When a potential web design customer contacts Modmacro for the first time, I can predict with near-certainty what they will say. They will say something along the lines of: “I don’t need anything fancy or complicated. I just need an informational website. No big deal.”
That’s the kicker—“Just an informational website.” When people say that, they’re thinking that their website needs to only consist of a page or two that contain the most basic information about their company. A digital business card, basically. They have enough marketing sense to know it needs to look good, which is why they end up contacting a professional web design company, but there are two things they tend not to realize:
- Most websites are “informational websites,” and most are much larger sites than they may be aware of.
- A small, static site with bare-bones information is not helpful to most companies.
I understand why a small business owner’s first instinct is to think small. They’re thinking, “Well, we’re not a massive Fortune 500 company, why would we need a complex website?” They’re looking at websites for companies like Exxon or Apple—websites that have hundreds, maybe thousands of pages—and concluding that they don’t need anything that large or involved. And they’re right—most small businesses don’t need anything that enormous at the beginning.
But if you look at a lot of those Fortune 500 companies’ websites, you’ll notice something interesting. The vast majority of them actually are “just informational websites.” Meaning, they are dedicated to customer education and do not serve any other complex function (like ecommerce or housing a sprawling database). So it turns out, “informational” has nothing to do with size.
Worth the Investment
As Temecula Valley small business web design experts, our job is to help potential customers understand that when it comes to their website, thinking too small can do more harm than good. You might think it’s a smart choice, budget-wise, to not spend the money on a large and involved website, but by doing that, you’d actually be making it more difficult in the long run to build a brand and grow your businesses.
I would say, instead of thinking of your website as a purchase, you have to think of it as an investment. It’s an investment in your brand and in your future. The site itself—what customers see when they type in your web address—is the surface. And the surface needs to be attractive and compelling. But there is so much beneath the surface, and the more you understand it, the more you will see why an expertly designed and built website is worth the investment.
What Google Sees
You’ve probably heard the term “search engine optimization” (SEO). At its most basic, it is a tool to increase both the quality and the quantity of traffic your website receives from search engine results. In other words, you want Google, and others, to not only direct a lot of people to your website when they perform a search, but you also want the right people to be directed to you—people who are legitimately searching for what your business offers, and people who are more likely to become paying customers. Employing SEO correctly is challenging (that’s why there are entire digital marketing companies devoted to it), but it is crucial if you want your website to be found by anyone who doesn’t already know you.
And SEO isn’t the only important aspect of building a site that performs well in search rankings. It’s one piece of a huge algorithmic puzzle. Just to give you an idea of what goes on beneath the surface of a website, here is an excerpt from the Google Webmaster Guidelines, which are constantly changing and expanding as technology advances:
- Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.
- Don’t deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users, a practice commonly referred to as “cloaking.”
- Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link.
- Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.
- Use keywords to create descriptive, human-friendly URLs
The Google Webmaster Guidelines are immense and overwhelming for most people who don’t work in the digital marketing industry, but this page is particularly helpful in understanding the factors that go into a particular site’s ranking on the search engine.
Obviously, the backend functionality of a website is too complex to dive into in an article like this, but the point is: Websites are more functional than you might realize. They are more than just a contact phone number and a quick story about your business. They are powerful marketing tools that are likely your business’s only door to the world of potential customers beyond your immediate network, and much of that important work happens separately from the site’s pretty design.
Web design may seem like a simple task you can knock out in an afternoon with one of the DIY companies. Or it may seem like an inexpensive task you can delegate to your brother-in-law’s cousin who “knows some stuff about computers.” But if you want a website that actually works for your company, you need something more. That’s why it’s worth the investment to do it right. The kind of website that is built with both users and search engines in mind will work on your behalf and bring in new customers over time.
Could you do it “right” yourself? Sure. But the time it would take you to become an expert in SEO and ranking factors is probably spent better on something else, like running your business. It makes much more sense to call a Temecula web design professional to help you.
The User Experience
Of course, it’s not all about Google and search rankings. Users—or potential customers—are the ones who are actually interacting with your website and hopefully deciding to contact you afterwards. They need to have a good experience with your website, or else they won’t feel confident in working with your business.
