by Cody Hulett,
More businesses fail than ever succeed; let alone survive long term. According to the US small business administration less than half of all businesses last more than 5 years in America(“F.A.Q. ,” 2010). It is common knowledge that technology and the internet are everywhere, from the QR codes on nearly every item on a store shelf to smart phones with price comparison apps. As of 2006 87% of all consumers research a product or store online before visiting it in person(Rist, 2006). A website is the first impression nearly 90% of all customers will have of a small business. Companies like 1&1 and INTUIT aggressively market on the basis of a “professional” website in just a few clicks, or for an extremely low price. These companies are dooming millions of small business owners to fail without a unique and professional web presence small business owners are crippling themselves, by using non standard design practices and finding a reputable designer the pitfall of being just another mediocre face can be prevented.
The idea of a simple, fast, and all right looking website is lure that few can resist. Intuit provides just that. Utilizing a simple tool online to create a site, and maintaining a large stock photo repository make the Intuit software a great choice to create a decent looking site. Unfortunately these same options that make Intuit a top choice for any small business owner also makes it more common. However the Intuit software does not factor in the search engine optimization that gets a page to the top of Google’s results. When a site is created in the software it is created using a what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) editor, and text values are set without using the actual online standards of “H” or heading tags that tell the search engine the headings are important indicators of the pages content(Richards, 2011). The overuse of this site creation tool, coupled with the lack of search engine performance leave many of the sites it is used to create deep within the web’s underworld yearning to see the light of a consumer’s search. Search engine optimization (SEO) is at the core of most professional and free lance web designer’s work. When a site is constructed in a manner that establishes its own validity for a search engine the engine finds it more often and places it higher in results for common searches. As a web designer I spend hours working on the proper SEO tactics for the current year, a tedious process that online tools simply cannot provide. To compound the importance of using a professional, the methodology search engines utilize are ever changing and evolving and most pre-made content site-builder tools use can be years old. SEO is incredibly vital for any business to succeed on the internet, and only true professionals can provide the level of optimization that can generate more leads online which equates to more foot traffic.
Keeping costs low is a goal that every small business owner holds, the ability to pay over time remedies the upfront cost of getting a website. Just like a credit card utilizing a “pay as you go site builder” lets users pay monthly for a site that on its own could cost a significant amount. However just as a credit card will lead a simple purchase to become much more expensive with interest using a pay as you go approach to web design will exponentially increase costs over time. When a small business owner makes the decision to use a professional the return of investment will continually grow as the site generates business without high residual costs. Some site designers charge upwards of five-thousand dollars for a truly unique site while others charge well under five-hundred for a simple site. By researching and comparing in the same way consumers do business owners can find the most cost effective way to invest money in an online presence. Many professional designers have valuable experience in marketing websites in various markets that business owners do not, increasing the return of investment even further. According to Advertising Age 67% of consumers respond well to behavioral targeting(Klaassen, 2011). Professional designers have the tools and experience to integrate behavioral targeting tools into a site, helping to increase the number of views that come from more interested parties than a general method from a site-builder could provide.
On any main street in any town in America certain shops scream for attention be it with displays that grab consumer’s attention with the veracity of a pit bull high on meth while others fade from attention quickly; so too is the internet’s main street however generic site builders simply cannot provide this visceral impact. Web design can fall into the world of mediocrity without the proper care and style or take the most mediocre product and elevate it to new heights. Much like the VW ad campaigns of the 1960′s the right presentation of a product or a business can make the most mundane “Beetle” into a must have item. In an environment that is hyper-saturated with information, choices, and imagery sometimes less is more. Templates and pre-made websites do not take this into account, with the right designer that researches competition a site with large amounts of white space, and simple interactions can be a refreshing change from the herd that lets consumers focus on the most important aspect of a site which is the product. Standing out is not an easy prospect and utilizing a trained professional to do so can make the impact a small business needs to prevail.
As a professional designer can make a page look stunning, so to can they help to get people in the door with the power of social media. Facebook and Twitter have a combined usership of 350 million users (Lapowsky & McCorvey, 2011). With minimal investment of time and money designers revamp and create these social pages for their clients. Properly implemented social marketing tactics used by designers reach thousands of users that get to a clients site from a “friend’s” recommendation. The social marketing methodology has been proven by many companies including a small salon owned by Erin Cox.
Tens of thousands of people have clicked on them, hundreds have redeemed the coupons, and about 60 are now regulars at the salon. Cox says the campaigns have been much more successful than a LivingSocial deal she ran this year that was not profitable and did not lead to any repeat customers. “The demographic base you reach using Blue Calypso isn’t just people looking for a hell of a deal,” Cox says. “Once they get in the door, they tend to stick around.”. (Lapowsky & McCorvey, 2011, para. 33)
Examples like this are everywhere, and with more and more consumers being plugged in to the web every day, the talents of designers that grasp social media become more and more helpful to attract a broader more attentive fan base for businesses.
In recent years the popularity of shopping, eating, and living more local has bolstered America’s sense of community. By using a locally based web designer instead of a template from a corporation a small business owner can foster an organic website and focus on local markets. The vast majority of professional designers are freelancers or small companies rooted in their communities. When a business chooses to support a local designer they gain the knowledge of that designer in regards to the tastes of a local market. While templates can feel generic and unappealing to many local conscious consumers the organic elements drawn from a community create a style that cannot be pre-made. An example of this local-centric approach was a small e-commerce site I personally designed for a local company. We literally went out on the town and walked the downtown alleys for our first consultation, snapping pictures of the local elements that inspired the store owner. After compiling these ideas into a draft both the store owner and I were shocked at how delightful the site had came out. Not only did this unique design set the business apart from his competitors, his local customers frequently comment on the small details that reflected their community and drove them to frequent his business over other local competitors. As technology continues to connect all ends of the planet it can also be harnessed by professionals to use that power to effect change at a local level that is unparalleled by faceless design companies and tools.
As with all paths in life, there will always be an easy path, and the path less taken while some achieve everything they need by taking the easy path in creating a web presence the vast majority will be crossing into a virtual labyrinth of failure. The easy site-builder provides a decent solution for many, however without SEO, individuality, and a better return of investment they are not the solution for business in the 21st century. Creative designs that bolster sales come from years of experience and a personal design sense that no template could replicate. Americans are smart, connected individuals and that market needs to be catered to by a site created by free thinking cavaliers of content creation that live to defy the mundane beige world of copy and paste.
Frequently asked Questions. (2010). US Small Business Administration. Retrieved from http://www.SBA.gov
Klaassen, A. (2011, October 17). Behavioral targeting might scare consumers less if we did a better job explaining it. Advertising Age, 46. Retrieved from http://www.Linksource.com
Lapowsky, I., & McCorvey, J. (2011). Social media by the numbers: social-media marketing is all the rage. But does it pay off? Here’s a look at six strategies and how smart companies are using them. Inc., 33(9), 70. Retrieved from galegroup.com
Richards, A. (2011). building a better website. Black Enterprise, 41 (11). Retrieved from http://www.proquest.com
Rist, P. (2006). websites put shoppers on site. BIG research . Retrieved from http://www.bigresearch.com/