As a software engineer with a web design and development business, one of the most common mistakes I see people make is trying to build their website on the cheap. Sometimes that comes in the form of hiring a friend, neighbor, or relative that claims they'll build you a nice website for little-to-no money. But increasingly often now is the decision to try to do it yourself.
I'm not against saving money by taking on new challenges. In fact, I'm all for it when it makes good business sense. This isn't one of those times. We all know the saying, and now it's time to find out if you're being penny-wise and dollar-foolish when it comes to your website.
1. First Impressions Are Everything
First impressions are extremely important, and these days that first contact often comes in an interaction with your website. What a customer sees immediately reflects on you and your business. Don't keep your website up to date? You probably don't keep the rest of your business up to date. Own a restaurant with a sloppy web presence? That's probably reflective of how the kitchen looks.
Whether you like it or not, appearance and functionality matter ... big time.
2. Search Engine Optimization
Want to show up in search results? One of the best ways to hinder the chances of climbing up in the rankings is to use a DIY website builder. The speed at which your website loads means a lot, as does the underlying structure of the code and markup that is used to make it look the way it looks. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you have a well formatted sitemap?
- Are your images optimized for viewing on the web?
- Are your script files and style sheets minified and combined?
- Where (physically) is the server that hosts your website and what are the specs for that server?
- Are your URLs, page titles, and domain name optimized to meet your SEO goals?
- Are you using appropriate tags and attributes to describe your pages in a way that makes it easy for a web crawler to understand the content they contain?
If you (or your web professional for that matter) can't at least answer these most basic questions, pay for the help, it will be worth every dollar.
3. Your Website is Your Single Greatest Marketing Piece
Do you advertise and market your business? Some business can get away with skimping on their marketing efforts in certain areas. Not everyone is going to see everything you put out. But there's a good chance that all of your clients and potential customers will visit your website at one point or another. That alone makes it worth putting some money into.
4. User Experience
Many of the items listed in #2 apply here as well. If your images and external resources are too large and take too long to load, your users will be sitting there forever waiting for pages to load (and are likely to leave before they do). In fact, Amazon reports that every 100ms increase in load time reduces sales by 1%. What do you think a good developer is worth now?
And what about on-page experience? Does your content lend itself better to a number or short, informational pages, or the nice infinite scroll experience we get from websites like Facebook and Twitter? These are all questions a good web professional will help you figure out and implement in a way that guarantees your users find the information they want as quickly as possible.
5. Your Time is Too Valuable
If you're starting or running a business, one of the hardest things to learn how to do is to delegate. But it's also one of the most important. You can't do everything yourself, some tasks need to be delegated out to others, and spending that time trying to learn something that takes years to get good at isn't worth the few thousand dollars you might save. You need to remember to assign a value to your time and compare that to what farming out your web design and development will cost. Most often, it's far more cost effective to pay a professional and focus on growing or running your business.
6. Multi-Device Design
It's no longer acceptable to design a website to just the screen you're looking at. Really, that should never have been acceptable, but for a while you could get away with a lot more than you can today. Now, the mobile-device market has grown exponentially faster than anyone anticipated and a good web designer will work mobile-first to design your website to look and perform exceptionally well first on the smallest of mobile devices, then work their way up to the largest of desktop screens, ensuring your users have a great experience no matter what device they're using.
Estimates of mobile traffic vary by source, with claims of over 15% of total global web traffic now coming from mobile devices. I can tell you that most of my clients have actually crossed the 50% threshold.
7. Wasted Effort
I can't tell you how many projects have come to me over the years from business owners who thought they could do it themselves and save some money only to find out that they wasted all of that time and effort on something that doesn't do what they need it to. Now you've lost a year or more of your time, and more importantly, of lost income from the work and customers that you missed out on.
Yes, these days anyone can install and use Google Analytics or any of the other web analytics platforms out there. But the more important question is, "Do you really know what to do with all that data?" If you're using your analytics just to give you a report on how many people visited your website and where they came from, you're missing out on a massive amount of useful data. A good web firm will help you analyze your data to help you edit, refine, redesign, and re-architect your website to maximize its value and usefulness.
9. Technology Changes Too Fast
Sure, maybe you did your research and found a DIY website solution that is top-of-the-line. Then, you let your website sit for two years without an update. I spend probably at least a full day's worth of work every week just trying to keep up with the pace at which technology changes. In fact, most (good) software engineers will tell you that they continually look at code they wrote as short as a few weeks to a few months earlier and already have a better way of accomplishing the task. A good web professional is continually researching and evaluating new technology to stay ahead of the curve, and make sure that you remain one step ahead of your competitors to either maintain or gain the competitive advantage you need to thrive.
There is no better example of this than #6 above. Two years ago (and probably even more recently than that), you could get away with a website that wasn't entirely mobile-friendly. Now, it's simply not an option.
10. Higher Goal Conversion Rates
What I see most often with both DIY websites and those done on the cheap is a lack of focus. A good web professional will help identify what your goals are for your website - be it increasing leads, disseminating information, customer support, actually closing sales, or any number of other possibilities - and then help to design and develop a solution that takes all of the other nine reasons on this list into account to provide the best value for your dollar.
And that word, value, really is the key point here. Cost is a meaningless term when it comes to marketing dollars spent. Value - or rather ROI - is the true indicator. Ask yourself this question: Would you spend $100,000 on a website? If your answer was anything other than, "That depends, will it return more than $100,000 in value?" then it's time to reevaluate how you think about your marketing.
Photo: Flickr | zoonabar
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