Some decisions matter for only a short time. Deciding what to wear in the morning, what to eat for dinner, how to style your hair… Others have a lasting impact on your life and your business. Websites are a great example.
When you decide to build a website, you are faced with a litany of options. Some require great skill to set up and maintain, while others are made for people who have no experience at all. The purpose of this post is not to review the options you have in front of you. Options are always changing and frankly, there are already great review articles out there. (Here is one, and another.)
The purpose of this post is to explain the significance of choosing the right tools when building your business. “Tools” in this case are assets in which you’ve invested—things like software, physical equipment and technology infrastructure. Or a website platform.
The decision to build a website is a convenient, concrete example, but as a business owner you’ll need to make lots of decisions like this. When does the tail begin to wag the dog? How can a simple tool dominate your life and business, and how can you make sure you stay in control?
Let’s examine some of the decisions that are involved in building a website. We will uncover the easy fallacies in our decision-making process, and we’ll better understand how to make decisions about tools in the future.
First consider: Can you even use the damn thing?
Your first consideration should be practicality. There are a lot of website builders and content management systems that will rave about the features their product offers. They do this to woo you. Reading through the amazing things a tool can do for you is like spotting a bit of gold peeking out of the sand. Your imagination races off into the distance, visualizing all of the amazing things you could do with that gold (or that tool). You get ahead of yourself.
(It’s okay, we all do!)
While it is wonderful to dream and to visualize your future, don’t let this prevent you from considering the practicality of YOU using this tool. Sure, some techie on the West Coast may be able to churn out a killer WordPress site, but can YOU?
If you can’t but want to learn, then consider your schedule and funds. Do you have the time or resources to learn how to use this tool? If you are a small business owner, the answer is probably no.
Don’t let me fool you—I am a DIY junkie. I live for learning how use tools and applications. But when you’re running a small business, learning how to use a really complicated tool is not the best use of your time. And even if you pay someone to set up your site on a really cool but really complex platform, will you use able to update it once your designer / developer moves on?
Websites are not (and should not be) static. As a restauranteur, you’ll want to feature specials. As a yoga teacher, you’ll want to announce upcoming retreats. Even basic updates like changes to your phone number or operating hours are critical pieces of information for your customers to have.
Outdated or inaccurate information is worse than no information. So consider this your number one rule for your website: If you can’t use it, you might as well not have it.
Customization is less important than you think
As I mentioned before, most people jump right to features. We can’t help it! We want to have a knock-em-dead site that stands out from our competitors and converts customers. So we browse through other people’s sites, window shopping for features. But just like with window shopping, collecting little bits of web design doesn’t give us any information about how much those bits cost.
Sure, you could spend a lot more for a premium website theme that has limitless customization options. But do you have the time or energy to customize the site yourself? Or will it be another line item you outsource?
Before you start thinking about customizing your site exactly to your liking, ask yourself whether or not the content you’ve prepared is worth all the extra flair. We often skip the meat of a site (the content) in favor of playing with colors and fonts.
Remember: extra features mean nothing if you can’t get the basics down.
The Cost of Choosing the Wrong Tool
My friend has a yoga teacher with a very…flexible schedule. She often changes the class schedule at the last minute, or sometimes just needs to push back the start time by 30 minutes. Unfortunately, her website is locked down.
She has no idea how to log in to the backend, and even if she did, she would have no idea how to update the class schedule. This has caused her to lose so many customers, that her business is at risk of shutting down.
Now, this is an extreme case that is exacerbated by poor scheduling habits. But it is an illustration of what happens to business owners every day. In today’s world, information needs to be fast, easy to access and accurate. Your customers don’t have time for anything less.
Evaluate your needs, and choose the simple option
Unless you are in the web design or development business, your site does NOT have to be fancy or even overly “impressive.” Don’t get sidetracked by features you don’t need. Don’t chase fads.
Get back to running your business and living your life. And if you find yourself with extra time or energy to put into your website, then work on the content. It could always be better, and no one knows it better than you.