Web Design


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How to get your local business online in Bellingham, WA (OR ANYWHERE) Part 1: Design

Empty coffee shop, not in Bellingham
Would this coffee shop be empty if it had a great website?
Photo by Ian Baldwin on Unsplash

Websites are Essential

Businesses can leverage Facebook, Instagram, Yelp, etc. to their advantage, but your business is at the mercy of those big corporate sites. You are stuck with their aesthetics and your customers are subjected to distractions and advertising. A business’ homepage is the centerpiece of their online marketing and customers’ online experience. Websites provide important information if not services, and generate valuable leads.

Websites are Scrutinized

In our era, a customer’s first impression of your business is their first impression of your website. Fair or unfair that’s our reality. I want to share insider information, my expertise as a web developer, to help you successfully get your business online and make decisions that lead to a high quality site that fits your business’ needs.

Design, Domain, & Server

To get your local business online, you need three things: a website design (code), a domain, and a server.

This post breaks down the three ways to build a website and get your site designed and coded. In my second post I’ll share a few thoughts on finding a domain and server.

Design and Code

Three typical ways to create a website design are: 1) Squarespace or WIX, 2) hiring a development company, 3) DIY designing and coding it yourself.

Not One Solution Fits All

What will work best for your business depends. Businesses have absolutely found success with all of these methods. But obviously some businesses end up with weak websites, even the best businesses. A poor quality site will underperforms generating leads and/or provides a poor experience for customers.

A busy coffee shop with fashionable customers and barristas
This shop paid as much attention to their website design as their interior design.

How you get your business online is an important decision!

Content is King

Before I break down the pros and cons of each route, readers must understand the one thing all sites must have: content. You cannot have a site without content. Lucky for you I’ve broken this topic down into two separate blog posts. This one on copy, and another on images.

Method 1: Squarespace or WIX

Squarespace and WIX let users pick a template, then moderately tweak the templates, without having to code, to create their own website. You pay a monthly fee of $40 - $60 to use the template and have the services host your site.

Squarespace and WIX are good for owners that have an eye for design and layout, time to spend tinkering, and high quality content available. If you’re content is weak, your website will be weak. Looking over the templates on each site you’ll probably be quite impressed by the quality: but keep in mind they are using professional images! You need content that sharp to make your website look good.

Some Assembly Required

Using these services is much faster than coding your own site, but they still take a pretty big chunk of time to learn and customize. I have done a few SEO consults with clients on Squarespace and they all say they spent ages getting their design to fit their needs. Don’t pick this solution if you don’t have the time to spend on it, or if you don’t have an eye for layout and design. Depending on how much you value your time, you might not save money with this option.

Method 2: Hire a Web Developer

You can also hire a web development firm to design and code your site. This method is the most expensive, sites start at $5,000 and can balloon up to any price you can imagine, depending on what you want the site to include. If a design group sells you a site for less than that, I’d look critically at the product, the company is cutting corners somehow to make a profit.

Content Still Essential

Like all of the options, the success of a website hinges on content. Many web development companies will sell you services to help generate the content. IMO it’s totally worth it, don’t try to cut corners and let the experts help you. You are already an expert on your own field, it’s worth paying another expert to insure quality content. If a company is selling you a design for less than $5,000 then you will definitely have to provide all of the content, so you’d be better off hiring a better company or going to Squarespace.

Web Development Companies Use Templates

Most web development companies use software called Wordpress to get their clients online. Wordpress began as a blogging platform, but it was so successful that developers began to use it to create full websites. Wordpress has a large catalog of templates, similar to templates from Squarespace or WIX but there are many, many options and a huge difference in quality. Developers use Wordpress templates because they are far easier and faster than coding from scratch and they do provide a good interface for clients to alter their content.

web developer typing at a keyboard
Actually, we use ergonomic keyboards because we're old enough to think about repeat stress problems.

We Love to Code

Madrona Web doesn’t use templates or Wordpress. Wordpress is much more susceptible to hackers, they are slow and bulky software, and because of their ubiquitous usage, their aesthetic looks everything else on the web. We love to code too much to use Wordpress and we work with our clients to create a custom design for each project. We optimize all of our sites to be blazing fast, even on mobile devices. We carefully code every component to make it visible to search engines helping your business be found by google.

We Love to Learn

Our goal in every project is to create a product that reflects how unique and awesome your business is. One way we do that is writing custom sites for each project so each element fits your needs rather than trying to find a way to have your needs fulfilled by the sections of a template. The other way we make a premium product is by listening and understanding not just what you want in a website, but how your business/industry works, and what makes you stand out. We want to learn from our clients and we are inspired by their work.

Method 3: True DIY

Another option to code it yourself. There are tons of resources to learn how to code. This route, obviously takes the most time, and you still need great content. Even if you’ve dabbled in HTML or Wordpress, I don’t recommend writing your own site. It’s too much effort and you are not guaranteed professional results.

Getting your business a real website is essential in our modern society. You need a high quality site to represent your business or customers will misjudge your business as substandard. Each option to get online: coding your own, Squarespace and WIX, or hiring professionals has their pros and cons, and can create a good result. The best choice for your business depends on your needs, time, and skill set. Making a bad choice will waste your valuable time, and or lead to a lame website, which no business owner wants.

If you want to talk over what route works best for you, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We love to talk shop and help others. We work with customers that are a good fit for our service and have no trouble recommending a route other than Madrona if it would best suits your needs. Good luck!