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Blog,  Internet Marketing,  Usability,  Website Planning

What Does It Mean to Have a Website?

For as many years as I’ve written about website design and marketing topics, and worked on websites from corporate to small startup, the most glaring finding is that website ownership is misunderstood.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that some website owners do not want to know what having a website means. For some people, having their own website is like getting a brochure printed up. Others want content such as services, products and a blog but once the content is on the website, they believe the job is finished.

A company considering hiring web design help knows the ins and outs of website design and marketing and more importantly, have skilled staff trained to know what questions to ask for specific needs. They already have a plan in place, know their target market, know how to sell to those people, understand search engines and have requirements gathered. A small business, hobbyist, or startup does not have the staff or budget.

But they want to compete with those who do.

A Website is a Long Term Investment

Woman taking notesMost people that adopt pets know in advance that they are responsible for the care of their pet for its lifetime. The pet requires healthcare, food, security and exercise. It is a commitment. The same is true for your website. It also requires healthcare, food, security and exercise and a commitment. Without any of these, it will not perform properly.

A purebred registered pet costs in the thousands and yet a business owner looks for a website that will be built for under $500. How does anyone think they can support a business if they are not serious about their website?

In addition to the host and domain costs, the cost of designing a site depends on the size of the site. There is a difference between a simple blog, which is an online journal, and a site that sells products or services. While most small businesses opt for WordPress websites, they are limited in scope and require 24/7 monitoring for security breaches. All WordPress themes must be customized, which means hiring someone skilled in editing CSS3, HTML5 and JavaScript. Some themes claim to be “plug and play”, such as Divi, but these themes and child themes require customization too, as well as workarounds for bloated source code and large images.

I Can Hire a Web Design Company

Hiring a web design company to make your website is fine as long as they know how to build standards compliant websites, which many do not. They know that YOU have no idea what that means and you will not ask. I tell everyone that if a website designer or company doesn’t begin by asking you what your business, site and target market requirements are, walk away. They can’t build you what you want without that information.

Secondly, look at their portfolios. Looks are deceiving. Can you see the text or is it too light gray and hard to make out? Is there a slider with images that automatically rotate without any way of stopping it? How long do their pages take to load? Does every site they make look the same? Do they work on all mobile devices? Do they meet accessibility standards so that ALL people can use them?

A company approached me recently with two websites built by a web design company that hosts their client’s websites as well as builds them. His sites are old and were never built for search engines to be able to understand what’s on each page. Both sites were compromised, meaning they were hacked. How does a web design company get away with this? Because people hire them.

His investment is gone. His only option is to start over with a new host, redesign and new online marketing strategy to get back his lost business.

Marketing First, Design Later

Without fail, the top issue that comes to my attention is poor conversions. A website that is expected to sell anything wants to convert a visitor to a customer. Where does that visitor come from?

If they come from a search engine, that means the website must be designed for search engines to find each page and rank it so that it appears at the top of search engine results. Sure, you can buy ads and sponsored positions, but small businesses don’t have the budget for that. They rely more on social sites and word of mouth.

However, once someone arrives to the website, they have to feel as though they are at the right place and they need directions to where you stuck that thing they want. Unless every page is designed for all computer devices and all people landing there, it will not convert. Many web pages chase away everyone with forms, ads, moving images, long page load times, popups and confusing layouts. Do you know what page elements are hurting your conversion rates? Probably not. Because you didn’t hire someone to monitor and maintain your website.

That’s part of the investment.

A website will die if it is ignored. Search engines won’t visit when they know it is not maintained. There are too many other website owners paying attention and doing everything they can to own a competitive website. Before you consider owning a website, think about what that really means. Before you hire anyone, do your homework. Invest in your website future by hiring expert people with the skills required to build today’s websites in a highly competitive environment.