It's true - your website is an expense for your business, but is also an invaluable marketing tool no business should be without - so actually, it's more a priceless asset.
There are a number of tools available that allow anyone to make their own website from scratch, some at no cost. While these may seem like an obvious starting point, it is important to be aware of the hidden costs of your DIY website.
The hidden cost of setup
First of all you need to figure out where you have your website. Is it with a subscription service? Is it something you install on hosting you organise?
And your domain name - don't forget you'll need one of those. What if your first preference is not available?
What about setting up your business email? Is it reliable, secure, and scalable? Is it professional, and uses your domain name?
Don't forget you need a template for your website - and this needs to work for your content and structure, and not just look great on the shelf. You may also need some HTML and CSS skill to make changes to your template, as well as getting your images ready for the web.
Lost you yet?
Yeah, there is lots to take on board here - and if you're not a bit of a nerd on the side, it may feel a little bit overwhelming. Figuring out all of these bits and pieces takes time for you to research and evaluate your options, and find the best providers for your needs.
Don't forget too, all of these decisions that you make now will have an impact for the next hidden costs of your DIY website.
Now that you have answered all of these questions, it's time to put it altogether. Don't forget you will also need to correctly set up your DNS for your website and email too. Next you can get your software set up, install the template (plus whatever extensions or modules you need to do more specific things for your business).
But how much time has this taken you? How much more research and reading have you had to do to get it all working correctly? This is time where you could be meeting with new clients, drumming up business or keeping your nights for your family instead of trying to figure out all of your website puzzle pieces. Getting your website set up (and finished too) is a time consuming process - including writing all of your content and getting all of your images ready to go. Going down the DIY path, be prepared to dedicate many hours in getting your new website live.
The hidden cost of first impressions
First impressions count - and your website's visitors will make the decision to stay or leave within seconds.
Usability guru Jakob Nielsen has been stating the importance of a snappy and speedy website for over three decades. In 1997, with slower internet, it was about large images. Now, with broadband, it is about slow performing servers and unnecessary widgets.
Nielsen's research1 has shown that a 0.1 or 1 second delay keeps the user feeling engaged with the site, but a 10 second delay, while still holding attention, starts to make the user disengage. And anything longer than that, they're gone having experienced an unpleasant user experience.
The speed of your site is just part of the first impression - the first impression also includes the layout, the visual aesthetics, the readability and the ease of finding what they're looking for. Every business is unique - and your website should reflect that. Information that is relevant to your visitors should be easy to read, find and understand, and the layout - be that on mobile or desktop - be user friendly.
It is really important to know that visitors to your website are looking at it on different sized screens. Maybe they have a larger default text size. Maybe it's a small smartphone. Your website needs to be able to respond to any device to ensure it remains readable and user friendly - this is called responsive web design. Just because your website may look good on your screen doesn't mean it will for everyone - it's important that your responsive design is built for reliability and a top user experience.
A slow site, with an overly-busy layout, or maybe one that just looks "cheap", can leave a negative impression to your visitors. One step further, ensuring your site is responsive for fast, reliable and informative mobile phone browsing is pivotal. If your site's visitors need to zoom and scroll to even consider reading any content, you may have lost them before their journey really even began.
Even if you have picked a really schmick looking template for your site - be that one you host yourself or on a subscription service - if your website looks just like someone else's, what makes your website stand out? What makes it special? Especially at a quick glance, if the sites are identical (i.e. using the same template), the visitor may just go back straight away thinking they've already looked at the site. Just as a side note too - we never use pre-designed templates - we have a talented team of web designers who design your website to meet the needs of your business.
A website that leaves a poor first impression means your visitors may just click back and go somewhere else. That could lead to a lost sale, and a damaged reputation, especially among your competitors. What do lost sales cost your business?
The hidden cost of cheap hosting
If you're going for the self-hosted DIY option, you'll need web hosting. Not all hosts are created equal.
Many low-cost hosts offer shared hosting on servers that also host dozens (if not hundreds) of other websites. Every website is then competing for the same resources on the server. This can lead to a speed drop - and we've already read about what happens with the first impression of a slow website.
