The most recent statistics that I have seen state that almost half of all small businesses still do not have a website. How can that be? Why do some businesses insist on not having a site, or, if they do have one, not having a good site? The usual answer is that it is too expensive, too time-consuming, or unnecessary. All of course are faulty assumptions. These days it is incredibly easy and affordable to create a great, professional website.
And as for whether it is necessary or not, just consider this statistic: 8 in 10 Americans now spend as much time online as they do watching television.
Or consider this anecdotal experience: Recently, my wife called and asked me to pick up dinner on the way home from work. She mentioned a restaurant we like, so I jumped online to look at its website and check out the menu. But I couldn’t find the menu because I couldn’t find the website because it didn’t exist. I ended up going to a different restaurant. Multiply that experience by many customers, and you can see why even the smallest of businesses must have some web presence, even if it is only a limited one.
Your website is your window to the world, business card, e-commerce store, brochure, advertisement, storefront, brand, and meet-and-greet all rolled into one. As such, you simply must have a great one.
Which begs the question: If you don’t have a website, or the one you do have was created by your niece in 2006, how do you make one?
You essentially have two choices:
1. Hire a web designer: If you need a complicated site for some reason, then one way to go is to hire a web designer, which can be a very smart move if you get the right designer. You can find web developers by doing an online search of course, but also check out Craigslist and Elance, both of which are sites that allow you to post your project and get bids from freelancers.
Next, find some designers you like and check them out; there are plenty of irresponsible ones out there. Use Yelp, Google, and old-fashioned references to get the lowdown. What you want to learn about is
- Their experience and background
- Their portfolio – you want a designer with the skill to bring your vision to life
- The platform they will use to create your site (Wordpress is the current popular favorite and a fine choice)
- Whether you will be able to easily update your site
One other important point – be sure to pick your website address (your URL) carefully. You want a clear, simple URL for two reasons:
- First, in this day and age, your website address is an integral part of your brand. As the old commercial goes, “People will judge you by the words you choose.” So pick smart. For instance, an address like “MyGreatBusiness.com” is much better than “MyGreatBusiness.Wordpress.com” (and even if your site is built on Wordpress, you do not need to have a cumbersome URL like that.)
- Second, you need people to remember your site address, and of course this will only happen if it is easy to remember.
2. Do It Online: By far the best website creation solution for most small businesses these days is to use an online website-creation portal. Using a site like this allows you to get a website in one of two ways, and both are excellent.
First, you can have the portal’s designers build a customized site for you. Many of these types of portals have millions of small business customers and host a similar number of websites, you can be assured that you will get a top-notch result, and at an affordable price to boot.
Second, and the solution I probably like the most, is to do it yourself. The great thing is that you don’t have to be a designer to do so. Sites like these offer a slew of templates with which to start your site. You can then easily add, drag, and drop in windows, content, pictures, you name it. You can build a great looking site this way in an hour or two.
When using a solution like this, you will want to be sure that the site also offers
- Online or phone support
- Submission to search engines (You want Google and Bing to be able to easily find and index your site. This initially happens when the site has been “submitted” to these search engines. It’s a bit geeky, so just be sure that the host site will do this for you.)
- A mobile-friendly version of your site
Whether you use this sort of service or design it some other way, there really is no reason not to have a website, and a great website at that.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.