There’s a scene in the movie There’s Something About Mary that has Ben Stiller’s character picking up a hitchhiker. This hitchhiker brings with him a duffle bag that is suspiciously similar in size and shape to a human body, and a scheme to hit it big by shaving a minute off of the popular 8-minute abs workout: Seven. Minute. Abs. He is convinced that people will be falling all over each other at the chance to save a minute. And he was right: according to an unscientific Google search the fastest ab workout out there today is 2 minutes. Now we’re talking.
I promise, this is related to building small business websites.
Just like the race to zero-minute-abs, the internet is awash with “one click” website builders. Who knew that building an beautiful small business website that generates quality leads was so easy? Well it starts out that way. But then you start asking yourself questions like “do I really need my own domain name instead of a free service like Tumblr or WordPress.com?” (yes you do) or “Which one of these web hosting companies is right for my business?” (got you covered) or “What do I do if I want to sell my products right on my website?” (take a look over here).
Ultimately you get to the really big question: can (or should) you do this all yourself, or do you need to hire a pro?
The explosion of DIY website services with dozens of beautiful themes and click-and-drag page builders has caused many people to declare that website design is dead. For certain types of business owners, it may be true that they are better off without hiring someone to help them define their website marketing strategy, apply User Experience Design know-how to make sure that visitors can accomplish what they need to on the site without frustration, or modify an off-the-shelf site template to make it unique and representative of the business’s brand.
Like I said, it may be true. But for most small businesses a little help here and there can make a big difference in the quality and performance of their website. Here are some of the tasks involved in building and running an effective small business website where spending a little on professional help will result in a solid return on your investment:
- Visual User Interface Design: Most DIY website builders offer respectable-looking templates that work well on all sorts of devices and all sorts of screen sizes. The problem is, a lot of them look very, very, similar to one another. I assume that most businesses don’t want customers to get confused between their website and their competitors’. Fortunately the licenses for many of these templates allow for customization, and for a business on a budget, a consultant can modify a template to make it uniquely yours. If you want to spend a little more, your business can have a totally custom template created—just make sure the designer you hire isn’t just giving you a differently-colored version of what they gave the last client.
- Performance: Getting on to the front page of Google isn’t just about keywords and links any more. Google now incorporates how quickly a site loads as part of their ranking. They consider a total page load time of 2 seconds as just barely acceptable for an e-commerce website, and try to get all of their own pages to load in a half second or less. There are a ton of tools online to measure your website’s speed, but you need to know what to do with their results.
- User Experience Design and Information Architecture: To grossly oversimplify, if UI design is about how a site looks, User Experience (UX) design is how it works and Information Architecture (IA) is how it’s structured. So your small business website has good UI if it is attractive, reflects your company’s branding, and is easy to use. If your site has good UX, interactive features like shopping carts of quote request forms take less time and effort for customers to fill out, resulting in higher conversion rates. And if your site has good IA, visitors don’t need to go hunting for the information they are looking for because it is organized in a rational and easily understood way. UX and IA make the difference between your visitors from hitting the “back” button in frustration and your visitors becoming customers.
- Administration and Development: Say you want to add a contact form on your website that sends data to your email list provider and also auto-responds with a scheduled series of emails meant to guide your leads towards becoming customers. Like Visual Themes, there are hundreds of plugins for most website platforms that can do this, provided you know what to look for and how to configure them. But what if the plugin doesn’t exist, or the ones that do are missing a key, essential feature? And who is going to keep track of security updates to all your plugins to make sure they don’t break anything when they’re installed? For the vast majority of small business owners this is an excellent opportunity for outsourcing.
- Content Optimization/SEO: Despite what I said under Item 2, Google does still care about keyword density and page authority. Working with a web copy expert as your editor will improve both the Search Engine Optimization of and the quality of your text and set your small business website apart from others that use the same standard marketing language to describe themselves and their services. SEO doesn’t stop with content either—image file names, alt text, and URLs are all opportunities for increasing your keyword density.
Picking a domain name, hosting provider, and visual theme is a good start, but there’s much more to getting your website to do its best work for your business. Working with a pro helps to stop you from worrying that your website isn’t performing up to its potential, and lets you stop babysitting your website so you can focus on running and building your business.
If you’re ready to give your small business website a little therapy, I offer a private 30-minute consultation to anyone who is considering working with me. My mission is to maximize the ROI of your website and minimizing your worries. Click here to schedule a private 30-minute consultation now.