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Most of my students are Internet novices and ask many apprehensive questions about how to design a website. They worry about their ability to design an attractive site and are anxiously seeking the quickest and best alternative.

After years on the Net, I believe you need to learn how to design your sites yourself, and here's why ...

The Internet is made up of two elements:

1. Text
2. Pictures

Yes, audio and video technologies are growing fast. But if you hope to sell on the Net, it's critical to appeal to your audience, those folks who are willing to pull out their credit cards and buy your products. A huge percentage of these are still on dialup and certainly aren't very sophisticated and  fancy techniques will isolate you from many of them.

So what are your choices if you want to build a website?

1. Buy a template:

This can work sometimes. I've bought them myself and they do look great. But there are some real problems with templates:

* They can be expensive - especially if you want multiple websites. Good templates aren't cheap. The few I've bought are in the $60-$70 range.

* If you don't know what you're doing, you can waste your money on templates that won't work for you. For instance, you will often see templates with icons, pictures, company logos, "Buy Now" buttons and more. Yes, they look great. But when you download the images they are not editable because if they are in jpg or gif format, you can't make changes. The most common 'editable' images are in 'psd' format. If you own image editing software, like Photoshop (which usually sells for about $600), you can make the changes you wish. But if you don't own this kind of software then forget it - your images can't be changed.

* Editing templates isn't easy. You might unwittingly purchase a template that allows 8' of space - and your copy needs 10" of space. Now what? Cheaper templates require the purchaser to "slice" them. This is tedious and time consuming and requires editing knowledge that most people don't have. Higher quality templates allow the owner to edit them without slicing, but they are more expensive.

* Even if you can edit your new template, do you really think that you should allow a designer to dictate the placement of your sales copy? Beautiful design does not equal sales. Just because something looks good doesn't mean it's a good sales site. Many novices are impressed with the good looks of a template, but Madison Avenue beauty doesn't equal profits on the Net. Earning money comes from effective direct response marketing which means testing the elements on your sales page and changing them until you have a winner. If your design is forced on you you are limited in the changes you can make.

2. Pay a website designer to build a site for you:

* Hiring a professional can be expensive. I currently have a goal of building two websites each week for a year. Let's assume I pay someone $500 to build a website (which is quite a reasonable amount for a well done site - it often costs much more.) That means I will be paying $1,000/week, every week, for a year. My money is better spent on marketing than design.

* Every time you want to make a change on your site, you must wait on a designer to make the changes. This is expensive and can be time consuming if the designer is busy with multiple clients.

* Just like a purchased template, most web designers are focused on looks and appearance, rather than functionality or sales. All the best marketers acknowledge that plainer sites are more lucrative because the focus is on the copy, the words, rather than fancy graphics or beautiful colors. Take a look at the top money-making sites on the net. They rarely are flashy or dramatically impressive.

* Relying on a web designer creates dependency. Generally the motivation of entrepreneurs is freedom so waiting for another person to make even the smallest changes to your site isn't taking you in the direction you want to go.

3. Buy site-making software:

Every program I have seen involves a learning curve. One popular site builder, for example, has a 500 page manual, is expensive and a lot of the learning doesn't transfer to other site systems. I looked at another one recently with a 300 page manual. The time that you spend learning these methodologies could be spent learning an HTML editor that will make you fully capable of building your own sites, whenever you choose, for almost zero cost.

Spend the time and learn do it yourself websites. I personally spent two weeks in 'Dreamweaver Hell' several years ago. All reviews indicated that Dreamweaver is the best HTML editor, so I bought a book and determined to learn the software on my own. The first book wasn't long enough so I returned it for a second - and longer - book, which eventually was exchanged for an almost-1200 page manual. There were moments of frustration, tears, triumph, cursing and the thrill of success, and I emerged able to put together websites whenever I chose.

Saying "I want to be an Internet marketer" and not learning how to build websites for yourself is like wanting to be a dentist - and refusing to learn about teeth; like being a star athlete - and refusing to practice your sport. So what if your first sites won't win a design award? You'll get better. And you will be independent. Isn't that the entire point of working on the Internet?

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