A business owner's manual to getting and keeping a great website that serves their business.
Hi, I’m Joe and I made TinySites. I like the web and spend a lot of time helping my friends tame it for their business. You can imagine the countless days and months I fill up with thinking about what actually makes websites work. So I put the key stuff into this guide.
It will help you answer the most critical questions. Getting the answers right means that your web investment brings the return it deserves.
To be fully open with you, of course I would love if you read this guide and decide to use my service, but the reason I made TinySites is to help small businesses get on the web in way that works for them. So, If you read this guide and decide to hire a freelancer, go with an agency, or decide to do it yourself, I am happy to know that I helped you make a more informed decision.
Let's dig in!
Let's start with the most obvious, most important question — why get a website at all?
Maybe, a cleverly made website can 10X your revenue, but maybe you could spend the money where it will make more impact. It completely depends on your unique business situation.
We do live in an online world, and it's likely that your customers will try to find some information about your business online. But if you're running a coffee shop next to a park and your main revenue comes from the park goers allured by goodies displayed on your window, maybe a website isn't all that important. Maybe you should put that cash into a cozy terrace instead, or try invading the park with free samples.
Sure, customers are likely to be searching for your opening hours, or address, or reviews, but all this information can be added to Search engines, and free profiles on websites like TripAdvisor, Instagram, or Facebook.
In such case, no website, or just a super-tiny page with your photo, a nice introduction blurb and address will do a great job and cost just couple hundred.
But perhaps you want more control. Maybe you want to engage your would-be customers more, share your passion and story with them in a format you choose and truly represents you. Or perhaps you want to post weekly lunch menu. Maybe you're a gallery, and would love to make in-depth announcements for each vernissage and share photos post action. Or maybe you're an exhibiting artist who'd like to connect with the visitors, and sell some of their other work.
Whatever your goals, you ultimately want to reach your customers, help them with something that would normally take you more time, or make them buy something.
So ask yourself — "will a website help me make more money than I spend on it?"
Will it bring me more customers? Will it save me time or money somewhere? Could it bring a completely new revenue?
If you answered yes to at least one of these questions, congratulations, I think that you're soon getting a website!
Now that you've decided that you could actually use a website, I want to present a thesis for what makes a good one.
First and foremost, it directly or indirectly makes you more money than you spend on it. It has to be a carefully considered, important cog in the clockwork of your business. It needs to have a strategic purpose, and be measurably fulfilling it.
If it fails to do that, it's not a good website.
In order to make you money the page needs to be effective at bringing in customers — it has to be discoverable on the internet.
You can think of your website more like a channel instead of a house. It extends beyond its own fence. Just like you need to post print ads for your coffee shop, you need to meet your customers somewhere online to let them know that you exist.
You may have heard about SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. Exactly that's one part of it. Another is your online marketing strategy, including paid ads, your social media presence, or postings on specialized servers (like TripAdvisor).
Overall, your website plays a part in a larger, deliberately designed scheme of finding potential customers online, letting them know that you exist, and bringing them to your business for a purchase.
Many providers oversimplify the matter by saying that they'll "do SEO" for you. Usually they mean sticking to technical conventions and rules stipulated by Google. But the truth is that SEO is more of a continuous marketing strategy to organically (without paid promotion) find customers. Usually it means creating a content plan that'll answer your customers questions — so when they put them to Google, you will show up.
While making your website, you will need to consider who are your customers, where do they hang out online, what will they respond to... and what to do if they don't.
Let's take a second to give a thought to all the components that make up a site.
These could be summarized as strategy, design, content, code, marketing, and maintenance. These things come together to create the customer experience your visitors will endure, and that will speak of your company.
The strategic aspect corresponds with your business goals, your growth ambitions,
Design speaks of how the site looks and works. Partly it defines the underlying structure, choices of which content to include, and how it's organized. And partly it connects to your branding and defines how the site looks and feels for your visitors.
Content aspects are concerned with any and all content that will be there. Text, photos, downloadable materials, videos, and so on. As the saying goes, content is king. It's ultimately what the customer came for, so they should get the best possible version of it.
Code, or development, is concerned with the technical aspect. It's your builders, who put the bricks together according to the design specifications, and who are responsible for whether the thing will hold together, or fold in the slightest breeze.
Marketing drives the channel. It's what makes the website ultimately useful by bringing people in. It's concerned with making your proposition attractive and communicating it well. It works with either organic or paid traffic — it's the SEO vs. Google Ads sort of a thing. Both require time and financial investment (someone has to write and post that SEO content and execute the social media strategy).
Maintenance, finally, is about making sure that the thing is up to snatch with the recent standards. That something isn't getting old and weak. It's your cleaners, janitors, and plumbers. Or in website terms, cybersecurity, server, and IT guys. Maintenance is about keeping it up and sound.
So those are the six key components to a successful website project. It's good to consider covering some ground in all of them make sure your visitors have a good experience, enjoy your brand, and are motivated to buy.
