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Do You Really Need Web Design?

We all know that sales and marketing is about the numbers. When I started my internet consulting business a year ago, here are what my numbers told me. 10% of the qualified leads that I approached would spend $2,000 or more for web design. Of those 10%, less than half would spend $4,000 or more for a site with more interactivity and bells and whistles. A significantly smaller percentage would spend $6,000 – $10,000 for a decent ecommerce site. I could have developed a good business model around those numbers but my instincts have been telling me that these prospects aren’t necessarily growing.

If you are out there mingling with customers, here’s what you’ll run into every day. Small and medium sized businesses STILL don’t understand the net. Worse, they don’t have the funds or the resources to put up a highly interactive site with ecommerce even if their business warrants it. Most however do know that at some point THEY HAVE GOT TO DO IT. Don’t fault them for dragging their feet. They’re busy! They don’t live on the net like I(we) do. Still many web designers and consultants are astounded by the lack of knowledge businesses have when it comes to the internet. I personally am not so astonished, my business is to deliver the internet as a packaged, obtainable resource.

Small and medium sized business do need help. Web design however is not their first priority nor should it be. Consultants and web sales people need to educate, listen and respond with a web solution. Not every business needs a website (I know…gasp!). If internet technology is not sold with a consultative approach, it’s almost certain that the customer will get something he doesn’t know what to do with. Some customers are completely shocked by the fact that they get a website that is a shell with no content in it and their “web-guy” has left them high and dry. Or a customer gets a website with a powerful content editor that he has no clue how to use. He can’t set up his email. He can’t change the address and phone number fields. He can’t even change the prices. AND he can’t afford to pay someone $120 per hour to do it! He’s stuck and this is happening every day.

One good solution for this is site builder technology. Online site builders are getting remarkably easy to use and can produce stunning websites. Further, all the features of web marketing can be integrated into the sitebuilder tools. Because the entire web solution is contained under one umbrella, the support tools for building, promoting and changing a website are also contained in the system. Many business models now revolve around selling websites on a sitebuilding environment. That doesn’t eliminate the need for the consultant. The consultant is key to developing and promoting the clients’ businesses on the web (using the sitebuilder marketing tools). As simple and straightforward as it appears to be, clients still don’t have the time to spend on a site builder tool (no matter how simple). I would imagine that some day site builder tools will be able to even automate the marketing process.

Still, customers don’t find it difficult to add pages, change text, add articles and a myriad of other things they would never have considered before, when the motivation hits them. That motivation of course is cost. Many business owners find the choice between $120/hour and doing it themselves motivation enough.

Site builder technology does have its pitfalls. Most developers will find sitebuilder technology confining. Ultimately though, the sitebuilder technology is used to sidestep the developer. Choices for the hosting environment are limited to the servers associated with the sitebuilder technology and compared to simple hosting systems usually cost more. However, by marrying the site builder technology with the servers that host the sites, end users don’t need to know anything about server technology, ftp et al. They just need to know how to browse the web. For the average small business the positives far outweigh the negatives. Further, total cost of ownership for a sitebuilder site can be $1000’s of dollars less than custom integrated solutions and marketing support even after years of hosting simply because of the tools they put in the hands of the business owner (allowing the business to support its own web strategy).

Good site builder technology should at least support the following:

1. Customized template driven design. The more templates the better. Custom template design can lead to very fast development and deployment by eliminating the guesswork associated with color combinations and site functionality. The images in the templates should also be changeable to reflect the client’s own business. Good sitebuilders can even offer html support to grant the user more power over page design.

2. Integrated search engine marketing. Form based tools that the client fills in as he builds his web pages can help promote his business both organically and through sponsored search engine programs.

3. Support. Generally a good site builder system has terrific support because everyone is working off the same platform.

Any business serious about the internet will discover that the web site is not a project. The web site is the beginning of a new business PROCESS. It is not a stagnant piece of literature you toss in the wind and hope someone picks up. In that regard, it has to be manipulated, massaged and managed. Good sitebuilder tools will help the client do this. The consultant, the web designer, the web developer, the copywriters et al will still be there but now the 90% of small and medium sized business who can’t afford them have a way to compete!

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