Those of you who visit this site regularly may have noticed a few changes – yes, we made time in our schedule to work on our own website! Feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive, and we’re really proud of it – but why is doing your own website so hard? Having just gone through the process ourselves, here are my thoughts:
This goes for your own marketing in general, I think, not just your website – you’re simply too embedded in the day-to-day work within your own business to get a clear idea of how others see you, and what you may need to do to overcome any objections they may have about working with you. We used to run an event called ‘Changing Websites’ – like Changing Rooms but for websites! – where we would make over a delegate’s website, live and against the clock, using audience feedback to guide us. We’d encourage the audience to criticise each other’s websites and it was quite amazing to see how surprised people were to hear what others REALLY thought about their websites. I did a presentation recently for a local networking group, and just for a change, I gave the audience quite a lot of background information about me (as a person!) and one of the delegates remarked afterwards that I was ‘so different to how she thought I would be’. Inspired by this comment, I’ve been asking a lot of people lately about how they perceive our business – and what their first impressions are of me personally too. As a result, you’ll see that on this website we’ve tried to make the tone of the site a lot less corporate – we’ve tried to make our personality come across and used some informal photographs of ourselves as well as the more formal ones you’ll see around the site.
You may have noticed the obvious flaw in the ‘ask people what they think about you’ approach mentioned above – most of the time people will be far too polite – or British! – to tell you to your face what they think of your site. Far better to ask them anonymously – through surveys, user testing, analysis of your Analytics and more. Also, people forget that the only website users they usually talk to are their customers – what about all the visitors who didn’t enquire? A client with a very high bounce rate and low conversion rate once told me that there was ‘clearly no problem’ with her website because everyone told her how good it is – forgetting that she was only talking to the people who liked it enough to buy from her!
What do you do, when you have a limited amount of time available, and clients paying you money to provide them with a service? You look after the clients first, of course, and leave working on your own website until you’ve ‘got time’ – which of course you never have. In the end you just have to make time – we cleared our diaries one day and worked flat out on the site to get it finished. And we delegated some of the work of writing our new content to a copywriter.
We all want our websites to be ‘just so’ and many clients come to us with a wish list as long as their arm, of all the things they want to include on their new website. But striving for perfection often translates into ‘never finishing the job’. A website – especially now that we have open source content management systems at our disposal to make it easy to update and add to our sites at a later stage – should never be completely ‘finished’ and should grow and evolve with us. Sometimes you just have to make it live and accept that you’ll need to finish some parts of it another day.
In our case, we clearly have no choice, because we need to showcase our skills and show clients what we can do. Our website isn’t just a source of information about our website, it’s a practical example of our work. But if I were advising a friend just starting their own business – I’d say, please think carefully before you decide to build your own website. Quite apart from the fact that most home-made sites simply look unprofessional (and what kind of message does that send out?), building your own (decent!) website is actually very hard, even for a web designer. You don’t just need technical skill and design flair – you also need time (bags of it), objectivity, research, self discipline, and an ability to know when to stop. (But of course, if you do decide to build your own, at least build it in a flexible open source system such as WordPress, by coming on one of our courses!)