DIY Web Design May Not Help Your Small Business: Here’s Why
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DIY Web Design: Not All It Seems
With all of the new DIY website platforms available in 2020, there is no wonder we constantly talk with small business owners who find themselves in a bit of a pickle. Just like do-it-yourself plumbing, electrical work, accounting, or any number of endeavors where professionals invest their careers in being experts, DIY websites are not only “get-what-you-pay-for” but they often end up making matters worse than having nothing at all. Really!
Do-it-yourself websites have been around since the early days of AOL so it’s not surprising that so many go down this road. The reason? Usually, and most frequently cited, it’s cost — the perception that DIY web design is cheaper and you end up with a website either way.
I didn’t post this content to tell you not to pursue a DIY website. It is merely to point out potential pitfalls and hopefully steer you around them. It’s true that you can sign up for a nominally-priced Squarespace, Wix or Weebly account and stand up a website pretty quickly, so let’s be clear. I am not denying that reality. They will give you some nice design template options (although the robust templates are a pay-for service), an array of plugin options (a few free, many paid), and even a DIY SEO dashboard. Hooray! Not so fast…
Design Starts With Planning and Research
When I talk about web design, or designing a website for a small business, my angle may be different than yours. I’m not thinking about templates, graphics, colors, typography, or even the words on the page — at least not until we’ve done a lot of work up front.
A website design starts in a planning and discovery phase that requires understanding of things like audience segmentation, online behavior, user journeys, keyword research, and other fun stuff like that. We eventually get around to the words and images on the page, but it’s later — after we’ve determined which words and images to put on the page, where to put them, and how to structure them in a way that helps users and makes Google happy.
Unfortunately, all the stuff that comes prior to dragging and dropping elements onto your Wix or Squarespace web template is the stuff they won’t tell you. In fact, it takes years of being in the trenches of web design and SEO to understand. After all, it is a rigorous profession, which is why professional websites almost always run circles around DIY websites. It’s a simple fact.
Why Professional Websites "Seem" Expensive
If you were to ask a hundred small business owners (those who do not have a high-performing website) why they have chosen not to have a high-performing website, 95% of them would tell you that cost is the main factor. This belief could be due to a number of factors — unfounded perception, previous interaction with a web designer that tried to gouge them, a lack of understanding of the ROI that a high-performing website can offer, or just a general lack of understanding in the value a website could add to their business. Often times we speak with business owners who have a website that is doing them no good, so they have become disillusioned with the entire concept.
Like anything in business — tools for a plumber, kitchen appliances for a bakery, vehicles for a moving company — something that helps a business be sustainable and grow is often an investment. A website may seem ubiquitous, and to some degree it is, but having a high-performance website for your business could be the most valuable asset you own. Companies are often valued based on the online audience they have acquired over time and how that audience engages with the business online.
So, while websites may seem expensive, they are a critical tool to help your business grow and an investment to increase the value of your business. A DIY website is not likely to be the asset you need. It may seem like an expedient, inexpensive alternative to a sensibly-priced pro website, but in the end, you will have exactly what you paid for. It’s like a chef trying to do her job with dull knives. It just doesn’t work.
"My Website Doesn't Help My Business..."
Another common refrain from small business owners is this one: “I already have a website and it doesn’t help my business. Why would I spend more money on a website?”
I think this is a very valid concern because you don’t know what you don’t know. If you’ve had a website and it doesn’t help your business, you may have formed an opinion that websites don’t help businesses (like yours). While valid from your perspective, it may be unfounded and not based in complete reality.
Of course, a well-designed website can help your business. It’s likely that you do not have the right website. Common belief is that a website is the end goal, and if you stand up a website, customers will come running. This will leave you positioned for almost certain disappointment when that doesn’t happen.
Standing up the website — that is, acquiring a domain, creating some content, gathering some images, and assembling the pages — doesn’t get you a much, if anything at all. It gets you some web pages with content and images that can be accessed through a domain address. But, you haven’t accomplished anything meaningful yet.
Without knowing how to properly assemble and optimize the content, think of it as erecting a billboard on a desert highway that no one ever drives by to see. The billboard might even be exquisite in design, but if no one sees it, it’s just a billboard.
The point is constructing web pages is only a minor part of the process. Making that website work for you business is an entirely different, and more complex, proposition.
Good Web Designers Understand Business
So, you’ve decided to stretch out and make a small investment in a website. That is awesome! What many business owners do is start looking for a graphic designer, a nephew who is artistic, or someone who generally understands the visual aspects of web design (and a web designer should), but lacks the experience to properly guide you through the rigor of understanding your business from a digital marketing perspective.
After all, unless your website fits into a bigger context of digital marketing, you really shouldn’t waste your time or money on a professional website design. It may end up looking slick, but it will likely be a digital, dust-collecting billboard, like the one we talked about earlier, that will add little or no value to your company.
Good web designers should have the wherewithal to dig deep into your business processes upfront. If their first questions are about your logo and favorite color scheme, or how you want the pages laid out, you’ll know quickly you’re going down the wrong path.
A good web designer should ask questions about your business, your customers, how your customers interact, how they buy, why they buy, when they buy, etc. If you don’t know the answers to those questions, a good web designer should be able to help you distill them. They should understand your business goals and help you determine new goals based on your online investment — is your goal to grow revenue, get more customers from a different area, illuminate your brand? Things like that.
