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Dellinger327
02-11-2014, 11:47 PM
Hello and Greetings,

Long story-short, I established an LLC about 7 months ago and have been operating my automotive detailing business without a website.
Originally, I opted to pay a friend of a friend, the sum of $450, for a template-website (including domain, email, hosting).
That has since fell through.

So, now I have to take on the challenge of creating my own website.

To that point, I have been researching and reading on various internet marketing websites to get some sort of idea on the task.
However, I don't understand the basic language the respondents and reviewer's use, so I can't even comprehend the feedback I get.

I'm horribly handicapped when it comes to the internet and its workings.

So far, my research is leading me to...
SquareSpace.com BUT it doesn't provide personal email service and from what I have read and the 'blog' page(s) do not seem to help with SEO.

I'm really lost right now... my searches keep yielding higher-level stuff targeted toward 'web developers' and I'm definitely not one of them.

I need a flexible platform that provides domain, email, hosting, templates, good mobile viewing, analytics, and options for email marketing etc...

Is there such a provider for my needs? (I think WordPress would fit the bill... but everything I have read is steering me away from it.)

Best regards,
-Dellinger

vangogh
02-12-2014, 04:15 AM
Welcome to the forum Dellinger.

First do understand that $450 for a website is close to nothing. You can get a website for that price. You can get it for less. However, if you really want your site to be effective and help your business it's ultimately going to cost more. Imagine your advertising budget was $450. How much would you reasonably expect as a return?

Having said that let me try my best to answer your questions. Some of the things you're looking for will come from different services.

1. Domain - You get this from a domain registrar. GoDaddy is probably the most popular one, though not everyone likes them. Hover (https://www.hover.com/) is another company I usually hear good things about. You'll want to find a domain that's available. Your business name will be a good choice. Expect to pay around $10/year for your domain.

2.Hosting - GoDaddy offers hosting, but I wouldn't get it through them. Companies I've been using recently include Bluehost, HostGator, and Dreamhost. There are plenty of others and You should expect to pay between $5 and $10 a month. Your hosting will include the ability to add some email accounts.

3. A website - I'm not sure what you've read to steer you away from WordPres. I like it and use it for most sites I build. The same is true of a few other people here. WordPress is free. The company you choose as a host will likely make it easy to install with a couple of clicks. It'll come with a default theme that you'll want to change. When you reach this point we can recommend places to find themes. There are lots of theme. Many are free, but some of the better ones will cost a little money. Say $100 to find a good theme. You can add functionality to the site through plugins. Some are free and some are commercial. Which ones you'll want will depend on what you need and want. It's something we can walk you through when you reach this point.

4. Analytics - Google Analytics is a free option that provides good stats. You need to sign up for an account with Google (http://www.google.com/analytics/). You'll want to have your domain, hosting, and site set up first. There are a few WordPress plugins to make it easy to connect Analytics to your site to start collecting data.

5. Email marketing - There are a variety of different services to use for email marketing. It isn't something you just sign up for though. You don't add emails to a list and then market to those people. The services are going to require you get people to sign up for a list and that means you're going to have to offer some incentive to people to sign up.

I definitely recommend signing up for a domain on your own. It's easy enough to do. Its filling out a form. You can check out the hosting companies I mentioned or find some others. Check them out and decide which you like. We can help you choose a plan, though odds are the lowest cost plan will be fine for you.

WordPress is something you can install on your own, but if you need help with it or want help choosing and installing a theme and plugins you have a couple of options. You can ask and we'll do our best to walk you through. it isn't hard, though it will be unfamiliar. A little guidance and you should be able to do it on your own. If you prefer you can hire someone. A reasonably charge to install WordPress, a theme, and some plugins is a couple or three hundred dollars. Some people will do it for less. If you hire someone to do the work the same person should also be able to set up Google Analytics for you included in the price.

Marketing of any kind, including email marketing is probably a topic for several threads.

Hope that helps. Do ask more questions if you have them.

Dellinger327
02-12-2014, 10:20 AM
Vangough- Many thanks for your feedback.

What you wrote makes perfect sense!

***On a side note (and it may seems like I'm ranting, which I am...), do you know just how hard it is to find relevant and definitive answers to website building questions online for someone who is not well versed?!?!? It's basically a challenge that resides half on Mars and half at the bottom of the ocean. Frustrating to NO END. Never in my life have I found a self directed quest for knowledge on the web so difficult. Ok, done.

Anyway, to your point regarding my original $450 design. Yes, I realize the price was hardly adequate... however, it was a fundraiser by the owner of a 501C3 who was a web developer by trade. The site package was supposedly discounted from $1,200 to $450. Or that's the line I was fed... which from my research is probably truth. Your description of utilizing WordPress as a site builder is exactly what he was doing for me. The theme was from Nova Studios or Elegant Themes.

So, my questions as of now are really just 'confirming' your steps listed above-
A.) The steps should be chronologically executed, as listed above? I assume, "Yes."

