If you are in the early stages of starting your small business, you may not have a large budget for a website. You may think that building a website requires extensive knowledge of computer programming and other technical disciplines; however, I am here to tell you that this is not the case. If you are reasonably technologically savvy (meaning you feel reasonably comfortable using your phone and computer), then you can build your own website to help establish your business’ presence on the web.
The first question that you are probably asking yourself is why is a website designer (me) writing an article on do-it-yourself website creation? As a small business owner myself, I understand that when you are just getting started, you may have a small budget and make the big mistake of not having a website at all simply because you can’t afford it. Down the line, this may hurt you as your customers try to look for you online and are not able to locate you. Furthermore, not spending a lot of money on a website gives you an opportunity to test your business model (proof of concept) to ensure that it will generate the revenue expected without exposing yourself to extreme financial risk. At the end of the day, not having a website can hurt not only your reputation and visibility (ability to easily be found by prospective customers online), but also your customer retention.
While this do-it-yourself solution has very big advantages such as cost savings as previously discussed, it also comes with an abundance of weaknesses. As a general rule, once a business begins to grow, it feels the weaknesses of do-it-yourself website design. The good news is, at this time, you have probably saved up some money for a custom website, like the ones that I make. These custom solutions have several benefits such as custom design and aesthetic (rather than a template that has limited modification capability) and superior functionality (in the backend such as improved tracking and reporting, sophisticated integrated customer relationship management, and advanced inventory management). In these custom websites, which at my firm typically range between $1,500 and $5,000 in price, depending on the complexity of the website, the main benefit to your business is uniqueness. It is through this uniqueness in both design and functionality that your website can be more attractive to prospective customers, effective at customer acquisition and retention, and ultimately beat your market competitors.
Now that we have discussed the benefits and weaknesses of do-it-yourself website creation, let’s dive in to what you need to do this. In all of this, be sure to follow Sean’s Rules for Strategic Website Development that he will be discussing at his FREE Lunch N Learn at the Chamber Office on Wednesday, October 10, starting at 11:30AM. Click here to RSVP.
Logo and Branding
If you have any budget for marketing, this is where I would recommend spending it. Establishing the identity of your company with a unique and customized logo that reflects your business is critical for customers recognizing your business and for its success. There is a lot of psychology behind developing a brand and logo that considers your target demographic and the best fonts, colors, and messaging in the given context of the business field of industry in order to be most appealing to that target demographic. Develop a good relationship with a graphic design specialist who knows this unique blend of art and science. Our firm typically charges between $200 and $900 for these services, depending on the scope of the project.
Clearly and concisely communicate how you bring your customers value. Also share how your business is better than the competitors in the market.
Photos and Text
Excellent copy (text) and photographs are essential to a good website. For photography, I highly recommend working with an experienced local photographer (and fellow LAX Coastal Chamber member) like Bill and Kathy at Ballerini Cooley Studios in Playa del Rey.
Call to Action
Define what the end goal is for your customer and have strategically-designed pathways that encourage them to move towards that goal. For example, if the end goal is for a customer to come in for a consultation, then buttons on every page that are prominently displayed and link to a calendar where a prospective customer can select their desired date and time for the consultation and enter in their contact information would be beneficial.
Once you have all of the items you need, you are faced with the challenge of selecting a platform to build your website on. I am going to make this part of the process extremely easy for you. For do-it-yourself website creation, always use Squarespace.
Founded in 2003, Squarespace is an easy to use online platform that has everything you need to create a website. Signing up is very easy and they take you through an intuitive process of selecting a theme for your website (the general look and feel), buying your domain name, and even setting up a business email account! I prefer Squarespace over their competitors because of their fantastic customer support, elegant and brilliantly designed pre-built website themes, very reliable servers and website hosting, and built-in marketing tools (such as email campaigns). For basic websites, they start at just $12 per month.
As a seasoned website designer who started out ten years ago in Silicon Valley and has helped dozens of businesses establish their online presence and leverage the power of the internet to grow their business, I want to share my knowledge with you. I think it is important that business owners in our region are aware of the fundamentals, so keep an eye out for future blog posts that cover these topics.
I would also like to invite you to my upcoming Lunch N Learn, Websites and Wontons Wednesday, at the Chamber office on October 10 from 11:30 AM – 1 PM. Please RSVP for an accurate lunch order, and invite anyone who you think may benefit.