All of this upfront work should really be the biggest part of the project. Putting the website together should be pretty easy if this legwork and preparation are executed properly. Good web designers are not graphic artists. They’re not software developers, and they’re not someone who has figured out how to use WordPress or Wix or Weebly. Good web designers are business people who understand how human beings interact with your business, online and offline, and what an optimal user-experience should look like in order to meet the goals you’ve established.
Design For Your Audience, Not Yourself
You’re paying, so why shouldn’t you have exactly what you want? It’s a fair question, but the answer is harsh. The answer is, because not many of your customers or prospects care about you or your business in the way you think they do. They care about two things, primarily: can you answer their questions, i.e. help them, and how much time (pain) is involved in that process. So, if your ego is bigger than the need to grow your business, by all means make it all about you. If you want to attract new customers and keep the ones you have, make it about them.
Every aspect of your website should focus on the experience your prospects and customers demand — and they are very demanding. Your content should be optimized to answer their questions, not promote your business. Here’s what I mean:
The blunt point is to always be answering. Forget about self-promotion. It’s overrated unless there is something in it for the customer. Why? Because no one cares. Want to stand out in the crowd of over-promoters? Be humble and just answer the questions your prospects and customers ask, and provide useful content that engages and helps them. Anything less will send them looking for an answer somewhere else.
If You're Discovered Online, Don't Waste the Opportunity
To continue with the previous point of refraining from self-promotion, if you are fortunate enough to be found in Google search results, don’t waste the opportunity. Treat it like gold, because that’s what it is. It is the opportunity to convert a prospect into a customer or deepen loyalty with an existing customer, all by being helpful. This is the je ne sais quoi of good web design. Everything else is fluff and flattery.
The statistics showing how users behave online are staggering and humbling. They demonstrate exactly why it is so important to leverage every opportunity of someone landing on your website. Here are just a few that are hair-raising:
When designing a website for your business, the goals of the business should drive the design, not your ego, the latest fad in HTML5 animation, or pictures of your ’63 Corvette. Attract-Engage-Convert is the name of the game.
DIY Web Design ROI vs Pro Website ROI
It’s understandable that you might compare a professional website cost with what you can do yourself. That’s what I would do, when it comes to making an investment of any magnitude. What you need to be aware of is not the difference in cost, but the return on investment.
Here’s a tip: if a web designer is competing on price with what you can accomplish on a DIY platform, you probably won’t end up getting what you want from either.
Investing in professional web design should not be compared with cheap alternatives. You should expect to pay more, maybe significantly more, but you should expect a return on that investment far above the near zero return you would get from a cheaper alternative.
If you can build a website yourself for $500, not counting your time, you will be minus the $500 + your time. Not a big loss, by any stretch, but a loss nonetheless. If you invest $4,000-5,000 in a professionally-built website, you should have an expectation that it will return a multiple back to the business through increased revenue, increased brand awareness, improved customer retention, or any number of growth metrics. You should not only recoup your investment, but you should expect to get much more in return — 5x, 10x, even 100x or more.
Comparing DIY web design costs to professional web design costs is like comparing apples to elephants. The two are incomparable. They will have entirely different outcomes, and one will provide a tangible ROI while the other will likely not.
Savannah Website Design Matters
As a digital marketing and web design agency, we work with clients across the US, but we work with many small businesses in Savannah GA, where we are located. Our Savannah clients ask us questions about Savannah web design:
- Is it any different?
- Does tourism change the approach?
- Should we just focus on local?
We always answer in context, but the answer to “is it any different in Savannah than anywhere is?” is always the same. No.
As a small business owner in Savannah, or any city in America, you already know that customers are important, revenue is important, net income is important, and loyal employees are important. There are probably levers, or at least one lever, that you know makes a difference in your business. Whether that lever for you is advertising, seasonal surges, sale pricing, holidays… the list is endless. There is always something that can make a difference in a business, and you probably already know of at least one.
What most small business owners don’t understand (yet) is the power of the online/digital lever. Not all are unaware because we know some very savvy business owners who get it, and use it as a major advantage over their competitors. The beauty of the online/digital lever is that, once the foundation is built, it can be turned on and off like a spigot.
Turning on your digital lever might be sending a promotion to a mailing list you have built over time. Maybe it’s deploying a highly-optimized a landing page that answers all the questions about a new product you are carrying. Or, maybe it’s a well-planned social media campaign that sends customers to a high-converting online order form. Once the digital foundation is built, you can leverage this asset to do any number of things to provide for your business over time.
Back to the point of Savannah web design. It’s no different here that anywhere else. A business is a business. With the help of a professional web designer (one that understands business and business process), you can grow your Savannah business beyond your wildest imagination.
Our Bottom Line
Your DIY website design may not be helping your business. If it’s not providing the experience your customers and prospects expect, it could even be hurting your business. When looking for solutions, don’t compare prices of solutions that are not comparable, i.e. DIY web design vs. professional web design. Much more goes into the latter, if you choose wisely.
Remember, when you set out to find your professional web designer, look for someone who understands business. It may not be a black and white litmus test, but if they ask more questions about the website than about your business, that’s a red flag.
Last, if you have any questions about whether your website is all that it can be, or about a website you are planning, we are happy to have that conversation and provide you with any guidance we can.