Last updated on December 17th, 2020 at 06:47 pm
No, websites aren't free no matter what the ads say.
I’ve built a lot of websites. I’ve used end-user-designed platforms like SquareSpace and I’ve also used open platforms like WordPress and Joomla. I’m a WordPress fan mostly. Primarily it’s a platform that lets me build websites quickly and provide granular control to my clients to make small changes without giving them enough permissions to accidentally destroy their website. Because I manage many websites, it’s more efficient for me to stick with a single platform, this efficiency allows me to provide better pricing for my clients.
Every business needs a website.
When I do a client interview for a website build, normally I’m looking for a couple things. For one, I want to make sure my personality works with the client – there’s nothing worse than having a customer you hate. Second, I try to determine if I can truly add value to the client’s business. This is critical for a long-term business relationship. During these interviews, there are a handful of misconceptions about websites I continually hear.
BS Fact #1 – You Can Get a Website for Free
Domain names aren’t free. And while it’s true there are some ways you can get an Internet presence for your business for free, nobody wants to tell their customers to visit them at tomshardware.wordpress.com or tomshardware.blogspot.com. You have to buy a domain name for your business if you truly want a website. Some website hosts offer a free domain with hosting but in those cases, you still have to pay for the hosting first. Nothing is free, no matter what the ad says.
BS Fact #2 – You Have to Know How to Code to Build a Website
There was a time when this was true. My first website was a raw HTML site built on AOL websites back in 1995. But today’s popular platforms include drag & drop editors and pre-coded themes that can work with just about any design requirement. It’s still true that having some coding skills can help you take your website to another level, it’s definitely not a requirement for having a beautiful, functional website.
BS Fact #3 – You Need to Hire a Web Designer
Again, like the coding myth, there was a time when this was true. A lot of people don’t know what a web designer actually does. Web designers have an understanding of how layouts affect traffic flow and how customers are typically going to interact with certain design elements. In effect, they know how to steer your web traffic to the content you want them to see.
However, today’s popular platforms include pre-designed themes that have already been put together by skilled web designers. You can do a lot more if you have web design skills or hire a professional designer, but for most small businesses, this isn’t a requirement. Many multi-million dollar companies run their websites on freely available themes from WordPress and Wix – and they don’t have a single Web Designer on payroll or retainer.
BS Fact #4 – Build it and They Will Come
I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve built websites for who do absolutely nothing to promote their site and then wonder why the site doesn’t get any traffic. Your website is part of your business brand. I’ve seen businesses who didn’t even bother to put their website address on their business cards! With billions of sites on the internet, you can’t just build one and expect people to randomly find it. Promoting your site is more important than building it. Share your site on social media. Submit the site to search engines like Google or take out advertisements. Invest in SEO services. All of these are ways to help bring traffic to your site.
Bonus: Here are Some Facts that ARE True
You can build a website yourself. While not fully recommended there are cases, especially for small startups, where you really can’t afford to spend money on someone to make and maintain your website for you. You must remember websites require maintenance, backups, and an eye towards security. There’s more to it than just getting your business information up on the web.
Websites aren’t free, but there’s no reason to go broke over it. Small businesses don’t usually need to spend $25k on a website. Like all business expenditures, it’s really a matter of right-sizing the project for your needs. A small business that just needs a brief showcase for their work might be able to get away with a quick template design for just a few hundred bucks.
Websites aren’t “set it and forget it”. In addition to making sure that your content remains up-to-date, websites require regular maintenance. Security patching is a big priority that many small businesses forget – especially those who maintain their websites by themselves. They also need a good backup plan so that a site can be recovered if something really goes bad (like your web hosting company goes out of business suddenly). I backup my client sites and check them for security patches every day – it’s one of my primary maintenance services after a site has been built.
Wrapping it Up
Build it. Promote it. Maintain it. Whether you do it yourself or pay someone to do it for you, all are critical aspects to having a successful website. If you’re looking to have a website built or you need someone to take over your daily maintenance tasks, fill out the form below for a free quote.
Sharif Jameel is a business owner, IT professional, runner, & musician. His professional certifications include CASP, Sec+, Net+, MCSA, & ITIL and others. He’s also the guitar player for the Baltimore-based cover bands, Liquifaction and Minority Report.
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