I recently hopped on Instagram to do an informal poll on websites. My main goal was to find out what generally holds people back from moving forward with a website design and build. Money and time are always the two obvious obstacles (to most of our goals in life, let’s be honest.) And I’ve chatted with enough busy Bozeman business owners, particularly in the blue collar industries: landscaping, construction, plumbing, etc. to know that if the business is slammed with work without a website, there is low motivation to invest in an online presence. However, I was looking to get more into the nitty gritty of where the blockers are, particularly knowing that an online presence is a huge revenue opportunity, no matter what business you’re in (and no matter how busy you already are). Lack of access to the massive audience available on the web is never helpful to the bottom line of a business.

THE BIGGEST OBSTACLES TO MAKING WEBSITE DESIGN AND FUNCTIONALITY IMPROVEMENTS ARE TIME AND MONEY — HOW TO MOVE FORWARD ANYWAY?

Aside from time and money, I was curious whether it was simply overwhelm that was holding people back or perhaps the upfront financial investment to hire an expert. Or a combination of both. Given the technology today, it is more than possible to build a website yourself to save money, but if that task then lands on your shoulders and you’re already the busy business owner, does the learning curve and time investment keep you from moving forward as fast as you would like (or at all)?

I’ve talked about some of these points on various panels and IG live conversations (and I will be writing a few blog posts in the near future about why it is so financially beneficial to get online no matter what), but my findings from the Instagram poll took me in a slightly different direction.

In a recent survey of Bozeman businesses with existing websites, roughly 80% are unhappy with either the functionality or the visual aesthetic of their current website design.

What I was surprised to learn was that of the respondents, almost 80% already had a website and most importantly, 80% of those people weren’t happy with their current website. For people who responded that they weren’t happy with their current site, I then asked them to clarify what the main pain points were. It was a rather small set of data, but the answers were insightful and ranged from small annoyances in functionality to not having the time to keep the site up to date with relevant work / information to feeling like it didn’t strike the polished professional note they wanted to hit with their online presence.

As someone who has spent a lot of time thinking about how to simply get people online to benefit their business, this whole category of less-than-happy existing website owners got me thinking about website design in a new way.

HOW TO LEVERAGE RAPID ITERATION PRINCIPLES FROM THE TECH WORLD TO MAKE MEANINGFUL WEBSITE DESIGN IMPROVEMENTS

To take a quick yet relevant step back, I come from a background of tech development and agile methodologies over waterfall systems. Having worked for several tech companies in Bozeman prior to branching out on my own, I have been extensively trained in principles like minimum viable product and rapid iteration, and what struck me about the data from the poll—combined with my own website client experience—is that, in general, people aren’t approaching website design as an agile process. There seems to be this big, sometimes scary, all-or-nothing approach to website design and improvements.

I think we have an opportunity to change that. Agile methodologies (basically any approach that involves making smaller improvements quickly and subsequently learning from them quickly) can easily be applied to website design and this has several very tangible benefits that tie directly back to the original obstacles mentioned of time and money.

Thinking of website improvements as requiring a huge all-or-nothing redesign is a great way to stay stuck. Embracing the power of an action plan built of micromovements is the quickest way to make meaningful changes.

“Done is better than perfect.” may be a phrase you’ve heard before. I adhere to this and am a huge advocate of any mentality that gets a client / business / person from staying stuck (as perfectionism often does). I also think that the more powerful thought process is geared towards constantly moving in the right direction. (Done is better than perfect implies a hard stop at ‘done’.) A growing number of thought leaders have vetted the value of consistent micromovements and when it comes to website design and strategy, I can’t think of a better approach. This is an important shift in our thinking around how to keep our websites relevant and supporting our business goals in a tangible way. The old model I’ve seen hundreds of times where a business launches a website and then essentially leaves it alone for years until it’s so out of date that a change is desperately needed should be put on the shelf and only enjoyed for its historical value.

The value of stealing a move from agile methodology to break down all the so-called ‘steps in the right direction’ into clear and actionable items and show people how to do the next right thing starts to make moving forward accessible regardless of time constraints. It also gives businesses the runway to spread their budget for website improvements out in a way that works for them. It’s easier to move forward if you know that, for instance, your highest priority critical step is to get an SSL certificate, and that it is 1) likely something you can do yourself with clear guidance from someone who knows your website builder and hosting platform, 2) probably won’t take more than 15-30 minutes, and 3) has a minimal cost associated with it. If it’s your next website action item based on where your website is and your business goals, then maybe you can do that on Monday between your 10 am call and your client lunch for starters.

QUICK GUIDE TO CREATING A VALUABLE WEBSITE IMPROVEMENT ACTION PLAN

My proposal is that as website designers we can start creating and offering valuable step-by-step action plans for owners of existing websites that : 

  1. Take into account the current pain points, financial goals, and big visions of the business
  2. Provide a comprehensive plan to achieve all their goals in order of highest priority
  3. Show areas where the website owner can be empowered to take action themselves with clear tutorials and instructions
  4. Direct them to the right experts in any and all of the areas they want or need to outsource
  5. Ultimately encourage them to make the most important moves on their website that translate into business for them as soon as possible
  6. Be able to show the financial benefits of all these on-going steps in the right direction

The power of this updated approach is that it empowers website owners (who may know they need to make changes and be very capable of those changes) to have insight into what matters most and exactly how to do it or who to reach out to. There’s nothing like a clear path forward and support along the way.

It seems that my favorite projects typically revolve around website design I do with local Bozeman businesses. Knowing people in the business community personally (and the struggles they have with their businesses and websites) is what inspired this post and also inspired our newly launched website strategy sessions. Through Ess Effect Design I am so excited to offer these valuable guided action plans for businesses, particularly ones with existing websites that they know need design or functionality improvements. Reach out to schedule one today or simply take the free discovery questionnaire to get started!

If you have questions about the website strategy sessions, feel free to reach out via email to sonia@esseffect.com! I am committed to providing valuable website insight to small businesses, particularly in my local Bozeman, Montana area.

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