Introduction to building your own website
As a person who develops websites through my limited company - Info Rhino Limited. I am often faced with a stark reality;
- People think building a website is cheap. A friend told me there was a company who can let her build her own website on top of word press for £400 rather than the mate's rates of £1000 I was going to charge. For those who think they shouldn't charge friends and family for a service are wrong - always value your professional time.
- There are companies overseas who claim to be able to build a website for £400 too, there are people who can do it for £150 too. Indeed, we will reach the point when companies pay you for the honour of building your website for them.
- The race to the bottom mentality doesn't work.
Should I build my own website?
This is one of the biggest challenges a company faces. The short answer is, no, you should not.
Should I outsource development of my website to an overseas provider?
Again, the answer is no.
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"If everybody is doing it, it probably isn't worth doing?"
I don't know who said this, but in any market, any medium, once the herd has the scent of the next big thing, it already isn't. How do we reconcile this with ubiquitous assets like currency - well, they just need to be there to fulfil a utility and are a currency?
If you are a business, everybody says you must get online. Customers can find you and buy from your company. People can find more about you and what you do. having a site online gives you a presence, let's you tell your story.
What happens when everybody;
- Has a website?
- Has search engine optimisation to put their website to the top?
- Has a LinkedIn page, a Facebook page, a Twitter Page?
- Has link analysis, undertaken A/B testing, etc?
- Has the most visually appealing website - although this, is a myth?
- Has conformed to all government regulation?
We would conclude that everybody is;
- Back at square one.
- Is unlikely to have a competitive advantage.
- Throwing good money after bad.
The one thing, we assume is, not having a website is like being in the dark ages and your company will cease to exist.
Why building your own website through a hosted platform is generally, a terrible idea
If you provide a very specific local service, which doesn't have a significant amount of competition, and are prepared to put time into everything that is needed to create an effective site, and keep track of your customers - there is no need to read any further.
How many companies are offering self-service websites?
It is probably that, as a website developer, my search engine history is targeting DIY website adverts to me. This year, to name but a few, I have seen; Wix, WordPress (variations), Squaresoft, LCN (A great company I use for buying domains), GoDaddy, Duda.
Let me make it clear, in no way are self-service websites a bad thing if what you genuinely require is simple.
What are the reasons why I should build my own website?
- You want to do it as cheaply as possible.
- You think having a large hosting company will be better for your website's stability.
- You are not technically capable to build a website, using a wizard makes it easier to get the look and feel?
- You just want a simple online presence.
- You can correct minor typographical mistakes without too much effort.
- Large DIY website providers does provide a lot of tools and utilities which speeds up the website publication?
What are the main reasons for not using a DIY website provider?
This is the main point of the article. In many ways, DIY websites, alongside overseas cheap website development companies are "the biggest lie never told". I cannot stress enough, that, DIY websites, in some situations are perfectly valid. Nothing should stop companies offering these services to small businesses.
To wade into building your own website, in most circumstances shows extreme naivety and risks harming your business' reputation.
The DIY providers are selling snow to the Eskimos
Esoteric - admittedly, but in many situations, a DIY website is the last thing a business needs. What a business needs is true understanding of their;
- Offerings - products and services.
- Their existing client base.
- Their potential customer base.
Now there are companies offering to give you website metrics on who your potential customers are, what they do on your website - but this data has already existed - again, new money for old rope.
The biggest part of a website is the content
Indeed - this is the hardest challenge to a website is getting the right message across. Content is the only thing that does this. The right combination of text, graphics, colours, forms, searches will never be done in one sitting. Getting this right takes a lot of practice, and how do you know what works? Are you prepared to look at competitors, create original content - tailor your website to what the industry expects rather than your personal opinion?
Because the biggest part of a website is the content, and you are not experienced in knowing what works - you will spend more of your time working on it than professionals. If you are a professional, even if your hourly rate is not super high, you may be better employed on your core business than continually editing content.
The opinions of friends and family is often, the worst advice to take
If you are the kind of cheapskate who builds their own website, then you aren't likely to pay for independent advice on what does and does not work. You are likely to ask F&F what they think, and they - people who have no interest in paying for the services you are offering, are happy to give it. Does this sound right? You already made the mistake by not paying for a website, and are now compounding it by not getting independent advice?
You need more than a website - Marketing Funnels
Yep, you soon get to the realisation, you may have different target audiences. This is a learning curve in itself, having a blog on your company website may detract from the core message. Having a Twitter account is a great place to have people interact with you, but it may not be very effective in drawing in new business. Perhaps featuring on other websites can help drive more traffic to your business than your website alone?
