“Hey, the 90s called, and they want their website back!”
I used to hear that one a lot. Right around the time Web 2.0 was a thing. But as scary as it sounds in the era of mobile-first, swipe-friendly responsive websites, Web 2.0 is still alive and kicking.
I get why folks hold on to their decade-old web design. It was probably the first time they invested in Internet marketing, and it was a big deal. It probably worked well for them for a while, and they know how to make basic page updates. And, well, if it ain’t broke…
But, to the rest of the world, these older websites ARE broken.
Let me put your mind at ease right now. Replacing your old, out-of-date, non-mobile website with a state-of-the-art, eye-popping, easy-to-use, crowds-will-love-it website isn’t the least bit spooky. In fact, web development is almost to the point where do-it-yourself firms are making good money “showing you how.”
A prospect backed out of a new website for his company right after his children told him he could do it himself for considerably less money. This, after I’d quoted him an exceptional price. He called me out and asked if it was true that he could do it himself for less. I gave him a straight answer.
“Yes,” I said.
“You can do it yourself, for about $75 to purchase a decent WordPress theme, and about $10 a month for web hosting.”
But, I explained, that does not include keeping the site secure against hackers or malicious code, or the hours it will take to figure out the idiosyncracies of the WordPress theme and all the tiny little variables that drive non-programmers batty. That does not include working in Photoshop (or whatever free image editor he prefers) sizing images to fit the pre-defined boxes his website requires. That does not include customizing his website’s contact form to collect more than someone’s email address – or even making sure the contact form (a) resizes for mobile devices, (b) works with his e-mail’s server or (c) doesn’t end up sending all of his contacts to a spam folder. That does not include keyword research, metadata creation, advice on title tags, SEO-friendly menus, alt-tags on images or anything else remotely useful for page-1 search ranking. That does not include website design that anticipates user expectations and guides site visitors toward making a positive buying decision.
I’m not trying to scare you. I wasn’t trying to scare him. These are the things a useful business website needs. And these are actual problems DIYers call us to fix for them every single day.
I’m not against DIY in some circumstances. Do-it-yourself web development works well for the folks it works well for. Folks with more than their share of technical moxie. And patience. Piles of patience. But most of us – the rest of us, really – don’t fit that bill. For most of us, getting the microwave to tell the correct time during Daylight Saving and making sure the DVR records our favorite show – and not the reruns – is about as far as our technical prowess goes. Figuring out how to edit our company website title so it doesn’t say “just another WordPress site” is really pushing boundaries.
So what’s the answer?
Well, I’d start with asking better questions. Starting with… WHY do you want a website at all? WHAT do you need your website to accomplish? The answers to these two questions will determine whether you need to bother with an upgrade, and whether you should invest in a professional partner.
And when I say “professional partner” I don’t mean “professional website creator.” I mean “partner.” Someone who understands your business, who gets how your website fits into your business, who knows what a great website can and should do for your business.
If your website’s purpose is to maintain an online presence because others in your field have websites of their own, you might not bother with an upgrade at all. Or, if an update is in order, you might be a candidate for DIY or one of any number of self-help website builders.
However, if you want your website to be a force multiplier for your company, you should consider working with a partner who can ensure that it’s done right. A business website, for starters, should:
- Be the best first impression possible for your organization
- Attract new site visitors with well-crafted content designed to rank well in search results
- Use well-placed call-to-action items and forms to lead potential customers toward a buying decision or other conversion (such as a completed form)
- Integrate with social media to interact with potential customers across platforms and maintain a high level of audience engagement
I know. We’re moving back into “scary” territory again. It can be a little intimidating. But so can accounting. So can commercial real estate, employee benefits and a thousand other things that great companies somehow manage to, well, manage. The trick is to simply not go it alone.
Marketing is the life-blood of your business. Your website can be – make that SHOULD BE – the centerpiece of a great marketing effort. I’m not saying a DIY website builder can’t help you build a decent site. I AM saying that even the best DIY builder program will provide no marketing assistance whatsoever. It just won’t. (In all fairness to those website builders – that’s simply not what they do.)
There are plenty of out-of-the-box off-the-shelf DIY options out there. They won’t cost you much up front, but the opportunities they’ll cost you down the road are immeasurable. There are plenty of pure-play web developers out there, too. They’ll cost you considerably more. But at least your website will be a thing of beauty for you and your employees to enjoy.
Every business needs every marketing advantage it can muster. Experience demonstrates time and time again that skimping on your website is simply skimping on your own bottom line profit opportunities.