B.) My research is leading me to forget about SEO for the time being... however, is there a certain platform that lends itself to aiding SEO 'out of the gate'? Better put- Is there an inherent advantage to anyone platform when considering SEO in the future?

Regarding other Professional Detailer's websites...
I have refrained from really seeking the input of other professional detailers because the industry is plagued with quite a bit of 'group think'. In general, every professional detailer with a half-decent site, has a sliding picture bar at the top of the home page, then one level down 3 icons/pictures with links to their Services/Testimonials/Gallery pages.

Very few, if any, can accurately portray their work. Let me pose an analogy... let's say you are looking for a nice rug for your living room. Your budget is $1,000 (not huge, not cheap.) Every site you come across on the web shows rugs from $500- $5,000. The stock photos on the websites never show the actual $1,000 rug. Instead, the keep showing variations of the $5,000 rug. You make the purchase of the $1,000 rug anyway and when it is delivered... it's not quite what you wanted but you will 'live with it.'
Now, I know a smart consumer wouldn't really do that... some may, but I think the majority would not.

However, my point with the less-than-adequate analogy is that: it's the same with 95% of professional detailer's websites... they show you a BMW or Ferrari that they spent 3 days of compounding and polishing on which most likely cost the owner $2K or more. So when a potential client views their work on their site and only wants a wash/wax... then right off the bat they have the WRONG expectations. The website simply conveys the wrong impression and the client who chose that detailer based off the pictures of the BMW or Ferrari are not satisfied.

I want to 'correct' this and I can take two avenues of approach....
#1 By only having a Home, About, Services, Blog page(s). Include a Facebook widget that slides out onto the home page which will show the photos of my work and use my blog page to further 'write up' the steps and services performed.

#2 Probably the more difficult route... have a hybrid Testimonial/Gallery page sectioned off by each package offered with sub-pages. So for sake of brevity, let's say I have two packages I offer... one is a Wash/Wax...the other is a 2-step Detail. The hybrid Testimonial/ Gallery page has two pictures with text written as the name of each package. You click on Wash/Wax. Then that bring up pictures of all the car I have completed a Wash/Wax on. Let's say you have a Honda Accord, you scroll down the list of car pictures (described with text underneath the clickable picture) then you find an Accord I worked on. You click on that and it leads to another page... which gives you a gallery of before/after shots AND a testimonial (if one is received from the client) that has a comment on the service performed. Honestly, I'm sure this is NOT a easy task and I would probably have to hire someone to complete this, so I am leaning heavily towards #1 and keeping this idea on the back burner until time/ money allow.

I appreciate the insights and feedback!

All the best,
-Dellinger

Enerica
02-12-2014, 06:37 PM
I wouldn't recommend trying to build your own site but if you ARE going to go that route, Wordpress is probably the best, most user-friendly system you could try. What is steering you away from WP?

I freelance for a business consulting firm (Enerica) and we specialize in helping small businesses set up or re-develop their web presence, so feel free to PM me if you have additional questions.

Dellinger327
02-12-2014, 09:34 PM
Enerica-

I can easily 'see' where your good advice is coming from... and believe me, if I had $2K+to plunk down on a site with someone else utilizing their comparative advantage building a website... I would be all about it.

However, I'm $7K deep in my start up, financed by myself with little-to-zero overhead (at this point) and I have to stay that way regarding margin in order to develop some rapport in my local market. You know the gig since you work with small business'. My reserves at this point, I'm unwilling to part with unless absolutely necessary. My business is young and I don't know when something unexpected may come up since I am a new business owner.

So I AM going this route...as you stated. Also, I don't see 'trying' to develope my own personal site as time wasted... I'll learn some things (I won't call them skills, lol) that I really need to have a grasp of, in this day and age. And I'm the first one to admit... my site is going to fail and fail miserably. But when it comes time and I'm successful enough to invest in a paid-professional site... when I have accumulated a good camera and good post-processing software to edit images of my work... then I can move forward with confidence knowing exactly what I want in a site and what I don't. And then I can hire that web professional to bring it all together.

I will not be depending on my business for housing, food, or comfort. My wife and I have allocated our budget to live off of one income and very comfortably at that. So, I can 'wait' and develop the business over time and not have to seek after capital or worry about bills. But that doesn't mean I haven't set a limit in what I'm willing to lose if my business doesn't work out.

Now, regarding WP, in general, what is 'steering me away'...
1.) Flexibility... there are so many plug-ins, themes, and overall "options" that you can change/edit/play around with that it makes my already spinning head... well you get the point. Once I get an answer I feel good with... I then move to another topic... and then- BOOM! -the merry go round happens all over again. Such as a 'static page' vs. a blog based page. Or, all the options of the basic WP... but then I go look at themes and the studio is talking up their own plug-ins and what's compatible and layers. While I can appreciate all the options... they are just overwhelming and when you try to read about them... you just get more lingo.

2.)Security... it seems to me there are some 'default' options that some people just fly past during the initial install... and these 'defaults' allow hackers easy entrance to totally blowing up your site. I've read a guide on what settings or files to change but... I don't understand what the author is saying.

