Starting a small business costs a lot of money – from the expenses of creating a professional business plan and incorporating to buying inventory, hiring staff and marketing your business. So it’s understandable that entrepreneurs look for ways to save money. You may think it’s a smart move to save by hiring someone you know to build your company website, such as your brother-in-law, the neighbor’s teen or a Facebook friend, but that’s a horrendously bad idea, one that will cost you more in the long-run. Here’s why:
- 81 percent of shoppers do online research before making a purchase.
- 60 percent of consumers start their research through a search engine.
- Three in four consumers who find helpful local information in search results are more likely to visit the store.
- 68 percent of business-to-business buyers make their purchases online.
- 30 percent of B2B buyers research at least 90 percent of their purchases online before buying.
- 18 percent of B2B buyers spend 90 percent or more of their budgets online.
What do all these numbers mean for your website decision? Simply put, businesses today live and thrive through their online presence. Whether you’re selling to consumers or other businesses, your website can be your most powerful selling tool – but only if it’s built well to do its job. A poorly built website is worse than a waste of money. It can rob you of sales, drive away current and potential customers, and undermine the integrity of your brand.
You may think “It’s only a few hundred dollars. How bad can it be for that money?” But who you hire to design a website directly impacts its effectiveness. Consider these five ways in which an amateurish treatment can ruin your company website:
1. It’s retina-scorchingly ugly.
Who hasn’t seen and chuckled at one of those “world’s ugliest websites” lists? No business owner wants to end up on one of those lists. Never mind the sheer humiliation of it, simply qualifying for a worst website list means your site is probably not doing its job.
Poor color choices and unappealing design; a glut or dearth of text, or copy that’s just plain bad; photos that are blurry, poorly sized, off-putting, inappropriate or incomprehensible – the list of things that can go wrong with design is nearly endless.
To be visually appealing, your website needs to look professional and engaging.
2. It frustrates smartphone users.
A website that’s not mobile friendly – i.e. easily viewable and usable from a smartphone, tablet or any mobile device – is going to frustrate mobile users. When you consider that smartphones account for 65 percent of all digital time and tablets for 14 percent (according to comScore’s 2015 Mobile App Report), you can’t afford a website that’s not going to play well on mobile devices.
An amateur designer likely won’t know how to create a website that adapts to the needs of mobile users. Or, if he does know something about mobile, his expertise may not extend to all the various mobile platforms in use. Different mobile devices interact differently with websites, and a site designed to look great on an iPhone may not work well for someone accessing it through an Android device – unless an expert designer makes it so.
3. It may not play well with search engines.
Of course, people ultimately make buying decisions – you’re not selling to a search engine. But the search engine is the bridge that connects users with relevant websites. In order to reach the users who are your target audience, your site needs to play well with all types of search engines.
That means it must be designed with search-engine optimization (SEO) in mind. It must be easy for search engines to find and categorize, and contain relevant information and design that move it to the top of search rankings. Of course, SEO is about more than keyword-rich copy. Every aspect of a website should be designed with SEO in mind, from headers, tags and meta descriptions to photo titling, and internal and external links. Your site also needs to know how to communicate your physical location to search engines, since more consumers are now looking for location-relevant information. In fact, location relevance is one of the most common things businesses forget when launching a website.
Your site could be the best-looking and most brilliantly written site ever, but if the search engines don’t understand it, no one will be able to find it, no one will see it and you won’t secure any sales through it.
4. It may not mesh with your marketing.
Your website can be a powerful marketing tool, but is it perfectly aligned with your brand? Does its design maximize its marketing function? Good website design follows basic marketing best practices, including defining and targeting key audiences, presenting engaging and informative copy, incorporating tools to capture leads, and data capture and analytics to give insight into performance.
An amateurish website also might not incorporate a social component, such as a blog or the ability for users to like and share content from the site. It may not convey your company brand; if you’ve already established an identity for your company through a logo, your website should underscore that identity. This can be as basic as incorporating your logo on the home page or as esoteric as ensuring the Favian (that little icon that appears to the left of the meta description when you open a new tab) reflects your brand identity.
5. It may be technically challenged.
When you’re launching a website you have a lot of questions to answer before it can go live. Many of them are highly technical.
Privacy and security are critical. Every year, more small companies experience data breaches or other forms of cyberattacks. In fact, small businesses are favorite targets of cyber crooks because they know smaller companies often don’t have the security measures in place that larger ones do. It’s vital that your website protects not only your security but also that of your customers, especially if you will be collecting any customer data through an online portal on your site.
It’s also important that your website work on all types of browsers. An amateur designer will likely design your website to work optimally on the browser he or she is most familiar with. Meanwhile, it could look bad or even work incorrectly when a user accesses it through a different browser.
When your website crashes or doesn’t work as intended, who will fix it? Your Facebook buddy likely doesn’t provide on-going support. A good designer will not only build an effective, attractive website, he or she will guarantee the work and help resolve any issues that arise after it’s launched. He’ll also set up the site in such a way that you can easily change basic things – like your address, phone numbers, hours of operation or blog – on your own.
Conclusion: Saving money is a great idea for any small business, but not at the expense of the quality of your website. Your online presence is a fundamental business-building tool, and you can’t afford for it to be anything less than fabulous. So save your Facebook connections for swapping jokes and sharing memes. Turn to a professional for your website design.
© 2015, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.