If I had a nickel for every time a client approached us with a low-quality website that had been created by a friend or family member, I could start doing websites for free.
People (like me) will inevitably jump in a line to get something for nuthin’ before they know what it is. Recently, at my local Costco, I watched a tedious 10-minute knife-demo, all for the promise of a free paring knife.
Did I have any need for this crappy knife? Absolutely not, but it was free (and by my sound logic, better).
Long story short, the knife dulled within days and works marginally for my margarine.
Like the knife, the lure of a free website, usually churned out by a brother / friend / neighbor / endeavoring Grandparent etc… just won’t cut it (see what I did there).
I know, you’re a small business owner and have bootstrapped, penny-pinched and worked every street corner to get to where you are now, but take some hard-earned advice when we say that you should not build a site on a shoestring.
Ideally, your website is your best employee: always working, never sick, won’t take a smoke break, and a huge money-maker. Just as you would with a valuable worker, you should expect to invest in a valuable site.
Consider that, even at minimum wage, you’d be paying an employee about $16,000 annually, and they could never bring you even half of the new business a great website can. When you think of it like that, the expense of a professional site doesn’t seem so hefty.
Before you accept an enticing free offer, please take a minute to consider the reasons why you shouldn’t.
1. Amateur Hour
Chances are, this friend or family member does not create websites for a living…otherwise the service wouldn’t come free. Whatever makes him feel qualified to make such an offer (a few college courses, a knack for computers, or maybe just a healthy interest) does not necessarily mean he’s qualified. Professional companies, however, live and breathe website design every day. If your livelihood depends at all on your website, you don’t want to leave it in the hands of an amateur. In this case, good intentions are simply not good enough.
2. Out of Touch
Even if he minds his Ps & Qs and doesn’t mess anything up too badly, I can guarantee your cousin Billy is not very informed about new trends and technologies. He may create a workable site that isn’t hideous, but it won’t be cutting edge and it won’t earn you new customers. When a potential client visits your site and has a bad experience, they assume that it represents an amateur business.
3. Short-Term Savings
While your sweet sister may not charge you to create a sub-par website, you’ll eventually pay. Right off, it’ll cost you clients (opportunity cost). If anyone does manage to find their way to a site that hasn’t been optimized for search, they won’t be impressed enough to take the next step, be that making a phone call, a purchase on the site, or a request through the contact form.
4. As Time Goes By…
Since Uncle Joe is a science teacher by day, he won’t be devoting that much time to his little pet project (a.k.a. your business’s incredibly important website). He’ll code a little here, design a little there, and someday you may even get a finished website. And while he takes his sweet time to get your site up, you’re losing business. We’ve known clients who’ve gone as long as 2 years without a completed site…. 2 YEARS! A professional gives you a firm deadline and busts its ass to deliver you a beautiful, finished product by that deadline.
5. Nicey Nice
Beggars can’t be choosers, right? If your buddy Jake makes your site for free, you probably won’t feel like you can tell him how you really feel about his work. And you certainly won’t feel comfortable telling him to speed up the process. After all, it’s a favor. Likewise, he may not see your directives as demands, the way a design firm would. You could end up getting a site that Jake likes, but that you hate. “Dude, trust me, you’re gonna love this,” he says as you fake-smile through gritted teeth.
6. Too Close for Comfort
We’ve heard some rough stories about people losing friends or having relationships damaged because of an act of kindness gone wrong. Mixing business with pleasure is never a good idea, and a free website is not worth losing a relationship. Because your website means so much to you, things may get emotional during its creation. But, a design company is never going to take it personally when you reject a new layout or color scheme, whereas a friend might. It’s worth the money a firm will charge, if it means keeping the peace in your personal life.
7. Want To Be Found On Google?
Of course you do! Having 1st page exposure on the almighty “G” opens a floodgate of new, higher ticket, customers / clients / patients. Making a website is not the same as making a business website optimized for search. To be proficient at Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you have to study the science of it AND be changing your game each time Google changes its algorithm. Unless your old roommate is an unemployed genius devoting all of her time to learning the craft, she probably doesn’t know how to build your site with clean code and keyword-optimized meta-data. Professional teams are well-versed in these techniques, however, and have SEO experts at the ready.
8. Double Threat
When a non-professional says they know how to make a website, they actually mean that they can either code or design well, but rarely both. Coding and design are like your legs; they only do their job when both are working. A website that is coded properly but looks like garbage is as useless as a beautiful site that doesn’t work. Your friendly, neighborhood design and marketing firm, on the other hand, doesn’t make you choose between form and function.
9. Human Hacking
The advantage of using a professional firm that specializes in both design AND marketing is that we understand the on-page psychology of your visitors. Our designs have been tested and have been proven to convert browsers to buyers. It’s not just a happy accident that some sites have higher conversion rates than others. It’s a science that takes time and experience to learn. We create sites we know will work, because we’ve done the research and the testing to be sure.
If you’re thinking about starting or revamping a website, we suggest that you don’t even tell your inner circle. Inevitably, one of your well-meaning loved ones will lay that devil’s deal on the table and you’ll need considerable fortitude to resist snatching it up. But, if you want a beautiful, search-optimized, professional site, resist you must.