But, I'll probably end up doing WP. Every person/ forum I've sought feedback from keeps pointing to WP.

-Dellinger

Gabe
02-15-2014, 01:37 AM
Go with a CMS or website builder of some sort, it'll make your website a lot easier to build and maintain. I assume your business is a local business, so I'd pick something with better local SEO than Squarespace. I didn't see any mention of local specific SEO/markup on their site.

Domains: I prefer Name.com. They more customer friendly for beginners. For example, they'll setup your DNS records for you where GoDaddy will just point you to the FAQ. Their user interface is also much simpler.

Email: Do not host your email at the same place you host your website. You never want to risk your email and website going down at the same time. Besides, it's always better to have a dedicated email provider for deliverability. I prefer Google Apps, but there are other options. Perhaps the most important reason is that you'll likely switch hosts in the next few years as your needs change and you get a better idea of what you need. If you decide to switch you'll also need to change your email provider. Why put yourself in that position? Just choose a solid email platform so you can stick with it no matter what you decide to do with your website.

Email Marketing: Start off with MailChimp's free plan and go from there. Once you use it for a couple of months you'll have a better idea of what you need.

Like Steve said, Google Analytics is your best bet. It's powerful and free.

Regardless of what you choose, you're doing the right thing by diving in head first. Some business owners decide to hire someone and never learn to do it themselves. It's always better to learn to do it yourself first (even if you suck at it) and hire someone once you have a realistic idea of what you need. Not only will you save money by knowing exactly what you need, but in the future you can do the minor stuff yourself.

vangogh
02-15-2014, 03:43 AM
do you know just how hard it is to find relevant and definitive answers to website building questions online for someone who is not well versed?

Probably no more difficult than it would be to find answers about a lot of things when you're not well versed. Building websites takes time to learn. I do understand your frustration, but keep in mind a lot of what you might be asking could have taken someone years to learn. It's also a discipline where there aren't as many definitive answers as you might expect. The honest answer to most every question regarding websites is it depends, because it really does depend on the specifics of your situation. I do understand though.

A) Yep, pretty much in that order.

B) Seo is just a subset of marketing. It's not something you bolt on to your site at some point down the line. How a site is developed does play a role so it makes sense to develop the site initial with an understanding of what to do and not to do. One reason I like WordPress is because the code is good out of the box. If you add a plugin or two you can have the basics in place as far as site development is concerned. However, it's important to know that seo is really just marketing. You want to consistently create the best content you can on your site and you want to promote that content.


Regarding other Professional Detailer's websites

It's possible all those sites look the same because the site owners are just copying each other. It's also possible the sites do the same things because those things work. It can be good to stand out, but don't necessarily be different just to be different.

Of your two approaches, the first is pretty simple. It's basically a brochure site with a blog. If you can actively blog and blog well it can certainly work. Your blog is what attracts people to the site and leads people to your services. Do understand that blogging isn't easy though. It'll probably take time to really get it to work. Your blog can't be a lot of posts advertising your services. it needs to be something that will interest people and keep them coming back.

The second approach is a good one, but I agree it'll take some work and might be best on hold until you're more able to afford it.


if I had $2K+to plunk down on a site with someone else utilizing their comparative advantage building a website... I would be all about it.

Completely understandable, but remember if you can't afford to hire someone and want to do it yourself, you have to be prepared to spend more time and probably pull back on some of your requirements. I don't think you're asking for anything unreasonable. Just saying to lower expectations.


there are so many plug-ins, themes, and overall "options" that you can change/edit/play around with that it makes my already spinning head

Imagine how much your head would be spinning if you had to write all the code to do what all those themes and plugins do. You do need a theme and yes there are a ton to choose from. Still one or two nights is all it will take to find one. As far as plugins go you don't have to use any. Sure there are a lot, but adding a plugin to your site and setting it up is a lot easier than writing to the code you'd need to write to do what the plugin does.


Security

WordPress is pretty secure. Its security is talked about more because it's used so often. There are definitely attacks aimed directly at WordPress sites, but the people behind WordPress are very quick to fix any holes that are discovered, often within an hour or two. With the most recent versions of WordPress security update should get installed automatically without you having to do a thing. Worst case you have to click a button to update. Every site and system has security holes. There's no such thing as 100% security in anything. WordPress might get attacked more than some platforms, but at least people who know how to fix the problem are fixing it quickly. The alternative is you have to figure out yourself how to plug the security holes in your site.

WordPress is not by any means the only way to go. A lot of people recommend it because compared to the alternatives it's easy to work with. It will take some time to learn, but it will take less time than many other systems. If you wan to see what it's like sign up for an account with WordPress.com (http://wordpress.com/). it's not exactly the same as hosting your own site on WordPress, but it's still WordPress and it's free to join. You can get used to the admin side and play around with the interface to see what you think.

Dan Furman
02-21-2014, 04:42 PM
Your website should look as good and as professional as your detailing. If it doesn't, it may actually *hurt* business. I'd rather see a business have no website than a substandard one. And 999 times out of 1,000, a DIY site from a non-web person looks substandard - total amateur hour in look, in graphics, and in tone. Sorry, but it's true.

