Starting out the right way with a website means it’s less stress, easier to manage so it takes up less of your time, and easier to change as your business grows or changes.
Now I know that you’re thinking, Karen, you’re a WordPress Business Consultant so obviously you’re going to say go with WordPress.
Well yes and no…..
I think, you can correct me if I’m wrong, I think that most of the decisions to go with those kind of website platforms are budget and ease of use. However I don’t think that they’re as cheap as you think, either in terms of money or time.
Here are some questions to consider when choosing your website platform for your business needs:
Will it make me look professional?
This is so important. Your website is where people will get an idea of who you are, what you do, why you do it and whether they want to work or buy from you.
If you’re website is more relaxed for your clients, that’s great but it still needs to be done in a professional way.
For example I know a business that sells a high end product yet their website says designed by Vistaprint at the bottom. I’ve seen the recent TV adverts for Vistaprint and maybe they are trying to change their image but my impression of them is cheap business cards (and yes I have used them in the past). In my mind having an association with cheap on a high end product website simply doesn’t work.
For me (as a micro business owner) if someone approaches me offering a service or product and they are using a website that is free or send an email using from a gmail email address I think a few things:
- someone is not serious about their business because they are not setting it up the correct way
- someone is testing a new website / service to see if it works and they could be gone soon
- whoever is guiding them with their marketing strategy either isn’t doing a good job or they are not listening to them
Will this platform allow my business to grow?
I know that when a lot of micro / home businesses start up that they are on a budget, I’ve been there and done that too. If you have a business plan (even if it’s just in your head) make sure that you have marketing in there and a rough idea of how and when to create or upgrade your website.
If you are simply testing an idea or you know that all you’ll ever want is a website with a few pages then one of the simpler platforms may be ideal for you. Yes right now all you may need is a 5 page website, but will that be enough in the future?
Do I own the domain for my website?
You want to make sure that you own your website domain. It’s an important part of your business and branding. No-one other than you should own it – not a website platform and not someone who set it up for you – only you.
Why? Because as you build your business people will get to know your domain name, and if you don’t own it then you’ve lost control.
You’d be shocked (or maybe you wouldn’t be) at the number of clients that have come to me either about to lose their domain or their hosting.
Some platforms allow to buy a domain through them, or give it to you for free, but if you want to leave you have to pay a fee.
If possible, buy your domain name first in your name (or your company name) and then add it to the platform.
Do I own the content?
Make sure that your content (text and images) are still owned by you when you use a website platform. In other words always read the small print – no matter how small it is and how long it goes on for.
Can I move my content easily to another platform?
Unfortunately some platforms seem to think that if they don’t provide a way of easily letting you export your content (yes it’s your content after all) then you’ll stay with them.
If you only have a small website, only a few pages, then copy and paste is an option when moving your website.
Can you imagine doing that on a big website that as grown over time to tens or hundreds of pages? I know business owners that either are or will have to do that at some stage.
Make sure that you have all your images and other content kept somewhere else so if you do need to re-create your website you have all the details.
Can I have a copy of my website for safe keeping?
Oh I have too many backups – said no-one EVER!
What’s a fundamental of buying property? Location, location, location.
What is a little known fundamental of having a website? Backup, backup, backup.
When you don’t have a backup of your own website here’s what some clients have some across:
- If their website has a problem and it needs to be restored they have to pay to have the website restored (this can vary in price)
- If they have an issue with their hosting company (payment has not been received although it’s been paid) they could lose their entire website if the hosting is taken down
- If whoever hosts your website has serious issues such as server problem, you’ve lost your website and you may not get it back for days, weeks or maybe you’ve lost it forever
Yes I know I’m coming across as a backup lunatic person and you’re right. If you’ve worked damn hard on your website (or even if you haven’t), you want to make sure that you have a copy somewhere.
All my clients, yes even on WordPress and even with excellent website hosting companies, have a regular backup of their website which is sent to cloud storage. This means that if anything happens to their website, hosting, or even to me, they have a full copy of their website that can be restored quickly to get them back up and running.
So which platform is right for you?
If you want to know which budget platform I would choose – I would probably go with WordPress.com. They do the hosting for you, you can take your own domain, you can add options to expand or change your business, you can take a backup of your website yourself and you can export your content too.
With any platform there is a learning curve, whether it’s WordPress or something else.
Test out a few free platforms
If you want to find one that feels right to you then set up a few free accounts and see which one is easier to use. Just be aware that the easiest one may not be the one that answers all these questions in a way that you like, but at least you would know what choice you are making.
