Professional Design vs Do it Yourself

Most of you won’t know that I started out on the web with a love for coding. I can code in PHP, and do enough SQL to get by, but my real passion was CSS and XHTML. Im no artist, far, far from it, but I think there’s something beautiful about well written, clean code. Something enormously satisfying in seeing code laid out in a file, and knowing that it’s the simplest it can possibly be.

Im also no Rasmus Lerdorf or Jeff Zeldman, I know my limits, and consequently, about a year or so ago, I vowed to never do another large coding or design project again, as it just wasn’t an efficient use of my time. I would rather hack at existing code and design, and that seems to satisfy the codemonkey in me whilst giving me time to write, which im marginally better at.

Blog Template Design

With this site, we rushed it a little because we were fed up with planning, and wanted to see some action! We hired a designer who came up with what i feel is a wonderfully clean concept and color scheme, but ended up having to hire a second designer to rewrite the code.

No matter though, we’re grateful for the concept and colors and don’t begrudge our original designer his fee. Our CSS Guru, Claire came to our rescue with the code, and her and I spent a very long weekend in IM, testing everything (we *think* we got it good heh..). The result is a great clean look that I love, and on that note, I wanted to ask you guys about how you approach the design of your blogs.

Professional Design, or DIY?

Presuming we’re talking about templates, rather than some custom job with code and presentation all mixed up, there are a few alternatives i think, let me know if i miss one…

  • Hire a specialist blog template designer
  • Hire any designer (if you like their work) and help them work with your system
  • Do it yourself, maybe calling in a favor or two on bits your not strong at (what i would always do up till a year or so ago)
  • Hacke one of the default templates that comes with your sytem – change the colors, logo etc

Hiring a Professional

Im not going to cover all of the due dilligence you need to perform if you’re going to hire a pro, but i will give you a couple of personal “first call” checkpoints i look at:

  • Look at their portfolio, not just the pics, look at the live site, in lots of different browsers.
  • Then, if you’re happy with the look, get under the hood and check their code is clean, and if possible (though on some systems it’s really tough, so nearly is good enough) that it validates
  • Get a recommendation or a reference, from someone you know if at all possible

All being well, a professional, and i mean a true pro, as opposed to some muppet with a website that says “web design” on it, will be able to knock out a smart looking template in a day or two. Job done.

Going DIY

If you choose, due to budget restraints, or because you happen to be good at this stuff, to go it alone, then you’re almost certainly, in my opinion, going to end up with something less than ideal.

We tend to view our own work with rose tinted spectacles, and personally im much happier knowing that someone is being paid $80 by the hour, and that you can make as many changes and adjustments as you need, provided you can foot the bill.

Saying that though, sometimes a homegrown look can really work. There are no hard and fast rules here, just personal preference. I like to hire someone to do the job, how about you?

So tell us, how do you approach blog design?