You might think that every small business needs a website. It's not true; what they really need is an effective one! You see, even if your customers are primarily local —the vast majority will find you first on Google or Bing before going elsewhere (and those who don't live nearby).  
According to the FSB: 97% search online for products and services 82 percent will use their mobile device when doing so... 
Websites are judged by search engines on three key factors:  
their content,  
accessibility and  
user experience.  
For these reasons we can see that an effective website must be easy to find through SEO (search engine optimization) techniques; have good quality material which will rank well in results pages when people do searches from desktop PCs, mobiles or tablets and provide users with exactly what they want in a structured and easy to use way. 
If your website does those three things highlighted above, it has a higher probability that it will attract customers, boost your profitability and enhance your brand reputation. If it doesn’t… it might not be worth having the website at all. 
Here, we take a look at some of the options available and the ways in which businesses can avoid common pitfalls. 

DIY: The benefits and limitations of self-build websites 

Oscar Wilde is credited with the saying " The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing" however when contemplating an internet presence, one of the main things that draws most people to online website builders is the price. Clearly they often seem top provide the cheapest option - although often the desired functionality can only be obtained adding apps which can push that price up considerably. 
Often website builders claim to let you build a website in under an hour. In truth, they are often frustrating things to use and are rarely the best long-term option for a growing business. 
What you usually end up with is a very basic template that’s been used by many companies before - with limited functionality or ability to make the design and feel of the website truly reflect your brand or marketing goals. (Should you need to change that template in the future, you’ll often lose all existing content and be forced to start from scratch.) 
Rather than giving an impression of professionalism and original thinking - which most SME businesses are well known for - self-build websites can often look a little piecemeal. The template designs quickly seem outdated. 
The simplest website builders to use will probably leave you with the least impressive website, while those that offer more flexibility and room for creativity are generally not beginner-friendly, come with limited online support through automated bots or e-guides, and will require an investment of your time that you may be unable to sustain. 
An important note: web builder packages rarely offer fully integrated easy to use search engine optimisation (SEO) options, and getting things to look exactly how you want them to on the wide range of mobile devices can also be an issue; meaning the first impression you make on all those potential customers using their phones and tablets to find you will not be a great one, if they can find you at all. 
If you decide that you’re still willing to take a risk on a DIY site, our advice would be to head over to Trustpilot. Look beyond the star ratings to the reviews - to hear what users really think, how much technical knowledge you need to get a decent result, and what actually happens when things go wrong and expert support is needed. 

Designer: the benefits of national vs. local website designers 

If, on reflection, you have decided not to go for a self-build website, the next choice will be who you want to create your website for you. This is where we really know our stuff - because it’s where we’ve built our own business. 
As a professional website design company, we took a long, hard look at the marketplace and came up with a better way. If that sounds biased, it’s because we are. We passionately believe that it’seeze gives growing businesses the service they need and deserve. 
But that shouldn’t stop you from considering all of the options, so here they are: 
The two main options for a professionally designed website are: a larger national provider using a closed source content management system (CMS), and a smaller local website designer using a free open source CMS like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal. 

National Web Design Companies 

Large national website design companies are often costly, so if you’re going to make the investment, choose one who offers great customer service and a high level of ongoing support, brilliant security features, and help with SEO as standard. 
If you do, at least you’ll be more likely to end up with a design you love, that is unique to your business, and provide you with some real return on your investment. 
Unfortunately, far too many national website businesses outsource design and support to centres outside the UK, making security questionable and their support unreliable. They will rarely provide ongoing or face-to-face support, while CMS training to help you make changes yourself is also often neglected. 
Once again, head over to Trustpilot to reassure yourself that the company you choose can deliver on their promises and be sure to ask plenty of questions about what’s included in the price. You’ll undoubtedly get a slick design, but will you also get the ability to upgrade functionality or make changes further down the line if you need to - or will this end up costing you even more? 

Small and freelance web designers 

Small locally based web designers might seem like the best option for small businesses, but can often end up being more expensive than you expect. Unfortunately, they are unlikely to be able to offer the same security or design features as larger providers as they will need to rely on regular updates and various different plug-ins to achieve a similar result. If these plug ins are not managed correctly, for example when the core CMS is updated then website functionality can be impacted, security compromised and the user experience reduced. 
The open source CMS used by most smaller businesses, which is predominantly Wordpress, will be free for anyone to download and install, with many developers around the world working on features and updates. This means that, without constant management, websites created on an open source CMS can quickly become vulnerable to serious security issues, while updates have been known to crash whole systems. The login process can also be manipulated by hackers, and cause functions to fail during updates. 
If you still decide to use a freelancer or smaller company for your web build, keep in mind that they won’t have the infrastructure of a larger business. Builds can end up being far slower and support is often inconsistent. 
There is also the question of continuity should the freelancer or small business you use go out of business or move on to pastures new; you could all too easily end up with a poorly performing website and no-one to help you fix it. 
As you may have realized, we’re big believers in the power of customer reviews. It can be difficult to find reviews for small independent providers, so you may need to rely on word of mouth. Always ask for testimonials and examples of previous work before you sign on the dotted line. 

It'seeze, an exception to the rule ... 

While it’seeze falls into the ‘large national provider’ category detailed above, we like to think we’re actually very different from the rest. Yes, we’re a well-established business that operates nationwide, but our network of regional consultants with extensive industry knowledge make everything easier when you’re getting your website project rolling. And that personalised service comes with professional design and build undertaken at our UK based support hub. 
What’s more, we promise not to vanish once the build is done. Our monthly subscription model means you have no large initial outlay but will receive a whole host of ongoing benefits, like reliable technical support and security updates. You can read about them here
If you’d like to find out more about it’seeze websites, why not get in touch today? We’re committed to building brilliant websites that help businesses grow - and we’d love to hear your plans. 

Get in touch 

call us on 01276 501285  
email us using our online contact form  
Or schedule an appointment by clicking the button below. 
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