In closing, ask yourself these questions to see if you’re on the right platform for your business:
- Will it make me look professional?
- Will this platform allow my business to grow?
- Do I own the domain for my website?
- Who owns the content?
- Can I move my content easily to another platform?
- Can you have a copy of your website backup?
If you’re on the right platform, congratulations, you can sleep easy at night.
If you’re not sure, read the small print or ask questions of your website platform.
When someone asks me why they should bother with website maintenance I reply you brush your teeth don’t you? By the way if you don’t brush your teeth then maybe this article is not for you 🙂
I’ll confess something here – I have a fear of dentists. My dentist already knows this and he still sees me! I’ve found that if I don’t go for a long time then there’s more to fix when I do go.
Our teeth are an asset and speak to anyone who doesn’t have some (of all) of them any more and they’ll tell you what a pain it is – sometimes literally.
Your website is a business asset. Unlike teeth, which don’t make us money, our websites should be making us money either directly through online sales or by bringing in customers.
Performing regular website maintenance gives you peace of mind so you can focus on what you do best, your business, while letting me do one of the things I do best, WordPress website maintenance.
Websites are not set and forget, unless you like throwing away money.
You’ve spent time and money on your website so why would you ignore it? Add content to it, make sure it’s a useful resource for your customers and keep it up to date so that it’s constantly working for you.
Did you know that most people won’t tell you if there’s an issue with your website?
It’s true. If your website is slowing down, or has weird characters across the screen, it’s a rare person that will contact you to let you know. Of course if your website is down completely then they can’t contact you anyway.
If a website doesn’t load quickly, and is error free then your potential customer will move on and you’ve just lost a sale.
Some people think that nothing could ever, ever go wrong with their website…..
While I wish this true it’s not been my experience, nor the experience of others who come to me as a professional to sort it out when it goes wrong.
Here are a few of the things I’ve been told when people approach me with a website in need of some webcare.
I thought that no-one would try to hack my website since it’s too small
It doesn’t matter how big or small your website is when it comes to hackers. I’ve had someone come to me with a small regional website. It was a blog for fun and interest, not for money at all. Their website was hacked. The hacker has changed their website so that they can’t get back in to fix it.
Recently we’ve all heard about the ransom ware that affected people computers. There are ransom ware that can be loaded on to your website too. Some people will simply hack into your computer because they see that it’s vulnerable, often because the software has not been updated.
My brother / sister/ friend has a website or computer so I thought that they could maintain it for me (for free)
They may know something about WordPress websites or they may not. How committed are they to ensuring that your website is up to date? Are they checking it every day? What about when they go on holiday? Do they get notified when a vulnerability is discovered in either WordPress, or more likely in one of the plugins (small programs for additional functions).
If the person ‘looking after’ your website knows nothing about WordPress websites then it gets even worse.
I thought I could update the website myself
Possibly you can update the website yourself since I don’t know your technical skill level. WordPress is a very popular software for creating websites and it has hundreds of thousands of plugins. Both the WordPress core software has to be updated as well as any plugins that are used on your website. Plugins need to be checked regularly because after an update they don’t all play nicely together.
The issue is that when something goes wrong will you know how to fix it? Will you be able to explain to a professional like me the steps that you took, whether you tried to fix it yourself, what else you’d been doing recently so that I can fix it.
Will you be able to find a professional to help you that won’t charge the earth because it’s an emergency job?
Prevention is better than cure.
Website maintenance gives you peace of mind that any issues can be found quickly and sorted out.
When something goes wrong I’m there to hold your hand and to get things running smoothly again.
What do WordPress webcare plans cover?
There are three different levels to suit your needs (the details for the webcare plans can be found here).
Even at the basic level the webcare covers WordPress core updates, theme (the look and feel of the website) and plugin updates, regular backups sent away from the hosting, uptime and security monitoring, and regular reporting, so you’ll know what I’ve been doing.
Health experts are always saying that prevention is better than cure and a lot cheaper too. The same is true for your business website.
You put effort every day into maintaining your teeth – doesn’t your website deserve regular maintenance too?
Find out more about WordPress webcare plans.
Why do you want a website?
If you already have a website then hopefully you already know why you have one (if not then I doubt that it’s working well for you and maybe we should have a chat).
Why do you want a website may seem like a really dumb question. Every business needs a website right?
In general my answer would be yes but we’re not thinking about generalities we’re think about you (yes you).
Let’s reverse the question for a moment – why wouldn’t you want a website?