- Not everybody likes to read content.
- Not everybody likes lots of visuals.
- Newer design features are often, counter-intuitive to usability.
- Different audiences, genders, age groups, industries responds to different medium in different ways.
Most traffic to a website is not organic - the myth of SEO and Insight Analysis
Personally, I have reached the end of trying to create content which can get found, in the hope that a company may find my website, and of the few that reach it - actually pay for a service. Indeed, if you told somebody you had a great plan to take over the world by creating a website to make money - perhaps you should be sectioned?
Quite quickly, you think - let's pay for advertising; Google AdWords, LinkedIn, PInterest, Bing, Facebook and the many more. Then you are told it is just a case of tweaking the proportion of advertising between providers. Except, everybody else is doing the same. You pay to be listed on specialist directories - again, to try and win paying customers.
"Hello Google - how about I pay you 1% of the amount each paying customer?"
Halt - a rolling stone gathers no moss
You suddenly see, just how much people are doing to try and get traffic, and for many businesses - these strategies does bring in custom - but you, you have tried to do it all on your own. Using a DIY website hosting provider. What chance does your business have? I did find a guy locally who does ski servicing near to where I live - why, because it is so unique Google cannot ruin it for him, but everybody else - done for?
Try finding your local Indian Takeaway and you can guarantee Just Eat or Open Table will beat it hands down on the search results.
The lack of portability of many DIY websites
As a technologist, this is one of my primary concerns. If I do need to change platform, what will the effort be? It is not reasonable to expect websites to be interchangeable with other website platforms, but understanding whether I am able to do this is a big part of it. Perhaps the DIY website does not provide access to the raw data or the database? Maybe the style cannot be transferred to a new website easily - destroying the corporate brand.
If I, as a website developer and data professional can't justify it - non professionals should watch out
Citing my example of my friend putting in front of me a website which was £600 cheaper than I could offer at mate's rates, I started to do some due-diligence on the competitor;
- Poor documentation. It would take time for me, as a professional, to learn their way of building the website. This time would be greater for a non-technical person.
- No explanation of how form completion/forwarding worked.
- No explanation of how email addresses could be set up and integrated into the site.
- No guidance on site-submission to Google and other providers.
- No choice of style frameworks - Bootstrap is what I use.
- No metrics on site performance or strategies for scaling the platform.
- No Customer Relationship Management strategy or web statistics?
Does any of the above mean, this website provider wasn't worth using? It is debatable, but I know where I sit on this.
Be wary of false promises when buying website hosting
This is very much true of anything in life. We want to be optimistic, we want to believe, we want technology to make our lives easier and let us focus on what we are really good at and enjoy. At best, most people involved in websites, content marketing, search engine optimisation, and advertising are snake oil salesmen.
Types of claims website development companies will claim
|Other provider's claim
||What I would say
|We can get your website to the first page on Google?
- Google is not the only way for clients to find you - think about your audience?
- What criteria is this based upon? Are potential customers searching for what you are optimising for?
- Can these companies future proof changing search engine algorithms?
- Supposing all my competitors also pay to be top on Google - who wins?
|We will create a beautiful website for you?
||No website will appeal to everybody. Indeed, this is a huge challenge in trying to keep as many people happy as possible.
|Our website is optimised for search engine optimisation.
||It is true, that many website may not be fully compliant with website standards, but can these companies prove that any of these metrics create an effect?
|We will integrate your social media into your website?
|| What does this even mean? Without a clear strategy for your audience, who you will interact with, this may be counterproductive? There is nothing wrong with setting up an account on different platforms and tailoring with the metrics?
| We will perform click analysis, tell you who your potential clients are, all kinds of statistics on your customers to help complete on sales with plugins.
||We can provide details of website clickthrough on your site, even create reports on your user's location and many other factors, but there is never a guarantee this will be accurate or that usable without a lot more effort. We would need to discuss specific plugins you may wish to add to the website, and it is likely it will take a multi-pronged approach to really get a handle on your audience. It is an exciting proposition to undertake, but these types of efforts are more to do with machine learning and business intelligence.
Once you start to understand just what it takes to fully understand what using a website to truly drive traffic to your business and get a measurable return on investment, it is clear you will never get this from somebody offering to do this for a few hundred quid.
The biggest reason DIY websites and small-time outsourcing does not work
Companies must have a road map, a strategy, a core set of objectives. Some call this a 3 year plan, but whatever it is - if you don't have a clear reason for having a website as part of your overall mission objective, you may just be wasting your time.
Before even thinking about building your own website, talk to me about your plans and ideas to help with defining a clear strategy.