This all goes back to that idea of having “just an informational website” with only the barest of bones. Yes, some customers just what a phone number, a location, and your business’s hours. But when you offer more, customers are usually glad to have it. They want the basics to be easy to find, but the added information you provide on your site adds so much value to the user experience.
Let’s take a look at a couple examples—first, the website of a large Fortune 500 company, to illustrate that even some of the most complex sites out there are “just informational.” Second, the website of a small Temecula Valley business, to show that even small businesses have a lot of great information and resources to provide customers. And that it’s worth doing because of the value it brings!
Exxon Mobil has an enormous website. Makes sense—they’re an enormous company. But as you look through it, you can’t help but notice that it’s all informational. They don’t have an online store, and they’re not running a web application or anything complicated like that. They’re just presenting information.
They go to great lengths to educate consumers on every aspect of their company as well as on the energy industry as a whole. And as if that’s not enough, there’s a spinoff site for each category of products (motor oils, for example), and each of those sites are chock full of consumer information, videos, and even coupons.
Still, they don’t sell any products via their website. It’s purely a hub for resources that they believed the general public would find helpful. If you put yourself in the shoes of someone who visits Exxon’s website, it all makes perfect sense. What might someone be looking for on their site?
- Maybe a career opportunity—there’s a tab for that.
- Maybe they read a story in the news about a new type of fuel that’s being developed—there’s a tab for that.
- Maybe they want to better understand how natural gas energy affects the environment differently than oil energy—there’s a tab for that.
Basically, if it’s even remotely related to what Exxon Mobil does at all, they’ve devoted some space to it on their website. What an incredible service to consumers! Personally, I feel better about Exxon Mobil as a company, just combing through their website. Education is obviously a huge priority to them and because we all are energy consumers, whether we want to be or not, that education is extremely valuable to society.
Exxon didn’t have to approach their website this way. They’re not necessarily a product or a service company. In truth, they’re a little bit of both, and a little bit of neither. People aren’t seeking out the Exxon Mobil website to find out their hours or to see a map of where their corporate offices are located. If they had put up a website that was just their logo along with contact information for the different divisions they run, most people probably wouldn’t think twice about it.
Instead, they’ve put careful thought into their web design, and customers who find their website because of a specific search term or because of a specific question they have about the company are then treated to a wealth of pleasant surprises and resources.
Now for an example of how small business web design doesn’t have to be “small.” BM Windows is a replacement window and door company in San Diego, CA. They offer high-quality window and door products at affordable prices, providing outstanding customer service at every step of the way. They could so easily take the approach of, “We’re just a local San Diego service business. As long as our website displays our phone number and a list of the services we offer, we should be all set.”
But at the end of the day, outstanding customer service is at the core of everything they do. With that in mind, they decided they had to do more with their site than just provide a digital business card. They wanted to provide a user experience on their website that matched the experience customers have when they hire BM Windows.
As a potential customer, if all you want is the company’s contact information, you’re taken care of. It’s right there at the top of the home page. But most potential customers will probably also see the tabs right below that contact information and want to know more. If they want to see the products BM Windows offers, or a photo gallery of completed projects, or their industry-leading guarantee, it’s all immediately accessible.
And as if that isn’t enough, BM Windows also has a tab devoted to resources with all kinds of helpful information about the replacement window industry in general, including a free downloadable e-book that walks potential customers through the entire process of a replacement window project. It’s not a requirement for any company to provide this kind of thing on their website, but BM Windows felt like it would be exceptional customer service to do so. Their investment in their website is really an investment in their customers.
For a local business like BM Windows, the other major benefit to having a dynamic site that’s full of educational material and that’s constantly being updated with new information is that it accomplishes a heavy portion of the sales process before a customer even gets on the phone.
By the time a customer calls, they have a thorough understanding of what the company stands for, and all the different options of products and services BM Windows offers. A high percentage of customers likely have already made a decision before even making contact. From a business owner’s perspective, that is a giant time saver! Remember: You don’t just want a lot of people to locate your website. You want the right people—paying customers—to locate your website and then contact you.
