The Achievable Guide To Empower Your Small Business Website (Updated for 2022)
Do you have a website that works for you?
Not a Facebook page or a listing managed on an industry aggregator.
Not a site that is your Instagram feed + one or two other things with no clear direction.
Not a site that you set and forgot since the last time you invested in your business. 🕸
The thing is, if you are actively doing business, in 2022, your people expect you to have a website that is:
Clear + Informational
Can you tell what goods or services your business provides from the home page of your website - without scrolling down?
I get it. When you're currently doing it all for your small business, I just told you to put on another hat - 🎩 Web Developer.
But, before you either pile this onto your to-do list - or sigh with relief because you think I'm not talking to you - I have a solution that will empower your business.
I want you to succeed by working smarter and more joyfully, not harder and more expensively.
Since 2020, I've noticed a trend in small businesses switching to drag + drop website creation platforms. And I'm not surprised!
The hosting cost is predictable.
Edits can be made without submitting a ticket to a busy firm.
Small businesses can boldly experiment in a time when everyone is online + looking for brands that are fresh and easy to work with.
In this guide to empowering your website + brand using drag and drop web hosts like Wix and Squarespace, I'm going to show you:
The pros and cons of drag and drop site building + how getting the extra upfront professional help sets you up for exponential growth.
What to expect when transferring your site.
My tips + tricks to make your website look better than the template you used.
01: Pros + Cons of a Drag and Drop Website For Small Businesses
I want you to know, switching to a new service (or starting from scratch) takes a little up-front investment cost. However, your monthly or yearly cost for a drag and drop web host is often much less than what you'd pay a marketing firm to host it for you.
In January 2021, I completed a project for a relatively new Northern Virginia dog grooming salon, Waggy Baths.
When my client Maria reached out to me, she was paying her previous custom website hosting company a large monthly fee, AND also paying them to pay Google to advertise her site.
Not only was Maria locked into a contract that didn't support her business model, she spent a lot of her own time trying to chase down the company when she needed to make any changes.
After switching to a drag + drop web host, I built her new site *intentionally*, making it exciting, clear, and user-friendly. I'm jazzed to report that Maria saw site visits after the launch of her new website went up 56% with the majority of her traffic coming from organic Google searches. Update for 2022: Site Visitors are up 138% and Google Traffic is up 241%.
Here's to exponential growth when you invest in your website + take control (and you bet Maria isn't paying any additional fees).
Joe of Virginia Dwelling knows his way around creating simple html sites on Wordpress (which also can be considered a drag + drop site, but is quite favored by developers for its custom code interface). He had been a long-time client of mine when we decided that we needed to un-tangle his site and switch to a more streamlined platform.
The old website was a combination of widgets and plugins that each had to be modified separately when we needed to make changes. Yes, it was customizable, but it was tedious to manage for a business owner who needed to be nimble.
On the new website that I designed for him, Joe's new site is keeping visitors engaged with increased page views per visitor. Update for 2022: Site visitors are up 118%, with viewers able to easily navigate to the service that they came to research, and seamlessly book online.
And he can re-focus his energy into writing his signature educational blogs.
If you want to get nerdy - seriously send me an email (I love getting emails so much!) - and we can get down with the specifics.
02: How To Set Up + Use A Drag and Drop Website
Choose A Style
Your brand guide will inform the template or customized style that you or your marketing contractor (that could be me!) will use to model your site. This will become the core functionality + personality of the online space.
When working with my website clients, I always recommend collecting links to sites they love + inspiration from physical spaces and around the web. Website building is a visual art, with a nerdy structure underneath. You need strength in both to function well.
Don't forget to customize the colors to your brand, and add in your own branded language and imagery to the baby website.
Set Up Your Domain
Depending on your domain provider - that'd be Google or GoDaddy, etc - you'll have a slightly different process to connect your new website. There shouldn’t be any fees, though I have seen Squarespace charge up to $20 to 'buy' the domain from the previous provider.
Transfer The Information
For small websites, a copy-and-paste technique will be just fine. The plus-side of this is that you get to take a look at your website structure + refine it at this point. I love a good blank slate.
For large websites, you'll want to download the entire website and upload it back up to the new host. Of course, you should still tweak, refine, and fix anything that shook out of place in the transfer.
Make The Magic Happen
Simply transferring your old site to a new host won't make growth-inducing changes. Here's where design thinking, a creative eye, and an understanding of what your clients + customers want come to play.
When you work with a marketing contractor to set up your site, they'll take care of this process for you - and add their magic in refining your content and copy 🪄.
03: How To Optimize Your Website Like A Marketer
You may not have a marketer on your team (or in your business owner hat wardrobe), but here are a few quick and dirty ways to you can THINK like a marketer, make impactful changes to your new website + and make your website look better than any template.
First, let's talk about your brand.
A lot of the heavy lifting comes from the visual aspects of your brand guide, like your brand colors or your logo. Your customers - everybody, really - are 'visual people' though they might not introduce themselves so at parties.
First impressions are 94% design related + they happen fast!
Yes, I just shamelessly plugged my previous blog because this is SO important.
Hopefully, you already have swapped out the basic colors the new site came with, to your brand colors, and have uploaded your text + images. Adding your consistent branding makes a huge difference immediately.
Add Some Complexity To The Template
Speaking of color, each template you may use comes with the ability to set a site-wide color palette. When you set your brand colors, be sure to have one 'outlier color' for bold contrast.
This is still considered a 'brand color' but it's the highlighter of your brand. Use this color to highlight your calls to action and other important information, but don't go overboard. The point is to add a shocking and disruptive element. Websites that are too matchy-matchy don't successfully herd the viewers in a meaningful direction.
Similarly, instead of using a white background, try a light color tone as the background. Just keep your text readable!
Now Add Depth To Your Website
Photos in the background of your site can help with storytelling and add that depth that basic templates sometimes lack.
Gradients are also a good choice for this when you don't have a photo with a high enough resolution. You'd be surprised how much a subtle gradient makes a website more dynamic.
Add Layers of Whimsey
Don't be afraid to have fun! As it makes sense for your brand - try collaging photos, adding movement, animations, blocks for review quotes, etc. Do check the desktop AND mobile displays as you build.
Your website will always be a work in progress but with this guide, you now have the tools at your disposal to empower your website + your relationship to the 24/7 member of your team.
I'm just an email away if you have any questions on switching to or starting your website on any of these drag + drop web hosts. It makes all the difference to have an expert in your corner when it's time to take the reins on your business and start growing exuberantly.