Building a Website for Small Business
Imagine you’re buying a new car. Car ownership may not seem relevant to the topic of building a website for small business but stay with me for a second.
Say you find a car you LOVE, but it requires a mechanic’s skill to put gas in it or change the washer fluid. Would you still buy the car?
You might do if you had never pumped gas or filled the washer fluid. If you have no idea how simple those two little tasks are, it would be easy to assume that you need a mechanic to do this for you or that somehow the mechanic would do a better job.
Of course, you would be wrong. If a car company built a vehicle that required a professional to fill up, you might guess that they’re just trying to ensure business for their service department.
You expect there are parts of car ownership you will have to look after yourself. You may not be able to do major mechanical work, but you certainly wouldn’t pay an expert every time you need gas or washer fluid.
Now apply this principle to your website. Whether you’re building a new website from scratch or upgrading your existing one, you want to make sure you will be able to make minor changes yourself. Consider this “putting gas” in your website.
So how do you get a secure and fast site customized to your needs but allows you to make simple updates yourself? You hire a WordPress designer.
Small Business Websites Need Frequent Updates
Once upon a time, you could pay someone to build your site, and it would last for years, like a digital brochure. Now, you will likely need to make near-constant minor changes to content, like updating your blog, your hours, or the latest COVID-19 restrictions.
On top of that, you should be prepared to make more significant upgrades to the design of your site about every three years because of how quickly technology changes.
From an aesthetic perspective, websites are like fashion. Trends come and go, and you are measured against your peers. If your site looks dated, you lose credibility. Visitors may subconsciously wonder where else your business is behind the times.
Just take a look at the evolution of Apple’s website. Your existing website may not be as retro as the image on the left, nor does it have to be as slick as the one on the right. This just shows how dramatically design principles change over time.
Looks Aren’t Everything
Forget about looks for a second. If your website is not up to date under the hood, it will be slow, which costs you money. Google says if, for example, the main content on your website takes longer than 1.2 seconds to appear, you will lose visitors. That’s right; our collective attention span now can’t handle a delay of longer than 1.2 seconds.
You can test the speed of your website yourself and get tips on how to improve it by going to Google’s developer site. In the past year, I’ve spent a lot of time using some great new tools to help clients speed up their sites, including my own, and the results have been fantastic.
Older sites also don’t take advantage of the latest security protocols. When that happens, the Google algorithm won’t rank it as high, which means you are less likely to show up in searches by your customers. Remember, looks aren’t everything. Speed and security are far more serious than slightly outdated design.
What about Squarespace or Wix?
The need to do in-house updates leads many small businesses to choose a consumer website builder like Squarespace or Wix. This will solve the problem of needing someone to help you. It, unfortunately, creates several other more serious issues.
Remember when I said the problem with a dated website isn’t just the look, it’s the performance? Well, consumer drag-and-drop web builders have this same issue.
These out-of-the-box websites are -without a doubt- gorgeous. The problem is you don’t have the flexibility to make critical changes that improve the site’s performance.
When you recall that visitors will click away if your site doesn’t load within 1.2 seconds, you can see how a speed difference of just a second or two can have a huge impact. You need a platform that allows you (or the builder) to make the changes that improve your speed as well as your security.
So Do You Need a Web Developer?
No, you do not. You need a WordPress designer. We are people who have some coding language experience. We also have training in design/user experience, both the user experience of visitors and the user experience of you, the site owner. At Create That, we are also copywriting experts, which is not typically a quality developers bring to the table.
I build all my client sites on Wordpress.org. (NOT WordPress.com. Here’s an explainer on the difference.)
Wordpress.org allows total customization, which is key to selling stuff securely, taking appointments or orders, and using the latest SEO techniques.
You can make certain customizations to a Squarespace or Wix site if you know the most basic programming languages, but you lose tech support as soon as you start making those kinds of changes.
That defeats the purpose for a lot of small businesses owners. Think of it this way: if you need a mechanic’s help when your car breaks down, you probably don’t want to make modifications to your vehicle that will void the warranty, right?
Don’t Get Locked Out of Your Website
On the other extreme, I have clients who have purchased custom websites from developers.
Developers are vital to the web’s ecosystem, of course. These folks built all the infrastructure, including platforms like WordPress. I deeply respect and appreciate the work they do.
However, most developers focus on coding, so they aren’t the experts in copy or design. Most small business owners need design, copy AND the actual site build. So developers make sense for large corporations who will also have designers, photographers and writers on the project.
If you (or your budget) require someone who can do it all, hire a designer instead. I recommend a WordPress designer, and not just because I am one.
A Cautionary Tale
One of my clients commissioned a custom site built by a developer. When the client needed updates to the web copy, they had to get the developer to make the changes. (big $$$$ for a tiny change)
Later on, I came in to do some marketing, which included some updates to the site. I learned that the developer had locked the site’s back end, so no one else could make changes.
Basically, they gave the client a brand new luxury car but didn’t leave them the keys. If the client only wanted people to SEE their fancy car, that would be fine. Use it? Not so much.
This is the beauty of a well-designed, user-friendly WordPress site. I build the site and optimize it. I make any major updates. On a day-to-day basis, though, my client can go in themselves to add content.
I love handing new websites over to clients. We do a quick lesson on how to make changes and avoid breaking the website. Then they’re heading off down the highway, with me waving behind them like a proud driver training instructor.