Why the website X Factor effect is killing small businesses


Date: 28 July 2011

Simon Cowell

Avoid the X Factor effect with your website. (Image: Loren Javier on Flickr.)

Creating a website could be the worst thing you do for your business.

In an age where it seems any business without a website is destined for the rubbish heap, the title of this article seems somewhat ridiculous. But it isn't.

Don't get it totally wrong

In 2010 there were 48,000 new start ups, and its assumed at least 50% of these will have a website built. Job done ... or is it?

Many firms get it totally wrong when it comes to their website, not realising that just having one isn't enough. What's the point if your site is never going to be found, or if it puts people off because it has a day-glo green and pink design, with pixelated product photos?

While the old adage 'never judge a book by its cover' sounds great, the truth is people do. Many new businesses lack the funds to have a great-looking website designed, never mind promote it so people can actually find it. For those companies, there isn't a choice. It's straight to Google:

"How to build my own website"

After three weeks of painstaking effort and late nights, their masterpiece is complete and looks 'great'. Well, actually it might or might not look great, but it will almost certainly look like a cheap or free website.

What does that say about your business?

If people do judge books by their covers (and remember, they do!), then what does free or cheap say about your business?

It certainly doesn't say 'here's a well organised company that I feel comfortable dealing with'.

Does it encourage people to move a step forward to purchase from you, or do they go back to Google and find your competitor's warm, snug website they feel they can trust? Probably, it's the latter - so you've alienated a potential customer.

And don’t think it will all be OK later when you've sorted your site out. Your competitor already has a relationship with that customer. To them, you're just the cheap company with the awful website.

Do it properly

So to use another adage: if you're going to do a job, do it properly or not at all.

Sure, self-built websites can really work for you, but you have to decide if you have the ability to really make a professional looking website.

Whatever happens, you want to avoid the X Factor syndrome. By this, I mean if your family and friends say: "wow! what a great website, it looks brilliant," don't go out on stage and show the world unless you're really sure it is. If you get it wrong, you can't simply disappear once you hear the boos. You're stuffed.

On the other hand, there are plenty of companies that offer lower cost sites. Just remember that it's not just about the website. You'll need promotion (like search engine optimisation) and that usually means an ongoing payment.

Do not make the mistake of paying for a website and assuming that's enough, because in most cases, it isn't. You will need to pay for it to be promoted.

What does the * mean?

If a link has a * this means it is an affiliate link. To find out more, see our FAQs.