We’ve all gotta start somewhere. If you’re thinking about building your own small business website, here’s the top 7 things you should know before diving in.
I get it. You’re just starting out, you might be paying off a business loan, you have start up costs, or maybe you bought an existing business that ain’t doing so well. Marketers & designers are flocking to you yelling “WHAT ABOUT YOUR MARKETING!?”
And they’re right. It’s 100% crucial to ongoing success and growth.
But I get it.
To find the ‘middle road’, you start looking into DIY website builders. It seems easy enough, the pricing is good, and the 100% control you would have makes it seem like an attractive option.
I’m not about to browbeat you into using a pro web designer - heck, I started out using cheap website builders! With the benefit of hindsight, I’m going to share the top 7 things you need to know before you start.
1. No code. Just a mountain of your own time.
The more popular DIY website builders out there have been incredibly well designed. But, like with any program or platform, learning how to use all the features to their greatest potential takes a great deal of time. And what is your time really worth to you, professionally & personally?
- Imagine you’re on an hourly rate (I know, being a small business owner that probably made you giggle-snort) of around $35 p/h (not knowing your specific industry).
- Typically, it will take an experienced designer between 25-35 hours to build a website. If this is your first website, you can bet it will take longer. But let’s calculate at the extreme end of 35 hours.
- At $35 per hour, you’re looking at $1200+ of your own labour before you’ve factored in hosting, domain registration, purchasing stock photography, etc. And after all that, will it even work? Imagine what you could get done with the actual business in 35 hours?
- You’re running a business - that could mean doing double shifts, covering staff, doing your bookkeeping late at night after the kids have gone to bed. Making 35 appear somewhere means something has to give.
2. How do you know which website builder will work best for you?
You’ll want to do your research before diving into a website builder, because once you start you’ll almost have to stick with it or your time will have been wasted. I cut my teeth on DIY website builders, and to this day I still use them - they’re incredibly user-friendly, and our clients can easily contribute to them within the professional framework we create. Here are the two I have experience with:
|No rules! with Wix, you’re free to place almost anything anywhere on the screen. They have a tonne of creative options and a vast library of add-ons.||No rules is a double-edged sword. Search Engines use website ‘rules’ to categorise sites in results. ‘No rules’ can often affect how your website performs. Rules also help sites resize to different screen sizes. Resizing (i.e. being responsive) is crucial.|
|Well structured with a clean interface, this allows you to design professional websites that perform well front and back. Their websites are super responsive, showing up well on all screen sizes.||They don’t offer a vast collection of add ons, so if you need something outside their built in functions you’ll have to code it yourself.|
Pro Tip: when searching for DIY website builders, they are also referred to ‘drag & drop’ builders or WYSIWYG (‘What You See Is What You Get’).
3. Built in code doesn’t mean a built in graphic designer.
Whilst we all have a clear idea of what we like & don’t like, creating an engaging website from scratch is a skill in itself. Do a lot of research and look at other websites in your industry, or check out the sites of bigger companies to look for trends. Yes, this is going to mean more of your time.
A poorly designed website could do more harm than good. It can make your enterprise seem unprofessional, disorganised and unreliable.
4. Filling it up with text that matters.
You may run out of things to say by the end of the first page - and you’ve got an entire website to fill up. In addition, ‘filling it up’ is not the best approach. A successful website doesn’t just talk about your business, it talks to the visitor: it answers their questions, it offers solutions to their problems, it understands their needs. Your website is a chance to build a relationship with a potential customer outside business hours, without even needing to be in the same room.
Think of it like a conversation: what would you do if all someone wanted was to talk about themselves?
You’d walk away.
And that’s exactly what you don’t want from your website.
5. The perspective of price.
Building your own website for your small business does seem like a cost effective solution to your online marketing, I’ll admit. But think about it in terms of value for money, like in this example:
- If someone offered you a 1997 Toyota Corolla for $15,000 would you buy it? Of course not! It’s 20 years old, it’s done 300,000km+ and it has a very suspicious rattle. $1500? Maybe. $15,000 - heck no.
- If someone offered you a 2017 Toyota Corolla for $15,000 you’d suddenly be very interested. It’s brand new, with all the latest mod cons & safety features and it’s unbelievably fuel efficient. That’s a lot of value for your money.
THAT is the point. What are you actually getting for your DIY website investment? Can you see value for money?
6. Does it even convert?
A website is just a digital flyer unless it’s part of a bigger strategy. Remember why you’re building a website in the first place:
- To ultimately make more money
- To catch the eye of browsers.
- To give them a reason to come in store and sample your products and services.
You’re already looking at a bunch of late nights getting your DIY site up and running. But what if after launch, all you hear is crickets? What if you poured all your energy into making it happen, and no one is using it? It’s not making noise, getting attention, or encouraging people to get in touch.
7. Consider asking a pro for a ‘starter pack’ instead.
If you’re starting to realise your time could be much better spent elsewhere - like Fiji - but are still hesitant about cost, don’t worry. Consider approaching a professional web designer and asking about a basic site you can build on later. You will still be looking at a minimum investment of at least $1,200 - but remember, you are looking at that in your own time/labour anyway.
This way, you can relax knowing:
- It will be well designed & well written
- It will perform well in search engines
- It will have industry experience behind it.
As a bonus, look for a designer with marketing expertise. While your website might not have a bells-and-whistles sales strategy in place - yet - it will be created with a hefty amount of marketing know-how built in.
The finished product might not be as elaborate as you initially wanted, but what is there will look great and work well.
Don’t forget it can grow with you! Ask for access and contribute to a blog regularly. Go back in a year and ask for a few pages added. Take the journey in stages knowing each phase will have been completed with optimum value for money.