Thursday, September 8, 2016

Why it's good to have a website you can manage yourself

 Why be limited to Facebook?

    In the years between 2000 and 2016, website design tools went from being so simple any motivated entrepreneur could make their own website to being to complex that you almost needed an academic degree just to understand basic webs design concepts.

    Although they might not consciously be aware of it, this trend has discouraged small business owners from using websites to promote their goods and services and instead have turned to Facebook.

    Two big anti-www issues are the cost of having a website built and the cost of maintaining it. While business owners do hire people to maintain their Facebook pages, the skills needed to build and maintain a Facebook page are much like the skill set needed to build a website in the year 2000 -- a job for graphic designers, not a computer science mba.

    But promoting without a website is limiting, even with a Facebook page. Facebook doesn't have the reach. It's a walled in community and, in spite of efforts to make it a business getter, for users it is still more social than commercial.

But can you build a simple web page in the year 2016?

    This week I conducted an experiment to find out what would happen if I put up a web page using minimalist coding. I wrote an article about designing a web page with code so simple that anyone could do it. Then I formatted that page using this code, the way I would have done it in the year 2000.

    To make this a practical test, I added a photo and e-commerce capability, still using "year 2000" coding. You can actually order a book from this page and it will be delivered to you, electronically, immediately.

    View my test page here
    Left out were a few lines of code browsers look for and which should have been part of the page. But I wanted to see what would happen if I really trimmed the code down.

    One thing more. I wanted this page to display properly across all platforms, including smartphones. I wanted nothing to be lost beyond the width of the screen.

    View my test page here

    View my the page with both a desktop and a mobile. The design is plain by today's standards but by Google standards it shines. I ran it through the Vary SEO tool and the page won points for loading with lightning speed, even though it was quite long. It was also credited for being OK for mobile although on mobile the text was small. My simple test showed that you can, all by yourself, design a web page that will display across all platforms and all you need to do it is a handful of html tags.

Here's the why you should do it

    You've got Facebook with its nice templates that make your stuff look good. But in Facebook you're operating behind a wall. For someone to see your stuff they have to have a Facebook account. Most social friends will. Potential customers might not or, if they are, might not find you when looking for what you offer. Unless you are just a local business in a small community, Google and Bing are far more likely to bring you business. But for Google and Bing to find you and your business you need a website.

Don't hire someone to build your website

    In almost every case I know when someone hires a web designer to do their website, one of two things follow. If it is an organization, such as a church that really wants their website to communicate, they pay a monthly service fee to have the site "maintained," meaning regular updates announcing sermon topics, luncheons, and special events. The designer makes updates once a week.

    But now it's Sunday morning, snowing hard. Will church be canceled? You go to the website but there's...  nothing! With Facebook an announcement could easily have been made.

    The second thing that can happen to the small business that has a website built for them is they never bother to budget for maintenance. The site is built like a monument, unchanging for all time. As time goes by it becomes increasingly irrelevant and forgotten, particularly by the search engines because they judge sites by their activity.

    All of this shows just how practical Facebook can be.

You can build a modern website using retro design

    Building your own website was once easy. It still can be easy if you ignore all the frills and whistles and stick to retro-era coding which is very, very simple. As demonstrated above, it works. But it's good to be clear on why you should use it rather than hiring a web designer or sticking with Facebook alone.

    Google and Bing don't care about the look of your website; they only care about it's content. By developing simple pages you become free to spend more time on content, new products and services, testimonials, something about your business, something about you. You can add or change content as often as you want. It costs no money and no more time than you might spend updating your Facebook page.

View my test page here

    Try it. Look into it. If you feel you need more resources to build your own site, ask questions in the "comment" box below and I'll respond. There are some retro tools that can help you but if you can't find what you need, or if I can't direct you to what you need, I'll wrote up a full "building your own retro website" manual myself and distribute it free.

    So go for it. You'll be amazed at how a regularly maintained website of your own will extend the reach of your business.

  View my test page here