Sitting watching the TV last week, I happened across an advert for a major hosting company who were peddling cheap websites for small business from just £9.99 per month. Sounds like a great deal right? Let’s look at the detail a little more to see if it really is.
Low cost but long term liability
Firstly, £9.99 is the entry-level option and doesn’t exactly offer much in the way of flexibility. There are two further packages at £19.99 and £29.99. If we take the middle package as our benchmark, the actual cost is £239.88 per year, every year – you never stop paying for your website as long as you ‘own’ it. If the average website has a life-span of five years before it needs a make-over or complete re-design, your ‘cheap’ website has actually cost you almost £1,200. For that price you could have a bespoke website built to your exact requirements that doesn’t look the same as everyone elses.
Looks aren’t everything, are they?
We had a look at a number of the example sites that this company showed on their website – it was not a great experience. No matter what flexibility these site building tools may claim, the one thing they simply can’t reproduce is design flair. Every website looked very generic and to be frank, dated and dull.
Obviously this is a very objective statement and I’m going to be ultra critical as I’m a Designer but nevertheless, most people can look at something and immediately judge if it’s unattractive or not and the templates used in these sites are anything but attractive in my view. Of course, if you don’t care that your potential customers are repelled by your website then you’ve nothing to worry about.
Broken, but who knows?
Looking at six of the example websites shown, we found layout and other errors on every single one. This is not a design critique; it’s a fact that there were broken elements on the websites that users either hadn’t spotted or didn’t know how to fix. One major problem with website design is that people use different browsers (i.e. Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, etc) to access the Internet and all of these browsers have their own little quirks that make a website look or work a little bit differently than how the Designer intended.
Most people wouldn’t even think about cross-browser testing their website so whilst it might look great on their PC using Internet Explorer, anyone viewing the website in Google Chrome is seeing misaligned text, missing images or broken links. For £19.99 a month, we somehow suspect that the company selling these website won’t be conducting cross-browser testing for your website. This Wikipedia article tells you all you need to know about cross browser conformity.
Missing the point
Okay, the two issues above are important and any small business owner thinking of acquiring one of these cheap websites should take these issues into account however, there is a much, much bigger issue with these cheap website.
If your small business is in the market for a new website, ask yourself a simple question,
“WHY DO I WANT A WEBSITE?”
Whenever we visit a potential Client we always ask them why they feel they need a website and the answers we typically receive are like these:
- “Because my mate/wife/son says I should have one.”
- “Because our competitor has just got one.”
- “Because we’re fed up of answering the phone to people just wanting to know when we close.”
The ONLY reason a small business should have a website is to gain more customers – period. Any incidental benefits that come from chasing that single aim are obviously great but the focus should be on making the website generate new customers.
The problem with these cheap websites is that they completely miss this fundamental factor. Of the websites we looked at, many of them failed to have any ‘call to action’. All of them missed glaringly obvious opportunities to engage visitors. All of them failed to give ANY tangible reason why the visitor should email the business or pick up the phone to them. If a website doesn’t do these basic things then really, what is the point?
You actually do get what you pay for
A cheap website is like a cheap suit – it might look okay on a hanger in the shop but once you’ve paid for it and are standing in front of your bedroom mirror wearing it, you know it looks and feels cheap. More importantly with a website, your potential customers will look at your website (that’s if you actually receive any) and they’ll hit the back button quicker than you can say ‘machine washable polyester’.
If you’re thinking about buying one of these website, we beg you to talk to somebody in the industry first because we really can’t emphasize enough just how important a GOOD website is for a successful small business.
Questions? Feel free to give us a call or drop us an email and we’ll happily answer them.