A brief guide to buying a website for small businesses
These days pretty much anyone can get a website on-line very quickly and cheaply but it's good to be aware of the potential pitfalls and risks. This brief article is designed to be a heads-up for small business owners operating on a small or non-existent budget and is based upon lessons learned by some of our customers who have gone down the wrong road and regretted it later.
To put the risks into perspective 4 in 10 of our customers have come to us after having a bad, expensive or bad and expensive experience elsewhere. As a local Herne Bay business ourselves, we're more than happy to give free, no obligation and independent advice to any other business in the CT6 postcode area.
Here are a few things to consider no matter who you go with to build your website.
We've highlighted the really, really important things for those in a hurry.
- There's no such thing as a free lunch!
- Your website should be important to you, it must reflect your image and/or brand.
- Like your web designer. Be comfortable that they understand your business and what the website means to you.
- Don't be talked in to paying any up-front unless you're absolutely, 100% sure they'll deliver. For larger projects it is usual to ask for a sizeable deposit but never more than 20%.
- Don't accept a simple template off the shelf design unless it truly meets your requirements. Where would we be if every shop on the High Street looked the same with the same window display?
- Watch our for 'menu pricing' deals. This is where it starts out really cheap as chips and where each piece of functionality you want to add sees the overall cost rocket.
- Try to work out what you're really expected to pay over the course of a year, not just on a month-by-month basis.
- You're likely to want your website to grow as your business grows. Check what it will cost to add more pages, photos, text etc.
- Be cautious about anyone who doesn't display a landline phone number. It can be the first clue as to their authenticity, longevity and status.
- If the builder of your website registers a domain name for you, check that it's registered in your name and business name.
- Thinking of making your own website? Great but don't underestimate the time you need to give to it adding new content and maintaining it. Many small business owners find they simply don't have the time to do it justice.
- The web developer should be able to add email addresses to your domain name for you so that you can get away from free email services such as GMail, Hotmail etc. and present a more professional image to your customers and suppliers.
- Make sure your website will display well and properly on all device types; smartphones, tablets and even HD TVs. These days 30%+ of your web traffic will come from mobile devices and Google de-rank websites which do not display correctly on mobile devices.
- Beware the vanishing web-designer! What we really mean is beware the 'mate down the pub' or the friend who offers to make you a website. Vitally you need to be sure they're still going to be around this time next year and the year after when you need changes made and you need them to be responsive when you need help. We're helping one client rescue their website after the original developer went AWOL to Algeria! We can help them get back the content of their site but not their domain name.
- Selling on-line is tough in a competitive and crowded market. The cost of selling on-line and accepting electronic payments is likely to be around 6% per transaction and that's a lot if you're operating on small profit margins. If you're thinking of selling your wares on-line ask yourself the question "Why would someone buy from me?" and be brutally honest with yourself.
- You are ultimately responsible for the copyright of any images or text on your website. Be sure your web developer has licensed any photos or images he or she has used and is able to prove it. Just because a photo or image is widely distributed around the world wide web doesn't mean it's yours or theirs to use. We have just helped one new client avoid a claim running into several thousands of pounds for claimed copyright infringement so it does happen.
- Always, always, always ask for at least two third party references and follow them up! You'd be amazed how lazy we all get about doing this to our cost.
- Avoid paying money for what's called 'SEO' (Search Engine Optimisation) services. Many so-called web designers make a lot of money from this 'scam' where you're lured into believing they can get you ranked highly on Google and the other search engines. The fact is that good search engine rankings are organic and there's no 'silver bullet'. If a website is well constructed, features good content, is mobile-device friendly and is well promoted it will rise naturally in the rankings.
- Avoid anyone who also offers to place Google Ads or Facebook Ads on your behalf in order to improve your search engine performance or popularity as it's most often a scam.
You would say that wouldn't you?
Genuinely, no. We've helped-out many local businesses to rescue their websites, extricate themselves from expensive contracts, avoid litigation even though they may not be customers of ours. As professional website makers, we hate to see small businesses taken for a ride so we'll help where we can and, who knows, maybe one day they might be a customer of ours.
If you have any questions on the above or would like to discuss your own requirements, call us on 01227 364659 or 07525 013666 and we'll do our best to help you.