Plenty of solid web designers take credit cards.

billbenson
02-21-2014, 05:44 PM
@Dan - Until recently I had a butt ugly oscommerce site that I built years ago. It worked because customers would get frustrated using the site and just call me. Not the ideal web strategy :)

I'd also say that my competitors sites have less information and are harder to find products on. It's a case where beauty, how a customer scans the site etc didn't really matter. I also rank well in G. It's also a pretty niche market as well.

@Dellinger327 - Buy a web design for dummies book. It will teach you all the terminology and the basics of how the web works. Put in an hour or two a night and you should get through it in a week or two.

Also buy a WordPress for dummies book. Read that after you finish the first book. Most if not all people here are going to recommend you use wordpress for your website. I'm not going to go into all of the reasons why, just kind of accept that as a given for now.

I understand but disagree with Dan's statement above. You can make a site with wordpress that will look and work ok. You will eventually want to have a professional redo it, but it is a good starting point IMO.

Harold Mansfield
02-21-2014, 06:44 PM
If you are just building an informative website and ARE NOT expecting the bulk of your leads or sales to come from it, I say go for it. However, if YOU ARE expecting the web to be a significant source of leads and sales then building your own with no design experience, knowing nothing about SEO, Content Management, User experience, Copy-writing, or any kind of web marketing what so ever will be shooting yourself in the foot.

If you are expecting the web to be a sales funnel, then it's the last place that you want to skimp on. Actually, it's where you want to put most of your resources and get professional help. You can learn later, but you want to make money now.

billbenson
02-21-2014, 09:24 PM
If you are just building an informative website and ARE NOT expecting the bulk of your leads or sales to come from it, I say go for it. However, if YOU ARE expecting the web to be a significant source of leads and sales then building your own with no design experience, knowing nothing about SEO, Content Management, User experience, Copy-writing, or any kind of web marketing what so ever will be shooting yourself in the foot.

If you are expecting the web to be a sales funnel, then it's the last place that you want to skimp on. Actually, it's where you want to put most of your resources and get professional help. You can learn later, but you want to make money now.

Ya, but if you don't have the money, you don't have the money! Correct me if I am wrong but I believe both of us started our current careers by self educating ourselves. I think it's a disservice to the OP to say you can't do it on your own.

Dan Furman
02-21-2014, 10:14 PM
Ya, but if you don't have the money, you don't have the money! Correct me if I am wrong but I believe both of us started our current careers by self educating ourselves. I think it's a disservice to the OP to say you can't do it on your own.

well, a few points about this:

1) The web has matured, and with it, consumer expectations. There was a time when any website, no matter how basic, was a force. Today, the only people impressed by 99% of DIY sites are the site owners, and the relatives/friends who lie and say it looks great. I see this all day, every day.

2) Bill, your business is such a niche business (i'm going by your word, because you've never told us what you did) that it likely doesn't matter. If you have to be on the phone all day, then yes, the website probably isn't driving much biz save for the phone number. I'm guessing you're kind of an anomaly in terms of what works online. Which is fine - more power to you (not criticizing in any way, just saying that your biz isn't close to the norm).

If you are going to depend on the web for business / leads, it's to your great benefit to have a nice website. One without the times new roman font stretching 200 characters wide, with no space between bullet points, etc.

Again, this isn't to say a site like that can't work - the guy with the videogame stores proved you can have a crappy site and still get a phone call. But then again, he was in an industry of one. Little choice for the searcher.

To me, having a bad-looking website is akin to having a cardboard sign in front of your business.

billbenson
02-21-2014, 10:53 PM
well, a few points about this:

1) The web has matured, and with it, consumer expectations. There was a time when any website, no matter how basic, was a force. Today, the only people impressed by 99% of DIY sites are the site owners, and the relatives/friends who lie and say it looks great. I see this all day, every day.

2) Bill, your business is such a niche business (i'm going by your word, because you've never told us what you did) that it likely doesn't matter. If you have to be on the phone all day, then yes, the website probably isn't driving much biz save for the phone number. I'm guessing you're kind of an anomaly in terms of what works online. Which is fine - more power to you (not criticizing in any way, just saying that your biz isn't close to the norm).

If you are going to depend on the web for business / leads, it's to your great benefit to have a nice website. One without the times new roman font stretching 200 characters wide, with no space between bullet points, etc.

Again, this isn't to say a site like that can't work - the guy with the videogame stores proved you can have a crappy site and still get a phone call. But then again, he was in an industry of one. Little choice for the searcher.

To me, having a bad-looking website is akin to having a cardboard sign in front of your business.


No argument Dan other than to say this is a skill that can be learned by many people. Web design is a peculator thing. It's an odd thing in that it takes artistic skills and combines them with web marketing skills. That's a contributing factor as to why there are so few skilled web designers IMO.

In my case, I put together a site that worked because I had two pieces of the puzzle. I'm technical and I know marketing and sales.

In my opinion the marketing and sales part is the most important. Whether you are talking about brick and mortar or the web.

