When is a $5 website too expensive?

I spent much of today looking at websites of local businesses - big and small, new ones and established ones, professionally created sites and personally designed sites.
A few key points became clear:
  • Paying for a website doesn't necessarily make it good
  • Creating a website yourself using readily available tools isn't necessarily bad
  • Getting a cheap website can sometimes just not be worth it
If your business is in need of a website, here are a few considerations to keep in mind.

DOMAIN NAMES
If your company name is Frank's Sports Training Center, don't use hitmorehomeruns.com as your domain name. You may not be able to find exactly what you want but try to be somewhere in the ballpark. People tend to intuit website URLs. They may try a few options, but they're not going to think that far out of the box. For the same reason, stay away from dashes in urls. Frankssports-trainingcenter.com is just as obscure as hitmorehomeruns.

Try to get the .com version of your domain, but while you're at it it's worth spending the small amount of money to lock down the .org and .net versions as well. This will eliminate confusion and you can simply point those domains to your main URL. Although there are many more domains available today with the opening up of the .biz, .tv, and others, they are far less intuitive to the average user.

BRANDED EMAIL
With a lot of free sites, you get a website but no branded emails, meaning that your website might be hitmorehomeruns.com, but your email address is frank@gmail.com. This is far less professional. Even if you are choosing a service that let's you create your own website from sets of standardized choices and elements, choose one that will also give you branded email. This is a lot more professional. Also make your business email consistent with your type of business. It may be cool to be bigabs@gmail.com for your personal email, but unless your business is body building, go with something more professional.

SPELLING, GRAMMAR AND TYPOS
Whether you pay a company to produce your website or you use a create-your-own online product, you still have to be responsible for the content. Being an expert in your business does not necessarily make you an expert in articulating that business to others. Some sites have blatant typos. One nutritionists' website I reviewed spelled weight loss incorrectly in the main banner (weighloss). The fact that he can't spell certainly doesn't mean that he isn't a great nutrition coach, but it does call into question attention to detail and professionalism.

Your website is the front door of your business to the world. You would not leave a bag of garbage and a few dead plants out in the front of your physical storefront. Neither should your website have misspellings, typos, or poor grammar. Even if communications isn't your business, it shows a lack of attention, concern and professionalism that can turn customers off.

Professional content creation for your website can be fairly inexpensive but can pay off significantly.

CLEAR CONTENT
A big mistake many small business websites make is assuming that their readers will know something about their business already. This is a common error made by subject-matter experts who are not writers. Although you may know production-line project management, you may not be able to articulate those concepts to someone who is not a SixSigma Black Belt.

The 5Ws are a great rule to live by in all writing. Yes, they're basic, but there's a reason that Who, What, Where, When and Why has stood the test of time. It's the essential elements to clarity in your content. Make sure they're covered and clear. If you're writing the content yourself, have someone not in your industry read your web page. And make necessary adjustments until it's clear to them.

There are a vast number of online tools from do-it-yourself websites to business cards and marketing campaigns. In some cases, these tools provide an easy and accessible way for you to create good looking tools for very small amounts of money. But in many cases, the mistakes you may make can make doing it yourself a costly proposition.
--------
If you think your company might benefit from some professional help, contact us. We can offer as little or as much as you need - from copy editing your own content to creating content from scratch or even developing your website.