Have you ever gone to a website and been instantly turned off by the look or get frustrated looking for basic information so you navigate to another site that has what you are looking for? I am surprised at the number of lackluster websites I see while searching the internet. Sometimes I’m surfing as part of my business and sometimes as a consumer, but always with an eye toward form and function. I’m not having a go at other businesses, but for many small business owners, there seems to be a gap between the recognition of the importance of a website and the resources allocated for it. Websites that are old and outdated, cluttered, poorly organized, or visually unappealing, trigger these questions:
* Is this business is new or struggling such that they have no funds to dedicate to their online presence?
* Is the business owner unaware of just how unimpressive their website is and the possible negative consequences of having a poor website?
* Does the business owner lack adequate knowledge about the importance of having a quality website for any business?
A company’s website is arguably the most important marketing tool in their suite of resources, to showcase their business and attract prospects. This is a storefront, if you will, without borders of time, space, and distance. According to Pew Research Center, 85% of adults in this country use the internet and well over half search the internet before they buy. That is an enormous number of people using this technology for everything imaginable. Even if most of your business comes through referrals, those people who have been recommended to you are very likely to check you out online before doing business with you. If you website does not do your products and services justice, those prospects might choose someone else. Prospective clients and customers are not the only people checking you out online. Most businesses operate in an industry where other professionals are flowing business to other companies. Your website should be inviting to your entire audience and make it enticing to want to do business with you.
This blog is not about SEO, Search Engine Optimization, which is an important element of website health, but rather looking at the design and functionality of the site. What is the user experience when they get to your site? Is the first impression one that suggests a quality organization? Is there enough content on the site to encourage visitors to stay and interact? Is there a call to action to take the next step closer in the buying process? Is the site easy to navigate and find information about your products and services? Is it easy to read? Simple things like color, font size, and spacing can make the difference that converts visitors to customers or conversely to lost prospects.
If budget is a serious concern, I challenge you to think about how much is your image worth? That may be hard to quantify, but you probably spend money on other things to enhance your image…clothes, collateral, office location, etc. If it was clear that your website was not helping your image, you would be wise to dedicate resources to it. The level of resource allocation varies widely based on what you want to accomplish with your website. I would go so far as to boldly say – if you can’t afford any resources for a quality website, you may want to reconsider being in business, it is that important.
At the very low end, there are some decent D-I-Y sites that are better than no site at all. All you have to do is Google “cheap websites” and a bunch of options are there to choose from. If you are a start-up with truly nothing to spend on digital marketing, you are already good with technology sites, or you welcome a good challenge, this is an affordable option. Keep in mind that there is a reason these website services are so cheap. They are primarily based on prescribed templates that you fit your content into. They may have options to enhance the site, but you have to do it yourself and it is not always as easy as it seems. Think through what you need from a website, such as a “Contact Us” form that your prospects fill out and you receive. You may want to put up a gallery of images or video, special offers, or a lead capture system that a template doesn’t offer. You may have to hire someone to help you get the site the way you want it if full support is not available.
High-end professionally designed sites usually range between $3,000 – $10,000 to design and develop and the functionality is very robust. This could include messaging, high level strategy, logo and other graphic design, an integrated system, e-commerce, database, and any way you want your website to look and function. This is a great option for businesses that have the budget to dedicate to a fully customizable and highly polished web presence and the companies that offer this service do a fantastic job.
Mid-level professional sites – There is the option in between, where we fit in. You can have a custom-designed site at an affordable price. Our sites are designed and developed by professionals in the industry and we don’t use templates. We can make the site look and feel the way you want and have partners to handle the aspects we don’t do, such as branding, messaging, and graphic design. This is an excellent choice for many small businesses who need a new or upgraded website, they are not going to do it themselves, but also don’t have thousands of dollars up front to pay for a site.
What is a website worth? How does your company use their website? Have you ever said to a prospect – “check us out online”? If you haven’t, is that because you don’t have anywhere “online” for them to go? Is it because you don’t have a very attractive or helpful site where sending possible clients there may not help your business? If you don’t think about inviting people to your site, is it because you are so accustomed to doing business the old fashioned way and haven’t yet caught up with the your audience is using the internet to search? If you are not sure how your website measures up, stay tuned for our next blog on “Your Website Report Card” and we will show you how to assess your own site. Of course, you can Contact Us for more information or to set up a complementary consultation and assessment of your website.