As an Australian business, your customers are no doubt based in Australia too. So your website should also be hosted in Australia too. Why? Because there's less hops for your visitors to bounce through reaching an Australian server compared to an overseas server. Australian-based hosting is often not the cheapest when compared to offshore servers, but does have the potential to provide a much snappier and faster experience for your visitors.
Many of the subscription website platforms are unfortunately all hosted overseas. There are data centres in the US or Europe - but the hops needed for an Australian visitor to reach an overseas data centre will make your site feel a bit slower. Just another consideration to have.
Side note: all of our hosting is on Australian servers in Australian data centres. Because we service Australian clients, and give our clients business-grade Australian hosting for a responsive browsing experience for their visitors.
This comes back to the perceived speed and positive user experience of your site - a slow site (that even the user feels is slow to load) can lead to your visitors going elsewhere. Your cheap hosting is now costing you potential sales.
Once again, what do lost sales cost your business?
The hidden cost of backups, stability and security
You never think you need a backup. Until you actually need it. And need it now. But by that stage, it's too late.
Do you know how to back up your website? And do you want to be doing this yourself every day? Every week? Every month? Your website is now much more than just words - but also the layout, images, and if you're collecting data from your visitors, the information they've provided too. Your website backup needs to include all of this so that in the event of a disaster, you can easily and effortlessly recover your site from the backup.
Did you know - our hosting performs daily automated backups, that are stored in a different Australian data centre, and are held for 5 days in case of an emergency? Because having a reliable, useful and complete backup is priceless for any business. What price do you put on your business's website data?
Your hosting also needs to remain stable and secure - this means optimal up-time to keep your site online, plus a well-configured server to share server resources but allow sites to be safely sandboxed so one site can't interfere with another site.
When a customer visits your website, it should be there. This comes back down to the speed point too - but if your website is offline, meaning your visitors can't find what they're looking for, they will go elsewhere. Even if your host is fast, if it's offline, they're gone. Surely by now you know the question - what cost do you place on lost sales?
The hidden cost of maintenance
Your car gets serviced to keep it running in tip top shape (well, I hope you service your car at least). Your website is no different -
One of the perks of using a subscription-based website is that the system is kept up-to-date for you. When they add new features, you get them straight away. So that's a plus.
But if you have a self-hosted website, you are responsible for keeping your website up to date. Not just content, but also the CMS it is running on. This means you'll need to keep on top of the latest versions of your platform - upgrading to new versions as required - but also prepared to tweak and fix any issues that arise from an update - especially when using a template. Maybe the version changes the way the template behaves - you'll need to be there to fix it. So that's more time away from your business.
What is your time worth? Do you have the time to spend fixing your website, or is that better spent working in your business?
The hidden cost of fixing it when it all goes wrong
This is the fun one. What happens when something goes wrong. Majorly wrong. Your host goes out of business (and so your site goes offline). You don't update your CMS and your site gets hacked (beyond repair).
Your site is now damaging first impressions and damaging your business's reputation online (as well as in search engines like Google), your time setting it all up has been (potentially) wasted, and this is all costing your business more than all combined.
You may need to get an expert in - but often your site may be a liability some agencies don't want to take on board. What if it includes compromised code? What if it has issues with performance and server resources? What if it is with languages or platforms they don't support?
You need your site fixed. And it needs to be fixed well so that Google (and others online) can start to re-gain trust in your business - but remember, as always, trust is easy to lose and hard to regain, so be prepared to work for it. Your site needs to be fixed so that first impressions are positive, and that they have a positive and meaningful user experience. So that they contact you and a lead can become a new customer.
Ask yourself: are the hidden costs of your DIY website worth it?
The time you spend on trying to create, launch, fix, update, upgrade, maintain or optimise is all time that could be better spent working in your business, working with your clients, and doing what you do best - after all, that's why you do what you do in the first place - you're really good at it! C'mon, don't be shy - admit it, you are really good at it.
And you know what - we're really good at making websites. We love helping passionate businesses have their very own professional and user-focused website - and we're here to support you now and even after the site has gone live. Contact us today, or call on 1300 134 415.
- Website response times, Jakob Nielsen, https://www.nngroup.com/articles/website-response-times/