Are quick websites the answer to solving your business woes?
Are quick websites the answer to solving your business woes?
At a time when businesses are struggling to stay afloat and where the very ground under their feet appears unsteady, there’s a rush by many to adapt and have a greater online presence. There’s danger here though; websites built in haste can lead to further trouble down the road. Let us explain.
Look around and you’ll quickly find stories of businesses in trouble. Recently because of the Covid pandemic and the dramatic shift in how people are doing business, but also because of a longer term complacency.
It’s clear to many that their existing business models have suffered significant damage because employees need to work from home whenever they can and also, more people than ever are purchasing what they need online. This isn’t just about basic consumer goods either, we’re talking about services that would traditionally require extensive face-to-face meeting or at least solid personal interaction. There’s no better way to gain the personal confidence you need, as a business person looking to establish a new product source or service provider, than meeting with them in person.
Change has been in the wind for a while
There’s been a change coming for a long time. Many business models – from the traditional high street store, to more sophisticated professional services, such as accountants, lawyers and creative services companies, have business practices that have changed little over the years. While they have certainly adopted the internet as a way of communicating, for many, it’s not been a central pillar to their operation. To be fair, there’s been little incentive to change, as on the whole, their customers are used to the way an accountant or a solicitor, for instance, works. So, businesses have had little ‘business pressure’ to change.
All that changed recently with the Covid pandemic. Many firms have found themselves well behind the curve, compared to those who embraced a rapidly evolving online business landscape. Naturally, there’s been a bit of a rush to try and catch up. One temptation is to build a new website – either from scratch or overhaul what they have. But beware, this could be an expensive mistake if not treated with care and consideration.
Websites are often seen by companies, especially smaller companies or those that work on a fee basis, as a commodity with a relative low market value. This has been exacerbated over the years by web design companies promoting ‘cheap’, ‘get to market quick’ website build services. Even the big domain name companies like GoDaddy are in on the act. Also, there are web companies that offer dedicated platforms that make it easy to build a website without any prior knowledge . . . ‘in minutes’. As they saying goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”.
The problem with the promises
At the heart of the offering from those offering what appears a panacea to a small business, is what happens next. Sure, these companies offer a great way to get your business online quickly. The solution uses a variety of quick and easy templates that you simply fill in with your content, images and logos. You can rearrange layouts too. The end result looks great. So, what’s wrong with this?
On the surface, not much, as it delivers what they promise, a quick way to get your business online. But, and it’s a big but; being online and being visible to your target audience are two entirely different issues. And this is where the real difference can be found between a website built quickly like this and one built by an agency like The Creative Tree.
An effective website is a marketing platform for your business first and foremost. An effective website is more than just a few pages, a menu, some nice graphics and great words.
An effective website starts life by considering the audience first, what the audience wants to hear, what problem the audience wants to solve or need fulfilled. All too often, hastily built websites are nothing more than brochure sites and all too frequently, are more about the owner than the prospective customer.
How should you approach a new website build?
To quote a well-know phrase, “Begin with the end in mind”. The goal of the website is usually to convert a website visitor into a new customer. Then, over time and in conjunction with your other online assets – social media, et al., to turn them into your brand ambassadors – people who openly speak highly of your business to others.
So, before any designer begins sketching out what your site looks like, they have to build a picture of the typical customer – their ‘persona’, and aspects of the site that will influence or affect their attitudes upon arrival. This may include aspects like:
- The nature of the business need, e.g. consumer goods, luxury products and services, travel, or professional services, to name a few.
- The style and type of imagery used
- Colour palettes
- Key messaging
- The type and nature of written content
- Use of videos
- User interface – i.e. navigation menus, content flow, structure, etc
- Overall user experience – how quickly can the visitor get the answer they need
- When and how to make your pitch – call to action.
All of these issues should be thought through in relation to the audience you intend to attract and convert. Naturally, this should also fit within your businesses brand guidelines, marrying the needs of the audience with the personality of your brand
What happens when you don’t follow this process?
All too often we run in to clients that have had websites built in a hurry. The main issue is that they have what on the outside appears a nice sharp looking site. But that’s it. It’s just a shell. Rather like looking through quick brochure. Even sites that have a shop as their main home page, have little else but pages of products. There’s little substance behind them or consideration as to how they are going to be found in search engines – which is where the problem begins and, for most, ends. They fail to attract visitors and even if they do, they fail to convert them in to customers. The main issues can be summaries as follows:
- It’s firstly about them, not the target customer.
- It fails to quickly establish the value the business offers and why the visitor has landed in the right place.
- There’s little substance that helps prove to the visitor that your business has the expertise necessary to solve the problem, or that it offers the best solution.
- Similarly, having insufficient content around your business expertise – not in how good you are or your credentials, but in demonstrating knowledge of your subject, will result in difficulties getting ranked in Google. Poor rankings mean poor visibility, which means poor website traffic.
- The website cannot scale easily. This represent a growth problem. It’s easy to outgrow a cheap site, as it is usually built with considerable constraints.
- It lacks features or the ability to add features and functionality to help you adapt to new business situations by changing the way things look or adding functions to the site to show things in a different way.
- It’s difficult to add content around key areas of the site. The home page isn’t the most important page. The most important page is the page the visitor first lands on. If your SEO strategy is working at all, this should be a product or service page. In which case these pages need to be especially tailored to a particular type of visitor or service.
- Your site is often on a shared server. This means the company hosting the site has your web site on a server with potentially hundreds of other sites. If one site has particular issues, perhaps a hack or denial of service attack (DDOS), all of the sites will likely experience service issues. Also, as they share resources, it’s difficult to increase resources for your site on its own as you grow. This can lead to expensive upgrades later on.
- Unable to move your site. Often, a business needs to move on, perhaps build a bigger and better site. The best way to do this is to ‘migrate’ the content from the old site to the new site. Quite a few quick built website companies use a platform that is entirely ‘bespoke’, meaning it is often impossible to do this by moving away from them, leaving you starting from scratch. This is called a ‘lock-in’ strategy.
- The resulting site, it’s look, feel and messaging, don’t match your brand’s personality.
There’s a whole process we at The Creative Tree go through to help clients design and build a site that not only looks great, but forms the platform for long lasting growth in visibility online. That means adopting a wholistic strategy based on all the points highlighted earlier.
The lesson is simple and really one of expectations. While you don’t necessarily want to be spending a fortune on a website, particularly if your business is struggling, you certainly don’t want to throw money down the drain and waste your time. To achieve this, you need to adopt the right attitude towards your business’s marketing and adopt reasonable expectations where budget and timescales are concerned.
Rest assured though, our approach is to help you simplify the process and help strike a balance between your business needs and your budget. And, we won’t lock you in!
So why not give us a call and discuss how we can get your business performing better online.