Time – you don’t have time to update a website while you’re running your business and you don’t have
Money – to pay someone else to do it for you because you think that they are too
Expensive – since you think that websites are expensive you think that the expense will take away from your
Profit – your website should add to your profit rather than take away from it, it’s an investment not a cost.
The biggest issue I see before anyone decides on their website comes back to your Why. Everything starts with why?
(Note: If you haven’t watched the TED talk by Simon Sinek How great leaders inspire action it’s well worth watching since Simon talks about starting with why and has written a book about it too https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.)
When I moved from the UK to Australia nearly 10 years people often asked me why I choose the providers I used when we moved here. The simple answer is because they were online.
I didn’t have a yellow pages directory (does anyone even use them anymore?) since I was in the UK. I had no idea about local businesses and I didn’t know anyone in the area. The only thing I had access to was the internet and the businesses that were online received my business.
That was 10 years ago and now it’s even more important to be online since so many people are using mobile devices.
If your customers aren’t online and never will be and you’re sure that they aren’t online (you may be surprised at how many people are online) then maybe you don’t need a website.
According to ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) (http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/ProductsbyCatalogue/ACC2D18CC958BC7BCA2568A9001393AE?OpenDocument)
in 2014 – 2015 85% of people in Australia were internet users and in the aged group of 65 years, 51% of that aged group were online.
Do not make assumptions about your customers. If you’re not sure you could always ask them.
If you really don’t have the money to invest in a website (a good website is an investment and adds to your business), then think about how much extra time you have to build your own. There are DIY options available but all of them have some sort of learning curve.
Maybe you just want to go with social media such as a Facebook page or an Instagram account. Social media is fluid and what’s popular one year may be surpassed by something else next year. You have no control over the trends and you have no control over the platform either.
Facebook has been annoying me recently with the amount of changes that come through without any warning. And yes I’ll whinge about it but the fact is that it’s a free platform and actually they can do what they want with it.
I confess that I’m a recovering control freak so I love the fact that I have more control over my own business website than I do a social media platform that I get for free.
In summary, think about why you want a website. If your business had a website (or already has one) think about what result you want that person visiting your website to take – call you, book an appointment, download information, buy something…. what result do you want from your website?
Start with the end in mind and work backwards.
If you have questions about this drop me a line or connect through social media.
What is an SSL certificate?
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) allows data from your website to be encrypted so that when someone enters personal data (for example username, password or credit card details). If someone intercepted the data it wouldn’t make any sense to them which for personal data is obviously a good thing.
How do you know a website has SSL?
When you shop online if you check the address bar you’ll usually see https:// when an SSL certificate has been installed for that website. It’s one of the things I automatically check before I pay online.
Google and SSL
Google has been encouraging websites to have an SSL certificate for quite a while but for some micro and small businesses it has been too costly. However the cost of SSL certificates has come down and some like Let’s Encrypt are free.
If you buy an SSL certificate from your hosting company then they will usually install it free of charge.
Why mentioning the changes in SSL now?
From January 2017 the Chrome browser will make all websites that allow password or credit cards and do not have SSL as insecure. This means that if you have an e-commerce website that does NOT have SSL because you’ve been told that a third party (such as Paypal) handles the data, Chrome will mark your website as insecure. (https://security.googleblog.com/2016/09/moving-towards-more-secure-web.html)
In May 2016 Chrome overtook over web browsers to become the most used web browser. Whether it’s because it comes pre-installed or whether it’s because people prefer it doesn’t really matter. According to Net Market Share nearly 55% of users are on Chrome (for desktops), with slightly less for mobile devices.
Image from Net Market Share – for more details see: Net Market Share
What if you don’t have an SSL certificate?
If you have a purely informational website then you don’t have to install SSL (yet) although Google is moving that way.
If you have customers enter usernames, passwords or credit card details then you need to install an SSL certificate if you haven’t already done so.
Although it’s easier to install an SSL certificate before doing a website it can be installed afterwards. Most micro and small businesses will need to approach a developer or specialist for help since once the certificate is installed you need to make sure that the web pages are still working correctly.
Warning about Wix and SSL At the time of writing if you have a Wix website it is not possible to add an SSL certificate to your site. A standard reply on several support tickets seems to be: “Any payments made through your Wix site (e.g., WixStores, Wix Hotels, Wix Bookings, Wix Music, or Wix Restaurants) are completed through a secure server. In addition, your personal data and billing information are stored securely. “
Updated: 22nd Feb 2017
Wix have announced that all Wix sites have now been enabled for SSL certificates which can be switched on under manage site.
