Web Design, Clutch Report

Why Small Businesses Need to Invest More in Their Websites

April 13, 2017

by Amelia Peacock

It may be hard to believe that nearly a third of small businesses in the United States don’t have a website, and yet it’s true, according to Clutch’s recent study, Small Business Websites in 2017. Many small businesses still struggle to find the time and resources necessary to launch a comprehensive web presence.

Web design and development experts Mikel Bruce of Tiny Frog Technologies and Alex Young of ePageCity spoke with Clutch about their experiences working with small business in the web design world. They explain the major barriers blocking small businesses from creating a company website and offer advice about why investing in a website is important at every business level.

29% of Small Businesses Don’t Have a Website

The benefits of having a website sometimes are hard to measure because a web presence often provides value by simply “legitimizing” a business. For many small businesses, it is hard to see the return on investment (ROI) of a website that’s not performing a lead-generation role.

Why is a website important for small business owners?

Even if the majority of a business’ clients come from referral resources, one of the first things the prospective client will do is go to the company’s website. Almost everyone does that regardless of the industry. The potential client will begin to form their impressions about the company almost instantaneously, based on what they see online.

If a company is actually driving traffic to their website as part of the marketing process, the website plays a much more important role in that case. Most companies whether intentionally or unintentionally have prospective clients landing on their site from multiple sources whether it be client referrals, social media, search engine ranking, email marketing, print advertisement, etc. The website literally becomes the hub of a marketing program for just about every type of company in today’s market.

Mikel Bruce

 

-Mikel Bruce, CEO, Tiny Frog Technologies

However, even simple websites that are devoted to legitimizing a business – not generating leads – can be the most powerful tool in a new business’s arsenal. Having a website is key to expanding your client base.

Why would a small business not have a website?

There are very few instances when a company would not want to have a site. Probably one of the few exceptions is if a company is a subcontractor and gets all of their business from a single source. Even then, it would be a good idea if they wanted to expand their client base.

When a business is starting out, it may not have the resources to build a website. However, a website will be important as potential clients, investors, or employees search for the business and evaluate its overall web presence. A great option is to start with a 1-page website and build from there as the business grows. This is possible if the website is built on a CMS, or content management system, like WordPress, where you can continue to build and design the website as the business changes.

-Mikel Bruce, CEO, Tiny Frog Technologies

Building a complex website requires resources, but don’t be afraid to start with a simple 1-page site and add on as more resources become available. Consider using a web builder tool or a content management system (CMS) for a nearly free, easy jumping-off point.

79% of Small Business Websites Are Mobile Friendly

For small businesses that are not just starting out, one of the most frustrating aspects of website ownership is upkeep. As the digital landscape continues to evolve drastically year after year, some small businesses will fall behind the digital times. This is especially true when it comes to emerging mobile technologies. Ensuring a website is mobile-friendly may require additional time and resources, but the consequences of ignoring mobility make updates worth the effort.

How has the mobile landscape changed for small businesses investing in a website?

Different small businesses seem to have a different understanding of what mobile-friendly means.

Many of them consider their websites to be mobile-friendly, but, if they run the site through Google's mobile-checker, it will say otherwise. This is partly because there have been different technologies used to produce mobile websites. Everyone is currently set on responsive design as being the way to go.

It is probably the first time in our 17 years in business that we’ve had to go back to our client base and tell them they will have to spend more money – responsiveness is unavoidable. There are some exceptions, including industries with low mobile penetration, but small business owners concerned with their Google rankings almost don't have a choice, as it’s been a ranking factor for Google for a few years now.

Alex Young

 

-Alex Young, Chief Strategist, ePageCity

Luckily for new small businesses, most web design agencies now begin every project from a “mobile-first” perspective.

What are the barriers to entry in having a mobile-friendly website for small businesses?

A mobile responsive website is literally a MUST in today’s market. The tolerance level for non-mobile responsive websites is very, very low amongst users. And, Google is currently penalizing websites if they are not mobile responsive. Nowadays, with responsive frameworks and responsive technology, it is much easier to have a mobile compatible website or to convert a website to be mobile friendly.

However, there is a big difference between converting a desktop site into a responsive one and building a website from a mobile-first perspective. Just having a responsive website is not enough. The content lay out, navigation display, and the user experience on mobile are just as important. If a website is filled with dense content, a lot of images, and a lot of pages, it really should go through a redesign process to be cleaned up and simplified for viewing on all devices.

-Mikel Bruce, CEO, Tiny Frog Technologies

Converting a desktop site into a mobile-friendly site is an important step to putting small businesses “on the map” with big enterprises. If converting an existing site is beyond the talents of your current team, consider letting a design agency to take the lead, or follow the trend in small businesses and hire an in-house user experience (UX) designer.

51% Small Businesses with Website Use In-House Staff

In-house website management is a great solution to small businesses looking to keep their website updated, but don’t have the resources available to hire a dedicated agency. However, wary experts argue that few small businesses hire a fully trained designer for their website, instead relying on related professionals like marketers, or social media managers. This approach can leave your employees feeling overworked and your website underdeveloped.

What are the benefits and draw backs of using in-house staffers for website help?

Use of in-house staff to build a website has certainly increased a lot, primarily due to the availability of tools such as Squarespace or Wix. More people, especially in the not-for-profit segment, are turning to in-house staff in order to save money.

