Many small businesses struggle with the challenge of building a website that’s both effective and affordable. Possible solutions often involve expensive, evolving technologies that are out of reach. So, finding the right answer at a realistic price can be frustrating.
Recently I got a referral for website development for an author. His new book was about to go online at major retail sites (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBookstore) and he needed a credible web presence.
Normally I recommend a solution like WordPress because he wanted a blog and an easy-to-use content management system (CMS). But he was not comfortable with just any web technology and for what he needed, WordPress was overkill. Like many other small business owners I had met over the years, I understood that he needed something really easy to use as well as some help in setting it up.
While putting together an estimate, I found a great solution for both of us.
Case history: rockinsales.com
I chose the online site developer Weebly (weebly.com) to build a five-page site for Jimmy Crimmins, author of Rockin’ Selling Secrets. Why five pages? Because Weebly offers free content management for websites five pages or smaller. Many small business websites are five pages or fewer, so the potential is high for using Weebly among my smaller clients.
Once Jimmy and I agreed on the site structure and cost for my services, I plunged into development as a Weebly newbie. I was pleasantly surprised by how fast and simple it was to follow through on constructing Jimmy’s site.
1. The templates are gorgeous. Often I’m disappointed by “canned” templates on site builders because the programmers overlook the importance of web design. But the template I chose not only fit Jimmy’s image—there were also several striking color schemes to choose from within that template at just one click of a mouse.
2. Drag-and-drop construction. In Weebly, there’s a toolbox available for adding text boxes, images, audio and video (YouTube) links, a contact form—even embedding custom code for a PayPal link, widgets, or any other kind of custom feature. On Jimmy’s site, we embedded two YouTube audio clips of his blues band as well as custom code for buying his book on PayPal. For a nominal fee, additional functions like a shopping cart can be added.
3. Mobile responsiveness. Every template includes “mobile optimization” for a wide variety of devices, including tablets and smartphones. A preview for either desktop or mobile devices is available on Weebly at the click of a mouse.
4. Site building in real time. If content and images are prepared in advance, then it might take only 30 minutes to build a small site. In Jimmy’s case, we went through several content revisions and proofing in draft mode before going public. He also wrote several blog articles in advance and got training from me on how add blog posts and edit the “static” pages on his site.
5. Search engine optimization (SEO). “Organic” optimization for a website is not difficult in Weebly. There are settings for both a general site description as well as individual page keyword phrases. The goal is to drive click-throughs on results pages in search engines. Tip: The trick for attracting the “right” target audience(s) is getting accurate keyword phrase research and writing a compelling description using that research. Knowing your customer and their needs is the place to begin.
6. Fast and easy troubleshooting. Here’s where Weebly really shines. In the past, if the mobile version doesn’t display a website properly, the developer has to review the site’s stylesheet (css) and change the code to fix the issue. With rockinsales.com, the iPhone version displayed brown text on a dark background, making a mobile screen impossible to read. But instead of spending a couple of hours troubleshooting stylesheets, there was a 30-second solution: Just select a different mobile theme with a white background and dark text. Voila! The mobile version worked while the desktop version stayed the same!
7. Easy upgrades. Many small business sites start small, then evolve as marketing goals change. In the past, a developer was sometimes needed to program extra custom code at a premium cost. No longer. Business growth is now possible on a smaller budget within a shorter time frame.
The task of acquiring a website is much easier than it used to be. Because of site builders like Weebly, small businesses can move forward with site creation and professional developers like me can help get them there faster with a more affordable solution.