Last Friday I participated in a Marketing Seminar at the Business Gateway in Aberdeen, facilitated by the excellent Liz Pirrie. Listening to the great bunch of people passionately describing their businesses – pet welfare, fitness trainers, payroll services, pollution control consultants, luxury soap manufacturer, the variety was huge – and their hectic days; it was obvious that as a small business owner you have many, often competing, priorities ….
- Sourcing and managing suppliers
- Fulfilling customer orders
- Client / customer communications
- Product / service development
- Filing accounts
- Forward planning and scheduling
- Updating details in the customer database / CRM
- Market research
- IT “housekeeping”
- Exercise and health
- Time for family and friends
I was exhausted just listening to them! It got me thinking, ‘why, when you have so much on your plate already, would you ever would ever consider making your own website’?
It is true, if you require a website for your business, you are faced with a bewildering range of choices. ‘Do it yourself’ using one of the apparently “easy to use” template based services can be very appealing.
However, is it such a good idea? Are there any drawbacks to using a template for your businesses website? Yes there are, and before opting for a DIY template website, you should be aware of them.
- The adverts for these services are full of people smiling happily whilst they create an amazing looking website in less time than it takes to rustle up a sandwich. It is largely a con. As with any tool, working out how to use it, and use it effectively, takes time. Business owners can often take 40 – 50 hours to learn how to use the web development tool and then craft the finished website for their firm.Whilst the business owner has been beavering away creating a website, what else could (perhaps more importantly – should) they have been doing? And, have they truly saved any money by doing it themselves? Take those 40 -50 hours and multiply by the hourly rate charged to a customer. They may well find that a professional web designer would have cost them less (and created the site far more quickly) than the business owner has managed to do themselves using a template.
- Using a template means that everyone that adopts that tool starts out with the same basic framework. More than likely, the resulting website will resemble each other. Access to the same font packages, same image galleries and same basic colour schemes all but guarantee a site is going to be similar to other sites derived from the same source. We all want to stand out, we all want our business to look different; using a template significantly reduces our ability to reflect our businesses true identity in our website.
- Whilst a template does allow you to create a website, will it be a good website and will it work for your customers? We all make a snap decisions about a product or service in the first few seconds of viewing its website. Without a good understanding of User Experience (UX) and thus User Interface (UI) design, the business owner employing a template is stuck with the UI and UX that the template builder had in mind. Poorly placed navigation links, hard to read colour combinations, unresponsive designs will all drive the site visitor back to the search results and onto another site – another potential customer lost.
- Transferability – in many cases, you can’t easily move a site or its contents when it is based on a template service. If the business happens to outgrow the service provided by the template hosts or gets fed up with their less than stellar support, they might discover they are stuck with the template hosts as they are not be able to download their content to go elsewhere. They are not far short of being a “hostage”!
- Backups – most templates back up their systems in case of a crash but don’t necessarily protect you from yourself. If you accidentally delete an entire page from your website it may be gone for good. As an aside, if a site is created in a template it is worth backing it up to your local machine so you have the text and images just in case you remove something important. Imagine how long it would take to restore an entire page of information, source the graphics you previously used and re-configure the links you had on the page.
- The template will cost more in the long run. Most templates are based on a monthly fee. This can be upwards of $25 / £18 per month. Add that up over a couple of years and compare to site hosting fees. Over the course of a few years the small business will have spent more than it would have taken to have their site built by a web designer and have it hosted.
- Lastly, Value versus Cost. Yes, going down the template route might appear to be cheaper (though you might be questioning this now too) but will the website give the business the Value it needs and requires? A good website will help to draw customers to a business whilst a poor one might actively turn them away. Small businesses usually have a very specific goal in mind for their websites. Attract, engage, retain and convert visitors to customers.If a site fails at any one of these stages then it clearly hasn’t succeeded as a business tool. Knowing how to attract, engage, retain and convert visitors is what you are paying the web designer for.
Do your business a favour and don’t trust to luck and a template. Engage a web design professional to make your business website a success. It will let you get on with successfully managing your business!
QD Design have been making outstanding websites for small business and start-ups since 2004. They know exactly the challenges small business face and can help and advise on the best options for any small business looking to get onto the web.