But in the case of the OP, if he / she can make a WP site with a decent template, that is better than no site at all.

I've made a number of posts on this but I think small business owner (and stupid web managers for large companies) should make a web site that makes the first page of G. How do you expect to manage a web designer if you don't know anything about web design?

Dan Furman
02-22-2014, 12:53 AM
No argument Dan other than to say this is a skill that can be learned by many people. Web design is a peculator thing. It's an odd thing in that it takes artistic skills and combines them with web marketing skills. That's a contributing factor as to why there are so few skilled web designers IMO.

In my case, I put together a site that worked because I had two pieces of the puzzle. I'm technical and I know marketing and sales.

In my opinion the marketing and sales part is the most important. Whether you are talking about brick and mortar or the web.

But in the case of the OP, if he / she can make a WP site with a decent template, that is better than no site at all.

I've made a number of posts on this but I think small business owner (and stupid web managers for large companies) should make a web site that makes the first page of G. How do you expect to manage a web designer if you don't know anything about web design?

There's only ten places on the first page of G. It's hard to do for a lot of businesses.

I do agree that someone with some skill can make something passible out of wordpress, and it is a good skill to learn, but in my experience, that's (way) more talk than action. That's why I generally discourage that path. You have to be pretty good to do anything of note in wordpress. Everyone can write "hello world" - very few can even put that in a graphic and make the text wrap around it nice.

I dunno - to my way of thinking, it's an odd place to look to save $$. A good website can be had for between 2-5k, including copywriting and some nice pictures/photoshop work. I would encourage almost any business to get a solid web presence. Sooooo many businesses don't, it's easy to stand out.

billbenson
02-22-2014, 01:24 AM
I don't think we are disagreeing with each other here Dan. Most people who come to this forum as newbee's starting a business fail. I've read that most millionaires have filed bankruptcy at least once.

What I'm really disagreeing with is advising people not to 'go for it'. Worst case is they learn something.

Dan Furman
02-22-2014, 04:44 PM
I don't think we are disagreeing with each other here Dan. Most people who come to this forum as newbee's starting a business fail. I've read that most millionaires have filed bankruptcy at least once.

What I'm really disagreeing with is advising people not to 'go for it'. Worst case is they learn something.

Yea, we're more "discussing" than disagreeing. And the furthest thing from my mind is discouraging from going for it. In fact, I encourage it - whip out that credit card and get a nice website!! :)

Harold Mansfield
02-22-2014, 06:22 PM
I wouldn't discourage anyone from going for it either, and I agree that it's something that every small business owner should learn something about.
However, you are kidding yourself if you think (with no experience or knowledge) that you can put together a website that ranks for anything, generates leads, and makes a positive impression on potential clients..and put that together in a couple of weeks..or even months.

It will be months or even years before you realize all of the mistakes that you made and how many ways you drove people to the competition and cost yourself money.

I agree with Dan, it is the very last place that you want to skimp. If you don't have the money, then get the money. Most of us bootstrapped together our businesses, but that doesn't mean that you have to go into it with the attitude that most people fail anyway...may as well half ass it and see what happens.

People/Customers don't care that you didn't have the money. That's all the more reason for them to do business with someone else.

If your website is crappy, all of your efforts and money that you spend on marketing and advertising will be a complete waste. Cards? A waste. Advertising? A waste. Networking? A waste. It's all a waste because your site is the FIRST place people go to check you out. It's the core of your marketing. It's how people will see your company. Perception is everything. If your site isn't professional, then what reason would anyone have to believe that your business is?

If you can't afford to do it at least half way decent, then you really need to take a step back because you really can't afford to go into business.

I'm not saying this as a web designer. I'm saying this as a business owner living in the real world.

This ain't the 90's anymore. There is no more "just enough to get by". If you can't afford to build a website, then don't put up a home made, amateur web presence that makes you look like a crappy business. It's better not to have one at all.

Sean_DeSilva
02-27-2014, 10:57 AM
I don't think you should spend money for a website at first. Maybe in three months after you've seen some calls, you can go ahead and buy a domain name and have a website built. But for now, stick with the basic website from a simple website builder like weebly.com or WordPress.com. Keep it to one page with an about us section, a way to contact you, and a map of your location.

If you want to get extra fancy, maybe have a contact form at the bottom. But the emphasis should be on the phone number as that is the main point of contact for your type of business.

Others have mentioned that having a plain website is worse than not having a website at all. I disagree for a couple reasons. Number one, you have a shot at obtaining clients that businesses with no website completely miss. Number two, customer perceptions are flexible and customers know not to expect the same quality website from a small business as they would from Microsoft. As a general rule, the message of your website is more important than the aesthetic elements anyways. Is there something unique about your service, your guarantee? do you have a host of credibility elements like testimonials and pictures from past projects? These are the things that really count and cause people to pick up the phone.

But don't take my word for it, install some analytics and count for yourself how many calls you get that you wouldn't have gotten without a website.

