If you’re a non-web based, brick and mortar business and haven’t figured out that you need a website, this article isn’t for you. Go do some research and come to that conclusion on your own. For everybody else that sees a value in a website, let’s talk about what a first website should be for you and what your investment should provide for you.
For Small Businesses, Identity Matters.
Shoestring budgets and DIY solutions are constantly voiced terms when starting a small business. If you’re not a web developer or a graphic artist, don’t pretend to be one. As a startup, since you have no history in which to compete with your competition, you are left with first impression. Spend the time and the money to hire somebody that can do it right for you and listen to their advice.
Now, this just isn’t a logo that I’m talking about here. Branding comes down to colors, shapes, voice, fonts, and everything else that a marketing firm will tell you. Not only that, it’s creating a story in which your product or services can be framed in.
A recent client was a local startup yoga studio. The owner had a logo and no idea of what else to put on a website. The advice that was given was to create a brand identity that can be carried over to any number of growth potential areas. The owner declined the advice believing they would have time to do this themselves. As the project lingered on, another yoga studio moved in within close proximity and already had a well developed identity. Needless to say, neither the branding nor marketing has evolved in the original studio and their audience has since moved on to the newer, more clearly defined studio.
Small businesses usually need to start their life with an inexpensive web solution. But what value comes from making a decision based solely on the price tag? There are cheap solutions for creating your own first website such as these “build your own website for free” websites (BYOWFF). But what many fail to understand is that the foundation for a successful online presence is rooted in the ability to adapt online as quickly as you would adapt any other facet of your business.
I build sites in WordPress. I do this because I know that I can customize the interaction between a business owner and the website based on the level of skill that I learn the owner or business has. If they need to add a functionality into their site, it’s already set up to do so. BYOWFF websites lack adaptability measures that extend beyond their own structured confines. For example, if you update your branding to include a font that the service doesn’t support, all of a sudden your identity suffers from inconsistency.
Hiring a developer that understands that your site is not static means that you, as a business owner, understand that your business is not static.
Cheap Solutions Become Expensive Problems
I’ve made a small fortune from converting Wix websites to WordPress. Almost every time, the client starts off with “I built our first website in Wix, but it’s just not working for us”. No shit.
If you don’t understand what your needs are from the beginning, any effort you go through trying to be a homegrown, overnight developer/designer will ultimately end up being replaced by the real thing eventually. That’s not to say there aren’t some renaissance people out there that can pull it off. However, the majority of business owners that can’t explain the difference between a domain registration and hosting. Any attempt to cut corners in the beginning will eventually result in needing somebody else to come along and patch holes or start from scratch again. And all the work that you put into being something that you’re not will go promptly into the garbage.
Websites Don’t Run Themselves
When I create a web contract, I intentionally leave out the part of ongoing maintenance. I leave this for a secondary contract. This makes things easier if a business has an internal resource that is going to be monitoring the website – no overlap or conflicting responsibilities. However, what I tend to see is that within a few months, the person whose job description was gifted the added responsibility of “Webmaster” doesn’t know how to do anything other than change their own password and add a blog post.
This is why you should ALWAYS have a minimum web support contract that accomplishes the following few site needs:
- Site security monitoring – Shared hosting is the worst for getting your site hacked. Maintenance contracts should cover that and restoring your site to a functioning state.
- Updates – Along with security monitoring, WordPress and plugin updates are why the platform has evolved into one of the most widely used CMS’s in the world. E-commerce sites are uniquely in need of a high degree of attention since money and security is on the line.
- Hosting and Domain – Economy hosting can be wrought with issues that are indecipherable to most. A web maintenance contract is a way to leverage somebody else’s expertise.
- Backups – Data is everywhere these days, but being able to lose everything on Monday morning and have it up and running again by Monday afternoon prevents extended outages that can affect your bottom line.
Even at a few hundred dollars a month, the most basic ongoing maintenance contract will be very useful in not having to worry about downtime, hacked sites, or loss of data.
Small businesses have to spend their money wisely. Hiring a developer to create your first website could prove to be a detrimental decision in their success. As a small business owner, understanding that your website investment is neither a silver bullet solution nor a flippant exercise in the laundry list of todo’s that any small business owner must do in order to survive is critical. Non-web based brick and mortar businesses should understand that a web investment up front will be the benefit they’re hoping for; however, cutting corners will often result in a messy headache that will cost you time, effort, and money.