You need to know this kind of information so it can help you decide what is right for your business.
If you need more information about any of these of points feel free to contact me through my connect form.
I was wondering what to write about today when I received yet another phone call from a small business owner unhappy with their current web designer and wondering what they can do about it.
I understand that it’s tempting to hand everything over to another person, especially when it’s something you don’t understand or it’s not the focus of your business. I know because I’m like that in other areas of my life. BUT (you knew that there was a ‘but’ coming didn’t you 🙂 ) as the business owner of your business the buck stops with you.
This is one of the most popular questions I get asked… Karen I’m on social media but I’m not sure whether I really need a website or not?
So let’s look at what websites do for your business and what social media does….
Social media is great. Seriously, I love it. However, (you knew there was a however coming didn’t you?) it’s not everything. It s a part of your business and marketing plan but I don’t think it should be everything.
Why not? Your business is very important to you.
If you had a shop you wouldn’t want some complete stranger walking in and changing things on you without telling you. Maybe they put a bouncer on the door to prevent your customers from coming in and seeing what you are offering! However that’s what some social media platforms do. Facebook seems to be constantly changing and you are NOT in control of your Facebook page – no matter how many likes and followers that you have. It’s known that unless you pay, your business page posts only go out to a percentage of your followers.
Now I’m not saying this as a website designer, I’m saying this as an online shopper. If I see a business that is selling something that I like on Facebook I go to check out their website. Why? Anyone can set up a Facebook page. That’s why they have introduced business page verification – that tick shows that Facebook has confirmed that there is a real business behind the business page and has verified address etc.
For me, a business that has a website is looking long term and plans to be around for a while. The business wants to have control over the business information they put out there and want their customers to find it easily.
Now I mentioned in the table ‘helps’ to build an email list’. In actual fact I confess that you don’t need to have a website to build an email list. There are platforms where you can set up what is called an ‘opt-in’ page where people will give you their email address in exchange for a free report, download, join a newsletter that kind of thing. These platforms are not cheap and if your reason for not having a website is expense then it’s actually cheaper to have a website long term. If you want to check out these type of platforms look at Lead Pages, click funnel and you’ll find more when you look in a search engine. By the way I like these platforms BUT I would use them with a website and not on their own.
Why would you want people’s email address in the first place?
Let’s assume I’m your someone who’s looking for your product / service. You know this because I’m following you on social media and may have even asked a few questions. However the only way your business can contact me is by sending me a message and on some platforms I may not even see it.
If you offered me a newsletter where I could get special offers, or find out more information that I’d be interested in then I’d be willing to give you my email address in exchange.
Now your business has direct access to me, and you can email me whenever you like. At least you know the email will be delivered to me (whether I read it or not needs to be covered in another topic).
But Karen, I don’t want to send out spam. I get so many emails that I don’t want to be someone sending out more!
Yes I’ve heard that before. Spam is any email that I’m not interested in but you’ve already established that I’m interested in your service / product. Any decent email platform will have an unsubcribe link in the email so people can leave your email list should they choose to.
So in summary, a website gives you credibility and control which you don’t find with social media platforms. It gives you a means of collecting email addresses of interested people who may turn into customers.
For those reasons alone I truly believe that every business should have a website.
Feel free to leave your comments / questions below, whether they’re positive or negative. Seriously, I can handle it 🙂
Since it’s World Hedgehog Day (really it is!), as well as Groundhogs Day it seems a good time to have a post about the Hedgehog concept. It’s a great way to look at the business or organisation that you belong to or that you own.
Firstly let me ask you would you rather be a fox or a hedgehog?
As a small business what goals do you have for your business this year? Here are some of the top goals for small business in 2015.
Since it’s the new year I thought I’d have a WordPress tip on the copyright year found at the bottom of most websites.
There are sooooo many websites on the internet that I like to check that the website I’m looking at is up to date. Sometimes it can be obvious with calendar events, or dates on articles but if not I tend to check the copyright date. This is usually down the bottom of the website in the area known as the footer, for example . © 2015 Business Name — All rights reserved.
I do have a new laptop which is why I have two laptops on my desk. I would love to say that I have one for each hand so I can create websites twice as fast but I don’t think you’d believe that :-).
I am transferring data from my old laptop to my new Windows 8.1 laptop. Now I’ve stopped cursing it and have some programs loaded it that make it do what I want we’re getting along fine.