In a maturing industry, there is a separation of quality-of-work and cost.

If I'm going through a kitchen-remodeling exercise, I can find pre-made plans online, and sidestep the architect. This will save me a lot of money, but the plan was not put together specifically for me and my needs. As web design agency, we are the architect and we serve the percentage of the market that understands the value of the service--understands the need for an architect.

-Alex Young, Chief Strategist, ePageCity

Another option to relying on in-house staff is to hire an independent web design agency to create and maintain the website. However, while the end product may be more successful, the investment may be insurmountable for some small businesses.

Why will some small businesses hire a web design agency instead of using an in-house staff?

The benefits of a team of experts working on your site versus an individual are huge.

A successful web project has at least three unique skillsets involved: strategy, design and development. It is very difficult to find an individual who is good at all three. These skills are like legs of a stool. If one leg is weak or wobbly, the entire stool’s stability will suffer. Similarly, if a website has a poor UX specialist/strategist in the initial phase, the conversion could suffer which can have a direct impact on revenues.

-Mikel Bruce, CEO, Tiny Frog Technologies

Small businesses that choose to rely on an in-house staff over a digital agency should be cognizant of the training and resource needs of their staff. With thousands of books, classes, and online blogs aimed at teaching DIY web design, it is inexpensive and easy to make sure your staff knows everything they need to know to make a website successful.

23% Small Business Websites Will Prioritize Content in 2017

Looking forward, small businesses have a lot of work to do in order to make the investment of a website worth their while. For small businesses looking to generate leads digitally, it isn’t enough to just design and launch a website in 2017. Small businesses have to begin investing in digital marketing efforts, like content marketing and SEO, to get their website seen.

Why is content creation becoming a small business priority?

Small businesses understand the need to spend money not only on building a website but also on generate quality traffic for that site. The site will live in the dark until an effort is made to generate traffic and, unfortunately, there are too many sites still out there in the dark

Many small businesses understand that increasing visibility and user-engagement will lead to separating themselves as experts. Much of this is ultimately about creating unique content on the site, content which is engaging and interesting.

If we look at sites that are putting an effort into content, we see that those are the sites that are getting more attention and attracting more revenue. There’s not much that beats great content.

-Alex Young, Chief Strategist, ePageCity

Creating a website doesn’t have to be a difficult, expensive process. Coming up with a robust game-plan for the design and marketing process can save small businesses time and headaches.

What is the biggest piece of advice you would offer small businesses that are considering launching a website, or improving their website?

In addition to building trust and credibility for a business, a website can replace many of the functions that a small business used to do in less efficient ways, such as displaying a portfolio of work, selling products online, and marketing the company’s services to name, a few.

Also, consider that a strong web presence can level the playing field and put a small business on the same level as a large business in an industry. Your web presence can begin with a quality website that goes a long way to converting visitors into clients.

As a final piece of advice, when building the website, consider WHO you are building the site for. Many companies when building a site, build it for themselves instead of for their website visitors or future clients. This is a very common mistake. As a result, once the site goes live, the company wonders why their conversion rates are so low and their bounce rates are so high.

It’s imperative to factor in the web visitors’ needs when designing and developing the website. The website is ultimately for your visitors, so when building the site, consider the needs and concerns of your visitors. Ask yourself what is the context that brings them to your site, and try to put yourself in their shoes as you’re strategizing the overall site structure and design elements.

-Mikel Bruce, CEO, Tiny Frog Technologies

So with all the data and evidence out there that shows how beneficial websites are for small businesses, why do nearly a third still not have one?

For many small business owners there are four major road blocks to developing a website:

  1. Price
  2. Time
  3. Perceived lack of relevancy
  4. Lack of technical knowledge

Web design and development experts Mikel Bruce and Alex Young argue that all of these challenges can, and should, be overcome regardless of industry or business level. In fact, much of the hesitance towards creating a website is just an assumption that it will be harder than it needs to be.

DIY web builders, for example, are inexpensive and come with beautiful, time-saving templates perfect for getting a small business started with a landing page. After some time and experimentation, and with more resources, partnering with a dedicated web design agency can take a simple website to the next level.

About ePageCity

ePageCitySince 1999, ePageCity has delivered well over a thousand beautiful websites to happy clients in the SMB and not-for-profit markets. Along with our digital marketing sister agency, Deep Footprint, we affordably design and drive quality traffic to sites within a framework that allows our clients to easily maintain their website content.

By focusing on the personal touch and not the DIY approach, our team has been able to deliver a superior outcome for our customers. Customers who know how passionate we are about taking care of them and their websites. As we say here; we build websites that work, and we stand behind them.

Read ePageCity's Ratings and Reviews

About Tiny Frog Technologies

Tiny Frog TechnologiesTiny Frog Technologies, the “hopp-iest” web agency, specializes in WordPress website design & development, secured hosting, and maintenance. Headquartered in San Diego, Tiny Frog’s web design program features aesthetic custom design, conversion optimization, and mobile responsible/compatible websites.

With its All-in One WP maintenance package, Tiny Frog currently protects over 500 client websites from “croaking” and has helped many corporations recover from a hacked website and Google blacklisting.

Read Tiny Frog Technologies' Ratings and Reviews

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