Harold Mansfield
02-27-2014, 11:57 AM
I don't think you should spend money for a website at first. Maybe in three months after you've seen some calls, you can go ahead and buy a domain name and have a website built. But for now, stick with the basic website from a simple website builder like weebly.com or WordPress.com. Keep it to one page with an about us section, a way to contact you, and a map of your location.

If you want to get extra fancy, maybe have a contact form at the bottom. But the emphasis should be on the phone number as that is the main point of contact for your type of business.

Others have mentioned that having a plain website is worse than not having a website at all. I disagree for a couple reasons. Number one, you have a shot at obtaining clients that businesses with no website completely miss. Number two, customer perceptions are flexible and customers know not to expect the same quality website from a small business as they would from Microsoft. As a general rule, the message of your website is more important than the aesthetic elements anyways. Is there something unique about your service, your guarantee? do you have a host of credibility elements like testimonials and pictures from past projects? These are the things that really count and cause people to pick up the phone.

But don't take my word for it, install some analytics and count for yourself how many calls you get that you wouldn't have gotten without a website.

I have to respectfully disagree.

This approach may work in a small town, but not with a new company that is looking to do business with the world. You also need to take into consideration who your target audience is. If you are building a website for a Senior Bridge Club, not a problem. They likely aren't very tech savvy and probably just need the information on a plain white page.

But, as I said before, if you expect your website to be a part of your marketing and a source of contacts and potential business then putting up a Weebly or free WordPress site is going to make you look to potential clients like some kid in his moms basement. And more than likely those people will never come back when you finally get it together.

People aren't playing around anymore. No one is going to understand, or give you a second chance like this is High School. This is the real world full of adults. If you want to go into business it is expected that you do this well. A good website is not optional anymore. It's not a fad.

You can't go out there in the world as if you are the only game in town. No matter what you do, you have competitors from day one. Competition is steep. And they've already hit the ground running and are 5 steps ahead of you. If you think your free WordPress.com website is going to be just fine against your competitors who have taken this seriously, you are kidding yourself.

As you can see I'm very insistent on this issue. I think telling someone that it's not that big a deal, and to get around to it when they can is bad advice in 2014 and is nothing to be played with. While you are testing to see if your free website is OK, you have turned off money.

Now, if you are the only game in town and people have no choice but to come to you, you may be able to get away with anything for a while.

I'd have a nice website before I even had business cards. Actually I did. I just got cards last year. But my website (in one incarnation or another) has been bringing me business for 4 years. It's that important.

That doesn't mean that you have to spend thousands. But you do need to take it seriously. Assuming you have no marketing and ad budget to speak of, your website is going to be all you have. Don't start missing opportunity right out of the gate.

billbenson
02-27-2014, 06:37 PM
The part I would strongly disagree with is using a website builder. I would never recommend that.

Gabe
03-13-2014, 02:02 AM
I'm a bit late to this, but this made me chuckle.


The part I would strongly disagree with is using a website builder. I would never recommend that.

I find it hard to believe that you would not recommend a website builder under any circumstances, ever. That makes me question your relevance.

In fact, I'd challenge you to put up some of the websites you've built and I can put some up by various website builder that you 'would never recommend.' I'd wager that many of the newer website builders would beat your websites in design quality, page load speed, http requests, mobile friendly/responsiveness, SEO readability, etc.

Even before I built our website builder Just Add Content (http://justaddcontent.com/) I recommended website builders in certain situations. I still recommend HappyTables (http://happytables.com) for restaurant websites and Shopify (http://shopify.com) for online stores. They just make sense for some businesses.

Consider this:
Assume there's a business owner who opened a new restaurant. His marketing budget for the period is $5,000. Should be spend $4,000+ hiring a web designer for a custom website, or should he get something that's 'good enough for now' from HappyTables (http://www.happytables.com/) or Restaurant Engine (http://restaurantengine.com) for ~$45 a month?

I'd recommend a website builder every time, especially if the budget is tight and there is a relevant, high quality website builder available. I agree most website builders are crap (they're built for hobby/consumer sites), but some aren't. The web changes fast and paying $3,000+ every few years for a website redesign gets expensive. How many of your past customers' websites aren't built with HTML5? How many aren't responsive? How much would they have to pay you to update them in that way? Those problems don't exist with some of the newer website builders.

$3,000 into marketing and a decent website goes much farther than $0 dollars into marketing and a great looking, expensive website every time...especially when that $3,000 website is on a $5/mo. hosting account and takes 8 seconds to load (I've seen it).

Website design very is important. Businesses should aspire to hire a great web designer like Harold, Woz, etc. to create an incredible website that truly represents their brand, but some businesses just aren't there yet. Until then, website builders are available as a practical solution until that kind of investment makes sense.

So, let's get back to the point...


The part I would strongly disagree with is using a website builder. I would never recommend that.

To say that you would never recommend a website builder makes me think 1) you're outdated and don't know what tools are available these days or 2) you let your opinions/motivations get in the way or recommending what's best to the customer. Either way, the customer gets a bad deal.

