In last week’s post, I outlined how the combination of good planning and a good content management system would allow ordinary business operators to constantly update their website content relatively painlessly.
In other words, I was advocating that with some guidance and in the right hands, the maintenance of much of your website content can indeed be ‘DIY’ for many business operators.
In practice, most business operators will still need assistance from time to time with more complex content requirements. Who hasn’t altered a page to find that it is ‘out of whack’ or just not appearing how it should?
On the other hand, many web-savvy business operators find it quicker and more convenient to just hand over the content to their web pro to do the changes for them – and are prepared to pay for that service.
But as we know, there is more to your website than content (i.e. words, pictures, video, audio and downloadable material).
As stressed in this blog before, content is just one part of a multidisciplinary puzzle that includes technology and technology features, creative skill, search engine optimisation, usability and more.
I thought it would be worthwhile to revisit exactly what those skills are and how realistic it is for business operators to acquire those skills.
But this exploration comes with a caveat. And that is that while all smaller business operators need to possess broad skills to operate their business, sooner or later you have to decide what you can realistically learn and do yourself, or what is more practical and sensible to hire in or to outsource.
On the other hand, while the ‘work on rather than in the business’ is a worthy goal, the reality is that few smaller business operators have the resources to hire others to perform the huge variety of tasks a small business needs to perform simply to survive.
So really, only you can judge which of these skills is really worth acquiring for yourself, remembering that a professional is likely to perform the same task faster and more effectively, albeit at a cost.
1. Content development
Content alone is not something that comes easy to many smaller business operators. While we can all speak volumes about our businesses, turning that information into something persuasive, interesting and even cognisant of how search engines do their thing, is another skill altogether.
Then there is the visual side. What may look great on an iPhone can look dreadful on a resource designed to make you look as professional as possible.
Even if you come up with a good starting point, it may be worth hiring a professional to edit and finesse it to achieve the desired result.
2. Graphic design
The appearance of your website is one of the most difficult aspects to get right without professional assistance. While you might be handy putting together a presentation for use within your business, putting your handiwork out to a demanding public is another matter altogether.
The good news is that for those on a budget, there are now a wide range of low-cost and even free design templates which can be modified to incorporate your logo and colour scheme. While these will never be as effective as a fully customised look, in the right hands it’s difficult to tell you have used a template at all.
Unless you have qualifications in graphic design, I would leave this aspect to the professionals or alternatively arrange one of these free or low-cost design templates.
3. The technical ‘build’ of your website
Not that long ago, you needed a skilled web ‘developer’ to technically create your website. That is, you provided them with your ‘creative’ and your content and they would ‘hand-build’ your website – meaning they would create it by writing and adapting computer code to create the finished result.
However these days, skills like this are really only required when you require functionality that isn’t a stock standard technical feature. A great example of this is secure shopping cart functionality. There is simply no need to hand-code a shopping cart when there are so many available either as modules or as inherent components of your website platform.
So the need to learn HTML – the technology language of the World Wide Web – or even the popular Dreamweaver, is no longer required by ordinary business operators or their staff.
4. Search engine optimisation
There are a number of ‘SEO’ tasks that an informed business operator can do themselves. For example creating sub-headings within your web page that contain important keywords is just one of a myriad of techniques that will improve your SEO.
Or ensuring the page’s title tag – that line of text information at the very top of your web browser – contains important keywords.
But unless you have time to attend a course in SEO and then perfect it over time, a full-blown optimisation of your website is probably best left to the pros.
There are a number of related skills that are required to ensure your website looks, works, reads and is found in a professional manner – too many for this blog.
But before you take on this technically and creatively challenging task, it’s important to understand just how much skill is required to get a professional result.
One way to do this is to write a comprehensive brief for your proposed website and obtain quotes from professionals to do it for you.
If it’s still above your budget, then some DIY might have to suffice in the short term.
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond. www.theeteam.com.au
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