Small Business Q & A: Website Design Considerations

Q: Should I build and maintain my business Web site myself or pay
someone else to do the work for me?
-- Wesley L.

A: When you say, pay someone else to do the work for you, Wesley,
I am going to assume that you are talking about hiring a professional
Web site designer to do the work and not your next-door neighbor's
teenage son. If my assumption is correct, then read on. If not, go
ahead and surf on over to You will get no good out
of the advice I'm about to give, so you might as well consult Dilbert
for your hot business tips.

Should you build and maintain your business Web site yourself or pay
someone to do it for you? Let me answer your question with a couple
of my own. Number one: is building and maintaining Web sites the key
focus of your business? Number two: could your time be better spent
doing more important things like, oh I don't know, say running your
business? If your answers were no and yes, respectively, then you
have no business building and maintain a Web site.

Remember this: every minute you spend on tasks that are not related
to the key focus of your business is time spent to the detriment of
your business. In other words, every minute you spend focusing on
tasks that do not contribute to the growth of your business and thereby
increase your bottom line is time wasted.

If you want to be a web designer, be a web designer. However, if the
key focus of your business is building widgets, it doesn't take a
rocket scientist to figure out that your time would be better spent
building widgets, not Web sites.

Case in point: I once had a very wealthy dentist ask if I could teach
him how to maintain his Web site so he wouldn't have to pay me to do
it. Now my teeth had helped put this guy's kids through college, but
that didn't seem to matter. At that moment he was more concerned about
having to pay for changes to his Web site than my personal oral hygiene.
Sure, I said, I'll be glad to teach you how to update your Web site,
just as soon as you teach me how to clean my own teeth so I don't have
to pay you to do it. He got the point. And he charged me enough for
the cleaning to keep his site updated for months. Smart man.

Many business owners think they can't afford a professionally designed
Web site and that simply is not true. While the old adage, "you get
what you pay for" is never more true than when applied to Web site
design, having a professional web designer do the work for you is
money well spent. A well-designed Web site can bring you a many-fold
return on your investment. You can't say that about too many other

While it is best to leave Web site design and maintenance to the experts,
it is up to you (or someone considered a subject matter expert within
our company) to provide the designer with the content (text and photographs)
that best conveys your company's message to your customers. A Web site,
no matter how well designed, is meaningless if it lacks the content
required to interest customers in the products you sell or services you

Here's are a few questions that, once answered, will help ensure that
your Web site's message is as appealing as its design. Go over these
points with the designer before the design process begins as the answers
will help determine the direction your Web site's design should take.

What Is The Purpose Of Your Web Site?
Most business Web sites have two purposes: (1) to educate the consumer
and, (2) to sell them products or services. If you sell shoes, for example,
the purpose of your Web site is to educate potential customers on the
quality and durability of your shoes and as a result, to sell them shoes.
If you paint houses the purpose of your Web site is to educate home owners
on why your services are superior to other painters and sell them on
hiring you to paint their house. By defining the purpose of your Web
site you will give the designer the information required to create a
Web site that best conveys that purpose to your target audience.

Who Is My Target Audience?
Your target audience consists of those folks you want to attract to
your Web site: potential and current customers, future and current
employees, possible investors, etc. Anyone who might be interested
in your company and its products or services is a member of your
target audience. Correctly identifying your target audience is vital
since your Web site should be designed specifically to appeal to your
target audience.

Put yourself in their shoes (or in front of their computers). Imagine
your Web site through their eyes. If you were visiting a Web site
such as yours what would you expect to find and what would you be
disappointed not to find? Identify your target audience, then have
your Web site designed to fulfill their needs and surpass their

What Content Should My Web Site Feature?
Your Web site content should be driven by the nature of your business.
If you're a real estate agent, your site should feature photographs
of homes you have for sale and information on buying and selling a
home. If you own an auto body shop, your site might feature before
and after photographs of cars that you have repaired. Remember to
determine the purpose of your site, then develop the content to serve
that purpose.

What's My Competition Doing?
The last question you should ask is one of the most important: What
is your competition doing on the Web? Do a Google search for similar
businesses and click around their Web sites. How are their Web sites
designed? What message are they trying to convey? Are they doing a
good job of conveying that message and as a result, selling products?
What do you like about their Web sites? What don't you like? Make
note of the things you like and the things you hate, then share your
findings with your site designer.

Remember, you're not stealing trade secrets here.

You're just borrowing ideas.

Here's to your success.

Tim Knox
For information on starting your own online or eBay business,

About the Author

Tim Knox as the president and CEO of two successful technology
companies: B2Secure Inc., a Web-based hiring management software
company; and Digital Graphiti Inc., a software development company.
Tim is also the founder of, an ebusiness
dedicated to the success of online entrepreneurs.

Tim Knox