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An alternative to using templates is to design your own site. While this may sound like a money-saving idea, don’t be deceived. Unless you are an experienced designer, you will be disappointed with the results. Just look around the web to see thousands, if not tens of thousands of poorly designed and executed sites. They scream amateur and many shoppers will simply move onto other sites that present a better image.

Don’t be too surprised at this reaction. The same holds true in the traditional bricks and mortar world of retail. Take two traditional stores right across from each other. One has a beautiful illuminated sign, breathtaking window displays and the interior is has a pleasing color palette, is well merchandised and clean. The other has a hand drawn sign of butcher paper in the window, where the displays are shoddily crafted. You bravely walk in, only to find the fixtures in poor repair, the staff uncaring and paint peeling off the walls. Which one do you want to shop in? It’s the same on the web.

If you don’t have design experience, consider using the templates option above or hire a professional firm to design your site. Remember, as a businessperson you can’t possibly where all the hats in your business. You probably won’t hesitate to hire an experienced CPA down the road to do your books and taxes to save you money. The same should be true with the designer of your marketing materials, including your website. Don’t shy away from letting professionals design your look and extend your brand, whether it’s templates or a custom interface.

If you do decide to design your own site, there are some great tools available today. FrontPage is a good beginner tool and it will help you create a solid initial site. If you want more functionality, Dreamweaver is the industry standard and GoLive! is another strong contender. GoLive! is easier for design oriented people to use while Dreamweaver is better for those with a flair for the programming side of life. Both offer professional level design tools and capabilities. Of course, there are many other tools you can use to build a website. A good place to look for these tools is There are plenty of free or free trial software programs out there to help you design your site.

If you do decide to go it alone, be sure to read the What Makes a Great Website below for valuable tips.