Okay, so you’ve decided that a website is a good idea, and have an understanding of what it all should contain. You’re now an armed, knowledgeable buyer who’s not to be screwed with! So, what options do you have?
Seemingly the cheapest and most fun option (well, if your definition of fun also equals making websites!). What you save on money, you’ll certainly spend in time and hassle, but if you are on a really tight budget it might be the best option.
Probably the easiest option is to use a website builder software. They often come with nice templates, basic SEO features, and are simple-to-use. Good options are Squarespace, Wix, or Cargo.
You’ll get to a nice website. Your only limits will be your own design capabilities and the time you’re willing to put into it.
Just remember, you’ll still need to come up with solid strategy for your website, create good text, and create the visual assets. Make sure to do these well and you’ll be set to get started even on budget!
You’ve probably heard about this. It’s an oddball sitting somewhere between website builders and coding it yourself. It can be as inexpensive as coding your own website, but also as complex. Bottom-line is that with Wordpress you’ll have a little bit more creative freedom, but also more hassle.
It can be a good option, but I’d suggest to proceed with caution.
If you need more creative options, you could try to learn coding yourself. This is the cheapest option in terms of money, but the most expensive in terms of time.
If you only need a really simple website, you can probably do it. But to be realistic, you probably need a website, not to learn a whole new craft. I’d discourage you from going this route unless you really want to invest into building a whole new skill.
All in all, when it comes to DIY’ing this, the most important is to set your expectations. In most cases, having a DIY website is probably better than having none. It may be just the right first step.
However, as with anything, the more you invest, the better experience for your customers, the higher their willingness to spend.
How much will this cost? Quite surely under $300 per year.
But expect to invest one to two months of your time into this.
Okay, so maybe you’ve decided to put some money into it and are curious about freelance designers and developers.
The key thing is understanding your needs and choosing the right one. Hopefully you'll seek someone who understands enough of strategy, design, coding, writing, and marketing. Or find different folks to provide each.
Depending on your budget they might take a template, edit it, and put it live on a web hosting; or they might work with you to build a custom site based on your wishes. They might also have some knowledge of organic marketing (SEO) and set-up its technical aspects.
Don’t omit strategic aspects, and content though! I’d recommend hiring at least a web designer, an illustrator and a copywriter to get a professional looking website. Often, your freelancer of choice will have partners to provide some of these — ask about that!
How much to hire a freelancer?
A single web developer should start at $1.500 and a more skilled one, or a team, somewhere under $5.000. The best, most complete service, will be under $10.000.
Some may also offer to host, run and manage your website for a monthly fee. Probably between $50 and a few hundred.
Hiring an agency will get you the best results, but will cost the most. And if they really know what they’re doing, they’ll guide you to discover what you need, not just what you want. :)
An agency will help figure out where does a website stand in your business strategy. Hopefully, they will design beautiful graphics. They can make illustrations or take great photos to make your services tangible for your customers. And they might help with initial set-up for your marketing, plus, at a retainer fee manage it on monthly basis.
Agencies can be a great choice if you’re ready to take your business to the next step, but can be expensive if you’re just getting started.
How much to book an agency?
Expect to start at $5.000 at the lower end. Most likely though, you’ll spend $7.500-$20.000 or more, depending on the complexity of your needs.
A typical monthly retainer will range from several hundred to a thousand, plus marketing spend budget.
It’s a lot of money, but it can be great choice for businesses who do tens or hundreds of thousands in monthly revenues.
If you'd like to get more accurate estimate — someone made this handy website to estimate your project's cost:
(We're not affiliated with designagency.io)
The current website market is really about quality vs. cost. There’s not been a whole lot of innovation in how it all works. I came up with TinySites to see if we could shake up the rules a little.
Quality web shouldn’t be out of reach. Instead you should simply start smaller and grow when you are ready.
That’s why with TinySites you get complete service like with an agency at a monthly price that’s approaching the cost of website builders. Starting at €96/month.
I hope that this helped you paint a picture of your needs and how to reach them. If you’re still not sure which choice would be best in your situation, feel free to reach out.
Just click here to schedule a free consultancy with one of our lovely folks. No commitment expected. It’s more like a 15-minute virtual coffee.
First and foremost, you’ll get a completely custom website, not a template with changed colours.
And we’ll take all the care to create one that represents your company, impresses your customers, and we can be proud of.
Analytics & optimization. The work is not done by launching your site. It will need ongoing analytics to ensure that it reaches and converts customers, as well as occassional technological updates.
Helpers on the phone. Each month you’ll have a little bit of free time from us to help you make changes or get business advice.
Technical support. And finally, you will need someone to rely on, if something breaks — that’s why we offer a complete tech support with all our plans.
Additionally, you can call upon our trusted creative PROs to help you with all kinds of needs — photography, logo, business cards, leaflets, posters, stickers, but also business advice.
Your plan includes access to our trusted network of wonderfully creative people.