I've Made the Mistakes.

So You Don't Have To.

As a small business owner with no coding skills, I built my first business website in 2001. Since then, I've tried a host of website solutions to get something that does what I want it to do.

"My name is Will. I've been battling to beat crap web design in my small business for over 20 years!"

If there is one valuable lesson I've learned since I set out to create my first website, it's that for most small business websites, you're always better off when you're in control: that means you own and control your domains, you control your hosting account, you have full access to edit your website and you're able to do at least the basics of whatever needs to be done.

My experience with web designers has not been good. That doesn't mean there aren't good people out there, or even that those I dealt with didn't have the best of intentions. But I discovered a fundamental problem when trying to work with them...

There was always a bigger project they were working on that took their attention off my site.

Just a few of my web designer experiences...

  • The first web designer I ever met took one look at my self-built website and told me he could easily get his designers to build something "much better", to match the best fitness site on the web. What did I get? A mock-up and a logo.
  • The nice chap from the Yellow Pages (remember them?) looked at my website, told me it needed to be totally redesigned and recommended a designer. What did I get? A mock-up.
  • Another web designer I encountered undertook to build me a website using a content management system (CMS) called Joomla. What did I get? The admin login page.
  • The last encounter I had with a web designer was the one that cost me the most (£1000+ before I pulled the plug). The example projects on their site were very impressive and they claimed a conversion rate of 6%+ against an industry average of ~2.5%. What did I get? A new logo that wasn't as good as my old one and not much more. They asked for photos, I had some professionally done, they said the aspect ratio was wrong. They asked for text copy - but gave me no guidelines - I supplied it, they lost it.

With the exception of the last experience, where the agency was probably very good if they were supplied with perfect images, perfect text etc. and not very good at making do with anything less, the rest suffered from the problem mentioned above: always a more lucrative project on the horizon.

The worst part of the whole thing was - in the way that we are as humans - every time I was promised a new site, I put on hold any work on the old one, believing the new one was imminent. Some of these "projects" dragged on for ages, costing me time (and potential customers) I could ill afford.

So, What Did I Do? I Built the Websites Myself

I built my first website with a tool called Dreamweaver. It was what was called a WYSIWYG editor: that long acronym stands for "What You See Is What You Get". The editor converted your work into the code needed to display it on the site.

Except that you generally didn't get what you saw, or you couldn't get it to do what you wanted. I spent ages trying to make it look the way I wanted it to look.

Another site was hosted on a self-build content management platform, which worked very well for the basics that I wanted at the time. I knew I couldn't do a lot of fancy stuff, but that was OK because most other websites weren't all that fancy anyway and I made it work quite well. That site lasted until I met that Joomla developer.

In frustration with being let down by the Joomla developer, I bought some books and taught myself how to build sites using Joomla. The site did exactly what I wanted and looked great, so much so that I built a few sites for friends. Unfortunately, Joomla came out with a new version that wasn't compatible with the one I was using and I couldn't figure out how to transfer the site across without messing it all up.

It was all taken out of my hands when the site was hacked and became unuseable. I deleted everything and decided to start fresh.

Thus my encounter with that very expensive agency, after which I decided to do everything myself, using Wordpress. I experimented with loads of hosting, templates and plugins, experiencing much frustration along the way.

But that's where the good news comes in because I gradually discovered tools and providers that do work and are simple to use. They form the basis of the toolkit I now recommend. As I discover more that work and provide the kinds of support we as small business owners need, I add these to the list.

I still can't write code. Well, not much anyway. But it doesn't matter because there are people who can. They have written some awesome tools, and I've learned how to use them.

So What? Why Does All This Matter to You?

It's simply this: as a small business owner myself, I know how valuable your time is. I also know how important it is for you to have the kind of control over YOUR web infrastructure that allows you to make changes immediately you need to do so, without having to contact your web designer.

One of the advantages of being "the little guy" is that you are way more agile than any big competitor.

But you only have that advantage if you can wake up in the middle of the night and make a change to your website that is live the following morning.

Big businesses have a financial advantage and can employ huge teams of developers to build everything "just so". But from experience, I can say confidently that their web development moves glacially slowly.

The standard model, where you engage an outside developer to look after all your web presence, is just a consultancy model of the same corporate approach. And it makes you nearly as slow as they are.

I know this on a deeply personal level and my goal is to help you develop an online infrastructure for your business that is...

Appropriate for your business

More than just a pretty digital business card

Easy to manage, allowing you to move quickly when you need to

As completely under your control as possible

Cost effective

What's more, I want to make it as easy and time-efficient as possible for you to achieve this. You're not going to spend hours going back and forth over design specs etc. This is YOUR business and it's an agile small business, not an inefficient behemoth that requires five people to sign off the addition of a contact form.

I'll show you what to do and how to do it. I'll teach you the simple design tricks I use. We'll develop a structure for your web presence that makes sense for your business, your customers and, with a view to the longer term, the search engines.

What's even better, what I will teach you is the very same approach I use. It's what allowed me to create the basics of this entire site in under 4 hours, with no pre-written copy, no photos and without even a Wordpress installation on the server to start. You really can be that agile.

I only promise what I can deliver. But even better, I will deliver it.

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