The Essential Questions to Ask
About Small Business Websites
There’s a lot to take in, isn’t there? You’re doing all this investigation into the world of websites, trying to extract what makes sense for your business — in your unique context. And the subject is… a lot to take in.
I humbly offer myself as your guide.
If you want to skip ahead, look over the map below, and tell me where you would like to go first…
Map of Content:
- Does a small business need a website?
- What features matter most for my website?
- Which features should a website include first?
- Should I build my website myself, or go DIY?
- How do I find a good web designer?
- What questions should you ask?
- How do I get the most value from my website?
- The key elements to remember
Let's start slowly...
Cause we don’t skip intros in this house!
I’d like to give you some context for our conversation.
First, I’ll provide an overview of where we’re going. Then, I’ll give you some ground-level data, in the form of several studies, to set the stage for our discussion.
What it takes to build a successful website is a nuanced topic, and there aren’t many comprehensive guides out there trying to make it clearer for you.
Our research showed endless gurus talking about design trends, style, CTAs, and so on… with each completely neglecting the core business principles making a site valuable in the first place.
In this piece, we will reveal those principles while simultaneously reviewing 7 critical questions to ask as you’re moving through your website project. Through those critical questions, we are going to talk about:
- The real value of a website.
- The qualities a successful site requires.
- How to know which features to add, in what order.
- The truth about DIY versus professional design.
- How to find a professional you can trust.
- The essential questions to ask before hiring them.
- How to ensure it isn’t a waste of time and money.
You’ll find a semi-hidden conceptual thread running throughout what we’re saying here. It can fundamentally shift how you view web assets. Be on the lookout for it.
As a human in the world today, you have access to incredible amounts of information — meaning you’re also one Google search away from floating in an infinite sea of (suspiciously similar) keyword-targeted, seo-optimized listicles — saying a lot without saying much.
Maybe you know what I’m talking about already…
Sturgeon’s Law says: 90% of everything, is crap.
Seems true enough, doesn’t it?
And if that is true, the inverse is true as well.
10% is objectively not crap — and may even hold priceless discoveries.
The coveted secrets.
If we were over-the-top marketers, we might spin what we are about to say, like this…
The big companies don’t want you to know… a website won’t help your business generate more profit without the secret engine powering 91% of the most successful online businesses. BEWARE! If you read on you will learn this incredible secret, and you will want to throw out your current website strategy immediately.
We aren’t like that, but, you do need to know what the overwhelming majority of the internet isn’t telling you.
Grab a beverage. Take your time with this. Leave it open for a while and come back as you need to. There’s a lot of nuance in the conversation. It will take us some time to unravel. Right now, I’m going to ease us gently (with a big bold headline) into the conceptual river.
The thing you haven't been told...
As a resource for customers, and an asset for the small business owner, a website is virtually unmatched in the value it can bring to any business. BUT…
Your site is not magic.
You can’t wave a wand — abracadabra a website into existence — and have it generate customers out of nowhere. There’s a lot more going on in the story.
What many agencies and design firms aren’t telling people is: a business needs more than a website if it is going to thrive.
We could say the same for social media.
Many believe these facts should be obvious… but evidence suggests that may not be the case.
Thanks to mass-media and clever advertising, aspiring entrepreneurs are led to believe that paying customers will fall into their lap if they would just build a great web presence on a custom domain name.
It is not true.
The commercial you saw was a lie.
In our research, we’ve observed that entrepreneurs from all categories tend to misunderstand how a website should be used (once built) to grow their business.
In an overwhelming number of cases, a startup will focus on the details of finding a web developer, overlooking the simple power of a simple, focused, functional site.
They don’t see the interlocking nature of the asset within the rest of the business and how could they? There aren’t many trustworthy voices talking about it.
We don’t blame other firms for ignoring it, this is a tough topic to tackle in universally engaging ways. This article is our current best shot. You’ll tell us if we missed the mark.
Data for Days
That line graph says that (as of February, 2022) 90% of the internet-using world uses Google as their primary method of search. This data shows 4 in 5 users use search engines (Google) to find local information.
Knowing these two facts is enough to expect most businesses to have an online presence of some kind to stand a chance of appearing in search results. Yet again, that expectation is not the reality.
Note: A small fraction of businesses don’t have a website at all. We will talk about them soon.
Others (maybe you) have a site, but they don’t see the point because the site isn’t performing as they’d hoped. So they neglect it, and sooner or later it leads to them being taken less seriously than their competitors.
(We call this optics, and we will talk about it later too…)
A negative feedback loop becomes inevitable.
At the core of both perspectives is a fundamental misunderstanding about how websites fit into the larger systems of a healthy business.
Even if you already know this — even if you’re sitting in your chair, rolling your eyes at me, waiting for me to get to the point — I have to say it… a well-designed, focused website is an essential asset for any small business.
Yet, the process of building an attractive site, and making it effective (ie. one which generates leads, or sales) can be overwhelming. This is especially true for those who are inexperienced at the craft of web design.
No matter which camp you find yourself in — either no website, ugly website, or poorly performing website — Wabbits love to help our tribe so, we’ve written this guide to help you determine which critical elements you will need to consider when building, or rebuilding, your business’s website.
First, the data suggests that people are still asking “why I need a website,” so let’s answer that fundamental, foundational question first.
(If you already know you need one, skim, and I’ll meet you on the other side…)