Like Me? Follow Me.
When you work in the internet business it is amazing how many times you get asked for advice on websites from family and friends. This week was no different when a friend and I were approached by an acquaintance asking some questions.
He is one of the many millions of people around the world who have no background in computers, no technical knowledge, no design knowledge and certainly no search engine optimisation knowledge who set up a simple site with Yahoo! The reason he did so was he felt under pressure from customers who kept asking for his website address.
Now, you may ask if his business needed a website, and the simple answer is not as a sales and marketing tool. He runs a small business teaching martial arts classes in local gyms and schools. His is not an online business and he currently does not rely on online traffic to drum up business or get his message across. However, in the day and age in which we live, whether or not a small business needs a website in order to find customers, customers expect to find a website no matter the size of the company or the service they provide.
Now, back to the problem in hand. With his experience level, he had in fact set up a site which currently generates up to 200 visits a day; but it is a simple site designed by a novice and he knows that his customers would like to see something a little prettier. So, his first question was, "What will it cost to fix my website?"
What do I need to do to fix my website?
The first thing my friend asked him was "What do you need to get from your website?"
This may seem like an odd question, but if all he needs is a resource where his students or their parents can look up locations and times of different classes, then his website needs a lot less work than if he wants to allow online bookings, offer instructional videos, install a forum and sell equipment via an online shop.
His website will also look different if he has capital to invest and is looking to expand his business or whether he only has a small cash resource and just wants some information online so he can direct people with questions to the website.
He explained that he just wants information on the site for his current students - his classes are already oversubscribed so he can't cope with the website bringing him any additional business. He's not yet at a stage where he is looking to market his business more broadly or expand his clientele but he does want a professional look and feel to his website to mirror the fact that he runs a professional, legitimate business and he is fully qualified to teach martial arts classes to children. So followed the next question -
Does my business need a professional web designer yet?
Essentially, he does not yet need a professionally-designed and built website - yet. At some point in the future he may have the resources to take his business to the next stage of development and he may want to put some money into a bespoke website and some internet marketing - but right now, what he needs is a simple do-it-yourself solution.
We recommended WordPress. This is an Open Source piece of blog software that he can download and install for free which enables him to create static pages with information that will remain relatively unchanged, will allow him to link out to resources he finds useful and will enable him to make quick news updates if he wants to let people know about upcoming events, demonstrations, etc.
What is WordPress and will I be able to manage it?
WordPress is W3C compliant, creates a user-friendly navigational structure, can be set-up so it is very search engine friendly, is completely customisable so he can change themes at will and, best of all, is well-supported. So, even though he should rarely have to do any actual HTML coding, if he does, he has a vast online resource to help him.
In the meantime, he will not only be able to provide a useful resource for his customers, he will be establishing a trusted domain which will be found and indexed by search engines. By the time he is ready to launch a professionally designed site and begin his first internet marketing campaign, his domain name will have some weight to it and he'll have already cleared the first hurdle.
Hopefully when that time comes, he'll remember that we gave him good advice and come back and ask for more.