Websites: When to Know to Go In-House vs. External

More than 25 years ago, Tim Berners-Lee, a British Scientist at CERN, invented the World Wide Web (WWW). On December 12, 1990 the World Wide Web’s basic concepts were defined. The URL, http, html, and the browser and software were written. The world’s first web page address was also developed, The site mostly explained the concept of the internet, provided links to all “the world's online information” — a short list at the time that eventually lengthened over time as the internet grew. It also outlined the process by which people could use hypertext to improve and expand the internet… all of this in Times New Roman font.

We’ve come a long way since 1991. An entire trade has spawned from advances in technology and the early work of Mr. Berners-Lee – Web Design and Development! These are the internet pros that help to make your website stand apart from the rest. They customize it to reflect your brand and make it user-friendly. They make your website searchable on web browsers so you reach the consumer first and they can integrate social media so you can engage the consumer in multiple ways. They build catalogues and add e-commerce functionality so you can sell things. They know all the tips and tricks and bells and whistles!

Web designers and developers are the new renaissance artists in a world that demands free information and instant communication – and we love them for it, because we all really, really love the internet! So, if your business wants to compete among 177,000 million websites, it may be worth the investment to have a professional web design and development team service your website.

To DIY, or not to DIY?

Unless you plan on inventing the next interactive medium for instant global communication, odds are your business has a website. As of May 2015 there are over 177,000,000 active websites on the internet. This means competition is fierce. Long gone are the days where just having a website is enough. Your business website should act as a hub for your brand. It should be a well-oiled machine working for you, captivating visitors, nurturing sales and building brand loyalty. It should be integrated with a strong presence on social media and user-friendly on all mobile devices.

For some businesses, creating your own website through a service like WordPress or WebGUI is a feasible option. These let subscribers build their own sites from templates, and fill-in content through a “content management system” or CMS. This is beneficial for small businesses looking to build a web presence, but don’t want to invest in a custom site. But there is still an investment – time and money, not to mention the learning curve of the CMS interface. Don’t forget your domain name and hosting fees. Then there is SEO. Oh, and someone has to manage it…

For more established brands, a custom website may be the way to go. The first interaction most consumers will have with your brand is on the internet. I’m guilty of it. If I need a particular product or service I tap the Google app and browse the top three or four search results. Those results didn’t get top ranking by accident or random draw. They show up first as a direct result of site traffic, smart content, responsive design, user-friendly architecture and links to other websites (supplementary product or service sites, strategic alliances, guest blogs, social media, etc.). This is all theoretically SEO.

If marketing dollars are being spent on communication initiatives other than your website, when known opportunities for website improvement exist, it may be time to shift focus back to your website. Let’s face it – that email campaign you may be working on isn’t going to be THAT effective if your website is out of date, cluttered or difficult to navigate.

Here are a few questions to bring to the table at your next marketing strategy meeting:

  1. How would a consumer search for my product, service or business?
  2. Where does my website land in search rankings?
  3. Where do my direct competitors land in search rankings?
  4. Is my site easy to navigate for a first time visitor?
  5. What do my direct competitors websites look like?
  6. Is our website mobile device responsive?
  7. Are direct competitors sites mobile device responsive?
  8. Are we capturing leads/customers/sales on our website?
  9. When was the last time we invested in our website and what was the result?
  10. Do we have the internal talent to develop a new website, or should we outsource to professionals?