Exactly Why it's Totally Cool for Your First Website to Look Awful

Your first website will be awful and that's OK

I've noticed a trend lately. It's hardly anything revolutionary but for whatever reason, I've tuned into it in a way that I haven't ever really noticed before.

People want amazing results in something new but they are afraid to be a beginner. They are afraid to start at square one and produce something ugly.

Now, we all know that "practice makes perfect" and "everybody has to start somewhere". Those cliches have been drilled into us from childhood, but have they stuck?

What's holding us back? And how does this apply to us, here, on this little site that focuses on all things websites?

What's your excuse?

When people find out I build websites, they often say something like:

"wow, I wish I could do that but..."

or

"I've got this great idea for a website/business but I have no clue how to set one up and I don't have the time or money to hire someone to build that right now".

More often than not, that's where it ends.

People have an end result in mind (meaning, they want a website) but something is holding them back from having it.

Usually they have a strong interest in making it but when the time comes to actually get started, they come up with every excuse in the book.

I hear these questions and concerns all the time:

  • How can I learn to code?
  • How much coding do I need to know before I can build a website?
  • Do I have to pay for a course to learn CSS/HTML?
  • Do websites need to be built totally from scratch?
  • What the heck are WordPress and SquareSpace? Are they the same thing as CMS (content management systems)?
  • What do I need to make a mobile app? Do I need one?

Now don't get me wrong, these are totally valid questions. If you're not familiar with websites and what it takes to build one, the thought of it might seem so alien and overwhelming.

But do you know what I tell them anyways?

Go ahead, try it out. Refine your idea, build a basic website and if you have any questions along the way, Google them.

Every expert was once a beginner

People forget that even the experts out there started out as a beginner. It's so easy to compare your starting point to where someone else is after they've had years of practice.

Yes, the experts have improved tremendously since they started dabbling in the subject. But isn't it reassuring to know that YOU can get one step closer to your goal if you just give it a shot?

The first few attempts that you make will probably be uncomfortable. They might look like total crap and you'll be too embarrassed to show anyone.

And that's okay!

When it comes to building a website, you've got to start somewhere.

But where? How?

Courses and guides are helpful - but they aren't the full solution

When you Google "how to code", there are literally millions of results. There are some pretty great free courses out there, such as Codecademy, and they will walk you through everything you need to know. Those can be a great starting point if you're a total beginner.

So ... what's the problem ?

Think of it this way: if your goal is "learn to code", you'll get bogged down with all the minutiae of syntax, coding terminology and site structure elements in these courses. They teach you all the building blocks but they don't really get you linking them together and applying it to something that captures your interest.

You might understand small sections and have minor improvements but ultimately you won't get it. Odds are you'll be totally confused and any motivation you had to get started will jump out the window.

Learn by doing

Now that you see why the usual starting point rarely works, let's look at it a different way:

Begin with the end goal in mind. 

Let's say you're a small business owner and you want to get a basic website up and running. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, just enough to convey who you are, what services you offer and how people can get in touch with you.

Great! This gives us something to work with. From here, you can start Googling steps as they come up. How to build a website; how to purchase a domain; how to set up hosting; how to install WordPress; how to purchase and customize a theme. These are all practical things you can check off and they will actually get you closer your relevant goal, which is to have a live website.

In this case, you're not learning just for the sake of it. You're learning the steps to take to make something real, which make it that much more engaging.

Obviously, you're going to come across points where you're like, "Wait, what? Where do I go next? How do I do this?!".

Don't freak out! This is totally normal. Just remember that you're a smart person who knows how to Google and watch a YouTube tutorial. You've got this, trust.

Your first site sucks!

Ok so now you've given it a shot and you have the most basic site ever up and running. And it SUCKS. It's heinous. It's an early-90s monstrosity.

Yippee! This is a cause for celebration!!!!

What, you don't believe me?

Think of it this way: your site might suck, but how does it compare to your old one?

Oh yeah, you didn't have one. You're already ahead of where you were before because at least now you actually have something real.

Yes, your first site might look Mickey Mouse basic. It might make you want to cry because you feel so embarrassed and frustrated. It's probably pitiful even though you spent hours and hours on it. You can't help think about those wonder kids who build websites over their lunch breaks - in elementary school. Those little buggers!

This is especially true if you haven't yet taken the time to customize the site with your desired colours, text, images, etc. But at least you've got something up and running, right?

Once you reframe how you approach the goal, you'll stop being so hard on yourself. Like they say to even the slowest runner at the race, "you're faster than the guy sitting on the couch".

Version 1 of your website might look rough right now, but at least it's a starting point.

Final words of "wisdom"

All I wanted to do today was send out some positive ~vibes~ to anyone out there who wants to build a website but is too afraid to try. Everyone has to start somewhere and right now, maybe you're a complete beginner. That's okay and something to be proud of! Because if you get over your fear of being a beginner, you will eventually get better and then you'll end up with something that doesn't look half bad.

If all else fails, just remember that there's someone out there who's a whole lot dumber than you are who's already ahead of you because at least they had the guts to give it a try.

If they can do it, so can you!

Last but not least, if you're still like, "dang it Charlotte, just do it for me", get in touch and we can work something out. #shamelessplug


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Charlotte O'Hara

Vancouver