Rule #1 is do what's best for the customer, always. No matter what. As a professional, there is no excuse for making poor recommendations, whether it's through dishonesty or ignorance.

Now Bill, I've read so many of your posts on here and I have a hell of a lot of respect for you (you're a smart guy), so I really don't think you meant that you'd truly never recommend a website builder. Or did you?

Harold Mansfield
03-13-2014, 10:43 AM
Gabe,
I know that may have struck a nerve with you since that's the business you're in, but I seriously don't think Bill (nor I) was putting WordPress in the same category as that. (I also don't need to speak for Bill). I personally make my living with and because of WordPress.

Actually I'm pretty sure we both recommended WordPress as a solution in this thread.

When I say site builder I'm thinking Go Daddy, 1and1, Web.com, and Wix. Limited solutions with limited design, functionality, and control.
Those suck, and you know it, and that's probably why you decided to give a better option.

Obviously WordPress isn't that way and now that I think about it, there are a few out there that aren't your typical boring site builders.
Squarespace, and for eCommerce Big Commerce comes to mind.
(By the way, you should probably use the word 'WordPress' in your marketing to separate yourself from the stigma of those other suck *ss solutions.)

So obviously I was also a little too general when downplaying the use of a site builder service, however, this brings up a good example of how that stigma of the old school site builders is your probably your biggest marketing challenge.

I go through the same thing:
"Oh, you're a web designer? The last guy I hired to build my website ripped me off"

When I was a bartender:
"Oh you're a bartender? I can't go out with you, you've probably slept with every woman in here already".

When I was a limo driver:
"Oh you're a limo driver? Hey, know where I can get some good 'party favors'?

When I was doing telephone sales:
"Oh, so you're the guy that calls when I'm having dinner."

Given that history, I should probably be a little more careful myself when I'm making sweeping generalizations.

billbenson
03-13-2014, 12:09 PM
Gabe,
I know that may have struck a nerve with you since that's the business you're in, but I seriously don't think Bill (nor I) was putting WordPress in the same category as that. (I also don't need to speak for Bill). I personally make my living with and because of WordPress.

Actually I'm pretty sure we both recommended WordPress as a solution in this thread.

When I say site builder I'm thinking Go Daddy, 1and1, Web.com, and Wix. Limited solutions with limited design, functionality, and control.
Those suck, and you know it, and that's probably why you decided to give a better option.

Obviously WordPress isn't that way and now that I think about it, there are a few out there that aren't your typical boring site builders.
Squarespace, and for eCommerce Big Commerce comes to mind.
(By the way, you should probably use the word 'WordPress' in your marketing to separate yourself from the stigma of those other suck *ss solutions.)

So obviously I was also a little too general when downplaying the use of a site builder service, however, this brings up a good example of how that stigma of the old school site builders is your probably your biggest marketing challenge.

I go through the same thing:
"Oh, you're a web designer? The last guy I hired to build my website ripped me off"

When I was a bartender:
"Oh you're a bartender? I can't go out with you, you've probably slept with every woman in here already".

When I was a limo driver:
"Oh you're a limo driver? Hey, know where I can get some good 'party favors'?

When I was doing telephone sales:
"Oh, so you're the guy that calls when I'm having dinner."

Given that history, I should probably be a little more careful myself when I'm making sweeping generalizations.


I seriously don't think Bill (nor I) was putting WordPress in the same category as that.

WP is not a website builder. My intent was exactly as Harold described. Beyond that, web site builders only teach you how to use website builders. Hardly a useful talent.

Wozcreative
03-13-2014, 12:48 PM
WP is not a website builder. My intent was exactly as Harold described. Beyond that, web site builders only teach you how to use website builders. Hardly a useful talent.

Wordpress IS a website builder! Have you seen the newest upgrades in the last year? It has a WYSIWYG format to it.
So is "dreamweaver".. they are website builders!

It is all a matter of "how" you use these tools though. You can use a website builder all you want.. but no professional would be using it because they understand the limitations. "
Someone said something about spending $3,000 every few years.. you can choose to get a site developed top notch and leave it as is.. its better than DIYing your website by yourself making it look cheap and dirty.

billbenson
03-13-2014, 06:13 PM
Wordpress IS a website builder! Have you seen the newest upgrades in the last year? It has a WYSIWYG format to it.
So is "dreamweaver".. they are website builders!

It is all a matter of "how" you use these tools though. You can use a website builder all you want.. but no professional would be using it because they understand the limitations. "
Someone said something about spending $3,000 every few years.. you can choose to get a site developed top notch and leave it as is.. its better than DIYing your website by yourself making it look cheap and dirty.

Jeez Woz, you always like nit picking at this stuff. Harold had the correct interpretation of my post

Wozcreative
03-13-2014, 06:43 PM
Jeez Woz, you always like nit picking at this stuff. Harold had the correct interpretation of my post

I'm not really nit picking.. just replying to your last comment when you said Wordpress isn't a website builder. It has become one since the new updates. Have you seen it? This is an issue as some of my clients have hired "developers" who used that wordpress website builder that's built in. It is my 2c to the post, so you can call it nit picking if you want. Some people still think wordpress is a "BLOG" and don't know what it's actually capable of.

