A staggering statistic is that 80% of small business websites fail to provide a positive return on investment. While we specialise in paid search, the overwhelming request from our clients is to build them a website that works. Having dived deep into the state of the website building industry of late, we emerge with some reasons why small business websites consistently fail to deliver.
Business owners don’t know what they need
Small business owners are busy. They wear many hats and the buck stops with them. While they know their business the best, in terms of how to design a website to represent their business, they’re often not completely sure. They may have broad goals of being #1 on Google, know how products should be presented or what the brand should convey. But how to attract an audience, how to funnel that audience to the right places and how to convert website traffic into sales is more of a specialist skill.
Agencies are not accountable for performance
A lot of website design agencies who build small business websites are faced with a problem. To make economic sense they need to produce a lot of websites, fast. And, it’s a competitive market so prices get lowered and delivery times get shorter. As a result, the quality suffers. This quality is not visible on the surface as the design may look fantastic, but a lot will be missed that impacts long-term performance.
Suppliers perpetuate the problem
Companies like Wix and Squarespace spend a lot of money advertising how easy it is to build a website saying a site can be built within hours, will look awesome and costs as little as $25 a month. It’s great these tools exist to help businesses get a DIY website presence up quickly, but more is required to build a website that delivers long term value. Even if there is ongoing effort by the business, limitations on inflexible platforms may result in, yet again, another website rebuild.
The website design industry for small business today relies heavily on a design-led approach. This means that a slick design is produced which often looks impressive on the surface. Repurposing templates with pre-built themes and plug-ins, like a modern kit home, results in everything coming together quickly.
This satisfies the clients need for a new looking website and satisfies the agencies need for a fast, efficient build. The problem comes when traffic fails to arrive and leads fail to be delivered. The business owner doesn’t know how to fix it and the agency is now free of their obligations.
When you’re thinking about building a website for your business it’s natural to want a modern, good looking website. Yet this approach on its own often neglects to include important information, intuitive pathways and relevant calls to action that a user (or customer) can easily relate to.
The better alternative to a design-led approach is to follow a very different ‘experience-led’ approach.
To do this, ask yourself, why did you visit the last website you went to? It’s highly likely you had a specific objective in mind. In experience-led design, we call this a user task. This is why it is important to turn the tables on the way you think about your website. You need to boil it down to understanding the key tasks your customers need to complete to learn, buy or self-serve quickly and efficiently from you on your website.
This type of approach will drastically change the way you look at and design your website. And, it will drastically change the return you get compared with simply putting up an attractive looking online brochure of your business, which is what most (well 80%) of small business websites are.
In fact, if the process of building your website doesn’t challenge your business model (even just a little bit) then you haven’t gone far enough.
The Result of an Experience-led Design
Applying an experience-led design results in the following:
- A website foundation that still looks great but can also grow and evolve with the business direction.
- A roadmap to add new features when key events occur, in line with business budgets and customer behaviour.
- The creation of meaningful, useful content so that your website becomes the Wikipedia of the industry you represent.
- A transparent, cohesive and entertaining story of your business allowing your customers to choose their own specific adventure.
- Key success metrics so any optimisations can be tested appropriately.
Why Small Business Websites Fail
The reason small business websites fail is because websites are now a commodity. A commodity that fails to address the unique needs of the individual audience it should serve. A design-led approach can pass the initial sniff test of the business and entitle the design agency to take its fee. What is needed is an experience-led approach aimed at the online tasks of your customers. This should includes a long-term plan for your website to grow and evolve to ensure a great looking design also delivers results.
How to know if your website needs help
When looking at your business website, seek the answers to these questions to see if it needs more work:
- Has my website traffic increased month on month since it was built?
- Has my average ranking in Google search improved?
- Does the website provide unbiased, useful content to help people solve problems, in terminology they understand?
- Do I provide customers multiple roads to reach the same destination, and are those destinations representative of the products or services I sell?
- Do my call to actions appear in the right places and do they consider customers may be at different stages of the sales process?
About Sling Digital
At Sling Digital we don’t set out to build just websites. We prefer to create a sound experience-led digital strategy. Any website built after this will be a result of that strategy. This methodology will ensure your customers are at the heart of the design, as we know this will be best for your business.