Going Off Track with Website DesignYou naturally want your business to have as great an appearance online as possible, within your budget. We all want to put our best foot forward. Online, that means having a website that represents your business well. A website that can be found, and that engages your prospective customers in such as way as to get them to call you, make an appointment, or show up at your business or store.

Representing your business ‘well’ can easily become a black hole to pour money into. Not that it’s necessarily expensive: custom websites have become much cheaper than they were even 5 years ago. No, what happens isn’t that the absolute cost is high, it’s that what you pay for is the completely wrong thing for your business.

You may think I’m crazy for saying that. You wouldn’t believe how often it’s true.

About half the time I start working for a small business client, or even if I meet them through a class I’m teaching or a speaking event, when I hear about their frustrations, the story is always the same:

The business owner needed a new website – someone had said the website was looking old and tired and they should get with it so their business would look like it was alive and fresh. (So far, that’s decent reasoning.) So, thinking the website’s problem is about ‘looking good’ the business owner looks for someone to design a better look. That’s a website designer. Frequently a website designer is either a developer (writes html and css code) or a graphic designer (makes stuff look good). (Now this is getting complicated, right?)

So they hire the website designer/developer/artistic person/coder and get a new website. Most of the time the business owner is responsible for the content (all the words on the site) and sometimes for the graphics as well.

What the business owner usually ends up with is a beautiful site that has mediocre copy (words) on it, sometimes decent graphics, and absolutely NO IDEA HOW THIS WILL BRING IN BUSINESS(Sorry about the all caps – this gets me in the gut every time.)

AND they’ve spent all the money they’ve budgeted for online marketing on this website. So, they’re all done. But what they have is basically a beautiful hole in the ground with no plant that will grow and build the business.

Then, when I come into the picture the question is always: why am I not getting more business? I just paid big bucks (thousands – not even a super cheap website, but thousands were paid) for my beautiful new website and I’m not getting any more customers? Do you have any idea why? Oh, and by the way, I don’t have any more money to spend on this because I was told all I needed was a great website, so don’t tell me I have to spend any more money.

Geez… what a lose-lose setup. The business owner believed a beautiful website was going to make them more money – get them more customers. The person they did business with probably believes that too – or they just love what they do and don’t care about the return on investment of the business owner. Then the site doesn’t do squat. And that reinforces that websites are just a necessary evil expense for businesses and it’ll be a cold day in h*ll before that business owner will pay that money for another website. Time will go by, their site will start to look dusty, old, uninhabited, and in need of another beautiful face lift – and the whole cycle begins again.

Here’s the reality: your website is an ASSET to be optimized to get a RETURN on it. It’s NOT an expense. It’s real estate you own on the web and it’s up to you to figure out how to get it to bring in customers. That’s really its PRIMARY purpose: to bring in new customers.

Your website isn’t about looking pretty – it’s about doing the work that needs to be done so people online can:

  1. Find you
  2. Get to know you
  3. Figure out whether you’re real
  4. Experience the value you deliver
  5. Eventually feel confident enough to exchange money with you for services or goods

If your website isn’t doing that work, then you’re leaving money on the big digital table in the cloud every day.

Here’s what this is like:

  • Getting your hair done so your digestion is better.
  • Wearing beautiful clothes so that you can have better conversations with people.
  • Buying a beautiful home so that your commute is better.

A tenuous connection may exist between beautiful websites and more business, but it’s not the core component of what makes a difference.

So stop throwing money away on design you don’t need. Take a good, long look at Amazon.com and ask yourself if beautiful design is what’s making them money. In this case, beautiful design has EVERYTHING to do with FUNCTION – a streamlined buying experience that’s unparalleled on the web – and very little to do with graphic design (aside from color and shape of buttons, size and type of font). It’s about the copy, the placement, the process you go through – and that’s all backed up by a very deep understanding of consumer marketing and sales.

If you really want a website that increases your revenues by a significant % as well as your profits, get some marketing help, not design help.