The Rare Exception
Like with anything, there are exceptions. There are a few businesses out there that don’t need a deeply informative website, but I cannot emphasize the word few strongly enough. Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine whether or not your business falls in this category:
- Is your business in an industry that is changing or has changed over the last decade?
- Has your business grown at all recently and/or is future growth a goal you have for your business?
- Do you hope to gain new customers and customer referrals via your website?
If your answer to any of those questions is “yes,” your business is not the exception! Your business is like the vast majority of businesses that need more than a digital business card.
Here’s an example of a business that can get away with bare-bones web design:
A small consulting firm that gains all of its referrals through current clients and word-of-mouth doesn’t need their website to bring them new business. They don’t need to impress Google or employ SEO to make sure their company is high in the search rankings. They need to have a presence for credibility’s sake, and nothing else. Clients can go to their website and verify that they’re a real company, but beyond that, everything else happens in person.
That company wouldn’t benefit from doing anything more complex than providing basic contact information and maybe a short “about” statement. Their website can be completely passive; it doesn’t need to do any work on behalf of the business because the business is doing all of it already.
Getting the Website Your Business Needs
Most business owners have a tendency to think small when it comes to web design, and we understand why. Often, they have budget-related concerns, and even more often, they simply lack the understanding of a small business website’s true purpose. That’s where we come in. We are experts in building the exact site your business needs and in determining which features are the most important.
Our goal is to put your business online in a way that’s never been done before, and in order to do so, there are three major components that we prioritize, based on your business’s needs:
- Creating an excellent user experience
- Carefully crafted calls to action
We recognize that your company might not care about or benefit from high Google rankings, and so for your website, we might not focus as heavily on SEO. There are also some companies that don’t need or want calls to action, and so for those web design projects, we would spend our time and budget elsewhere. More often than not, a business really needs all three, but for each different business, they are weighted differently.
As specialists in small business web design, particularly in informational websites for service businesses, we are prepared to get creative to fit the exact needs of your business. From a site like the BM Windows site that is full of helpful tabs and photos to educate consumers on the company and the industry, to an interactive site that leads potential customers through a customized series of pages based on their product or service needs (for example, many churches have a “New Here?” button on their homepage, which then directs newcomers to a special page designed just for them), we will build something that will both serve your customers well and that will help you grow your business.
To be competitive in today’s marketplace, whether you’re a big national corporation or a local Murrieta or Temecula small business, you need to have a website that works for you, and that’s not something you can achieve with a DIY service—not unless you have extensive experience in the mechanics of search engines and the ever-changing Google guidelines, and there is no reason to spend your time learning all of that. It is far more cost- and time-effective to hire a web design and digital marketing expert to make sure you’re getting the most out of what is probably your most powerful marketing tool—your website.
Don’t Sell Your Business Short
Without having spoken to you, I can say with pretty high confidence that you do need an informational website. Most businesses do. But I would never say you need “just” an informational website because I know how incredibly effective (and complex) informational websites can—and should—be.
For business owners who aren’t web design or digital marketing experts themselves, we understand why a website can seem like a simple purchase that doesn’t require much thought or attention. In fact, you’ve probably browsed hundreds of websites that you never thought about again. You got the information you needed, and you moved on. At Modmacro, we challenge you to dig deeper and recognize that even some of those sites you never thought about again were probably carefully crafted to not only give you an outstanding experience as a user, but also to be organized in such a way that search engines like Google rank them favorably. If they hadn’t done that, you may not have found the site in the first place.
At Modmacro, we take the growth and success of your small business so seriously, and we hope you will also see the value in making an investment in your website. It’s not just a digital business card. It’s the start of a relationship with a potential customer. It’s the door they walk through to get to know your business and what you can offer them. If that’s not worth investing in, I don’t know what is.
Are you at that point where you’re either ready to create a website for your company or to do an overhaul of your current website? Contact us today. We’d love to start a conversation and find out how we can take your business to the next level.