I’ve seen it, its the future!
The internet has been around for a while now. We are all pretty used to using it on a daily basis for everything from shopping to communicating and organising our lives. Even our fridges and ovens have wifi connections (for some reason)
So, ‘the net’ as we used to call it when I was a lad, is a pretty cutting edge sort of place right? Well… when it comes to small company websites, not so much. The rise of self publish websites has been a double-edged sword for may small business owners. It’s great to be able to put together a website and show the world what you’re all about with little financial investment, but, just like any portal into your business, it needs to be accurate and up to date.
Information is king
I am writing this on July 30th 2020. The world is still reeling from the Coronavirus pandemic, which has been affecting day to day life in the UK since March, and worldwide since last December. Businesses are struggling, no doubt, but one thing that has been evident to everyone is how important accurate and up to date information is to running anything, from a country to a small business. We have all needed to know where we can go, what’s open, what’s available, when places will open back up and what is required to go to certain places to live our lives for the last few months and that information changes on a week by week basis, so keeping the available information spot on has been paramount.
This translates to small businesses, not just in hard times but at all times. Misinformation leads to negative brand perception. Basically, people won’t think much of you if you can’t be bothered to update your website. You may think ‘ does it really matter?’ and the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. If someone comes to your site looking for, say, opening times, that turn out to be inaccurate when they turn up and your shop is shut, they are going to be royally PO’ed. And we all know that people tell twice as many people about bad experiences than good ones, so that is going to spread.
Other things that I have experienced myself when looking into businesses are things like news feeds that haven’t been updated in a few years or content related to Christmas in July, or (grrr) dead links to pages that no longer exist.
These may seem like small issues, but as a consumer with choice, that can help you make up your mind NOT to use a company.
In most cases, if you can’t keep something up to date, then it better not to have it your site.
Someone else’s ice cream
Recently, as lockdown measures were easing and days were getting warmer ( well less cold, I do live in Yorkshire), I was curious about taking my daughter out for some ice cream, as we hadn’t been more than a mile from the house in months. I had a couple of places in mind and looked at one for the opening hours. I was shocked to see that on the website, the opening hours given stated ‘new hours for 2015!’. I wondered for a moment if it could have been 5 years since I last went, concluded that is could well have been, assumed they had gone out of business, and moved on to my next pick.
It wasn’t until some time later that I happened on their Facebook page that I realised they were still alive and kicking and posted only 2 days before. However, I had long since eaten someone else’s ice cream.
The point is that if I thought they had closed, then so did a lot of other people. And when someone asked me for a recommendation for an ice cream place, I’m not going to say them, because I thought they were closed. And if I want ice cream im not going there. Potentially dozens of lost customers from just one person seeing out of date content.
It’s not just that risk you run, however. If you can’t look after your own website, what are customers to think about you looking after their property or even their data? It’s at the forefront of people’s minds at the moment, with hacks going on every week. Whats to say that if your front end site is out of date, then maybe your back end security is too.
There is an analogy I have heard before, which is apparently told in the air travel industry. It is something like this. If a customer gets on to a flight, pulls down the tray on the seat in front of them, and finds a coffee cup ring, they are going to start worrying about the cleaning methods of this airline. Then they may worry about how competent the staff on the flight are or if the baggage handlers will look after their bags. Then they think about the safety checks that are carried out before the flight and the aircraft maintenance, and come to the conclusion that maybe this isn’t the safest place to be right, because if they cant wipe up a coffee stain, then who is to say they can safely keep a plane running?
Granted this is extreme, but in many ways valid. If you have a bad meal at a restaurant, you don’t go back, you don’t just assume that they had a bad day.
This also goes to show that it is not just the visible side of a site that needs to be kept up to date, you also need to have a good handle on staying current with updates and new technology on the back end. If you are selling online or taking people’s information you need to make sure everything is in tip-top shape to reassure customers.
As technology advances, it also becomes easier for you. Automated emails, mailing lists customer updates can all be handled automatically and efficiently if you embrace new services, but sticking with old methods can lead to slow and clunk performance, before even considering the security implications.
The bottom line is that web presence is something you have to factor into your day to day work for your business. Building a website and leaving it to float away on the sea of the internet is not a viable marketing strategy. It will do you more harm than good in the long run.
As I said before, if you have too much on your plate to keep on top of updating a news feed, opening hours, social media stream, or anything else, then really have a good think about if you actually need it.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you need everything straight away and that it is necessary because someone else has it, but it’s better to start simply and then add to what you have. Websites are not that hard to change, especially if they are built on something like WordPress, or the grab and go platforms like WIx or Squarespace.
I’m Alex Dyett
I am a freelance Graphic Designer and Photographer, and Flickering Light Studio is my company. I live in York, UK, with my wife and daughter.
Hopefully, this blog post has given you some inspiration to go out and tell your businesses story with great design and eye-catching images. Take a look at the other blog posts to get some more ideas, and if there is anything that you feel I could help you with, please feel free to contact me, and I will be happy to work on a project with you.