Harold Mansfield
03-13-2014, 08:40 PM
I'm not really nit picking.. just replying to your last comment when you said Wordpress isn't a website builder. It has become one since the new updates. Have you seen it? This is an issue as some of my clients have hired "developers" who used that wordpress website builder that's built in. It is my 2c to the post, so you can call it nit picking if you want. Some people still think wordpress is a "BLOG" and don't know what it's actually capable of.

What new website builder in WordPress? Are you sure you aren't talking about some 3rd party plug in or a framework?

WordPress has always had a WYSIWYG page and post editor. But that doesn't mean a hill of beans. If you don't know HTML, CSS and some PHP you can't build anything original or customize an existing WordPress site or theme...just like any other website.

ToddPettee
04-12-2014, 05:04 AM
I read though this thread and it seems that Dellinger never really got the help he needed.

My input would be that you can definitely build a website on your own with WordPress. I've written a guide that has helped hundreds of people do just that. Sure, the first version of your site may not look and function exactly like you need it to, but if you keep working on it, it'll get there.

Damon the Marketer
04-12-2014, 10:34 AM
What new website builder in WordPress? Are you sure you aren't talking about some 3rd party plug in or a framework?

WordPress has always had a WYSIWYG page and post editor. But that doesn't mean a hill of beans. If you don't know HTML, CSS and some PHP you can't build anything original or customize an existing WordPress site or theme...just like any other website.

He's probably talking about a theme. Many wordpress themes make website building much easier.

irishmoe
04-13-2014, 05:34 AM
Listen Dellinger, I had the same issue as you while back. I wanted to build my own site for my copywriting/translation business but I was completely lost for months. I went with Wordpress and trawled through an endless catalogue of free themes to make the site look a bit more pro. But in the end I went with a paid theme and I haven't looked back. A developer called Elegant themes sells access to something like 80 or 90 themes for $89. They have this theme called "Divi" that is unbelievably easy to use. It helped me a lot, I was a complete novice, and while my site doesn't look super duper stylish, it does look nice. I've got no affiliation with the theme developers, I'm just trying to give you the benefit of my experience as someone who was in the same boat.

ToddPettee
04-16-2014, 02:10 AM
Listen Dellinger, I had the same issue as you while back. I wanted to build my own site for my copywriting/translation business but I was completely lost for months. I went with Wordpress and trawled through an endless catalogue of free themes to make the site look a bit more pro. But in the end I went with a paid theme and I haven't looked back. A developer called Elegant themes sells access to something like 80 or 90 themes for $89. They have this theme called "Divi" that is unbelievably easy to use. It helped me a lot, I was a complete novice, and while my site doesn't look super duper stylish, it does look nice. I've got no affiliation with the theme developers, I'm just trying to give you the benefit of my experience as someone who was in the same boat.

I'd have to agree with "irishmoe" here.

There are themes out there that will be very close to the design and functionality you're looking for. You just need to keep searching and find the theme that fits your needs. It can take a while, but it's worth it.

And as he points out, your site won't look super professional at first, but it'll be better than nothing and give you something to build on over time.

Dan Furman
04-24-2014, 12:40 PM
Now, a question I do have... when 'You' (as in website developers) speak of clumsy, amateurish DIY websites... what are the common symptoms that immediately jump out at you? Better put- When a landing page loads... you immediately know someone designed their own site, who knows absolutely nothing about proper site etiquette or site design... what tells you this?

Best regards,
-Dellinger

Yea, it's a late reply, but we all go through those busy periods...

This is a hard question to answer. For me, it's usually little things - the text doesn't wrap nicely around the picture. There's no space between multiple line bullet points (a big pet peeve of mine.) The text stretches to 200 characters wide. The writing is amateurish. No "nice" logo or page banner. The last blog post was four months ago. There's a mothers day sale on fathers day...

Basically, a lot of the stuff I have issues with is exactly the kind of stuff that a DIY person can't fix in the WYSIWYG editor - that little text wrapping or spacing issue, that graphic that for some reason is outside the header border, etc.

These things all take me out of a site. And here's the rub - you won't even know, because your family and friends are no help here. I see it all the time. Somebody I know on facebook starts a biz, they use some cheap site builder, put up a horrible site, and everyone says "congratulations" "looks great" "so proud of you" etc etc. I say nothing, because I'd crap all over the love fest. Then the site gets them zero leads, and they wonder why.

Expanding on this, it may seem shallow, but we're all like this to a degree: as a customer, I want to see that you put money into your business. Or better yet, I don't want to "see" the parts you didn't put money into. If I hire a contractor, the condition of his truck matters me to. Because that tells me about his success. I don't want to do business with someone who clearly has no money. Because that tells me they aren't good enough at what they do to get the nicer site (truck/etc).

You need to hide the "we're broke" as much as you can in terms of your presentation. It's ok to be new, mind you. It's ok to be broke, too. But don't let me (the customer) see you're broke. Ever.

I hope this helps.