood were scattered around the yard. The visual chaos was unnerving. I had no idea what was supposed to happen next; after all, this is my first in-ground pool.
Trenches were dug around the pool to contain a network of complex PVC piping. It was unclear to me how they were routed and what purpose they would each serve. Soon after, they were buried under the soil that was removed to accommodate them. Access was now quite limited, and knowing I had to trust the workers’ expertise at that moment was a challenge. I knew that my pool construction progress was at the mercy of the workers’ accuracy. If something were wrong, they would need to fix it—not me.
Getting Your Hands Dirty
One weekend later, I decided I could do some work on my own to expedite the project. Hoping my contractor would appreciate the contribution and reward my effort with a renewed sense of urgency, I took to removing my lanai enclosure. It was satisfying work that was intended for the screen enclosure contractor, but I had a sledgehammer and some time on my hands. It was not too complicated, not too physically demanding, and it gave me a sense of ownership in the project.
When building a website, there are plenty of opportunities to “do it yourself.” There also may be times when you need to call in a friend with specialized experience to handle something you are not perfectly equipped to do yourself. There is no shame in knowing your limits when it means getting something done right. If you have the time to learn and apply new knowledge to move forward, fine. If it makes more sense to outsource a task, however, do not let your pride hold your progress back. There are some reputable white label marketing service providers for agencies that need support. Check them out and compare them carefully.
Delay of Gratification
As the pool project neared the five-month mark, progress resumed with the pouring of a concrete deck surrounding the pool. My wife and I began working on some esthetic repairs to the lanai walls to which the aluminum enclosure had once been fastened. We embarked on stripping caulk, applying stucco repair, priming and finally, painting the new surface. There was no sense in doing this earlier, as it could have been damaged by the concrete pour.
This is how it often goes with building a website from scratch. We want to see it completed—fast. The best practice, however, is to take deliberate steps to plan properly. Assess and then create the structure before doing the work that makes it pretty. Share the work with experts as needed. Do work you can confidently handle when you have time and energy. Be patient, but you should dive in eventually. In my experience, neither a website nor a pool can be properly built in a weekend.
*As of 4/14/21, Jay’s pool is filled with water and is 99% complete. Construction began in September 2020.