The other afternoon, I was talking to a few of my friends and colleagues that are responsible for running a number of small businesses and the topic of website design came up – Specifically, how much investment should it take to get a business website.
Here are the two extremes of this debate –
1. Spend next to nothing: Typically, this is where someone asks their friends, family or a friend-of-a-friend to create a website. In this situation, the expert in question is someone that simply knows more than you on the subject of website design.
2. Invest BIG: A small business owner may suggest they spend big if they have prior experience working for a big company and have big company contacts. Another contributing factor to this is that small businesses try to look big by investing big pounds in website design. (You may be able to tell which way I’m leaning with this). I’m not a huge fan of either.
As with all of these types of statements, it’s really the wrong question to ask.
The real question is how should you spend your website budget. Here’s an example. Let’s say you are the partner in a small project based business (builder, plasterer, contractor, architect). Let’s also say that you invest £2,000 on getting a ‘professional’ website up for your small business. As anyone would in your position, you want to ensure the right image and be on equal footing with the larger firms in town. In fact, you may even have worked for one of these other businesses and really want to show them what you’ve made on your own terms.
Now, I don’t want to debate if £2,000 is too much money to spend at the early stages of a small business (let’s even assume this is the right amount of money for the sake of this article).The really important thing is how do you allocate this money?
I think the answer is: it depends on your customers and your small business.
The wrong answer is to spend most of this money on a flashy design that’s going to win the web designer local recognition and ‘street cred’ (aka. They build their portfolio). Changes are, your clients and prospective clients are not going to be impressed with the super snazzy website. That cool animated introduction video that took up half the design budget will probably not help your small business a whole lot.. Instead, you will likely be far better off putting your money to work reinforcing your message (rather than the medium).
What can you convey on your website that will introduce your small business to your target audience and connect you with the best potential clients you could ask for? What can you describe in order to attract your customers? Which features can you introduce to your website which will increase the service you can give to your customers? Do you need an e-mail newsletter? What about a blog? Changes are, that any combination of these things is much more likely to help you improve and grow your small business than a flashy website designed by someone who believes you are in the fashion industry.
SO, which questions would I ask myself when thinking about my small business website?
1. Who are you designing your website for? Who are the people or businesses that you are looking to impress?
2. Who is the website not for? Would you feel strongly if the local design firm didn’t put you on their website?
3. Will it help you sign more customers and make more money? Do you need to be doing commerce on your new small business website or do you want to attract prospective customers to call you directly?
4. What capabilities/features do you need to accomplish all of this? Can what you hope to achieve be accomplished with a static, brochure-type, website or do you need to collect information from prospective customers or perhaps you need to provide a way of automatically taking payment online for your goods or services?
In my experience, small business owners under invest or over invest in their website and they typically do this on the wrong places. Throughout future articles, we’ll be exploring this question in more detail and will provide you with more information around these points to help you make your decisions easier.