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Marketing / Business marketing

See all those bells and whistles on your website? You don’t really need them

It’s easy to get caught up with adding in ecommerce, membership and other functionality on your website. Before you leap in, you need to answer: Who is going to maintain it?

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There’s nothing so forlorn as a website full of bells and whistles that hasn’t been updated in ages.

You check out the shop, and all the products are out of stock, or they are advertising events that passed three years before.

You log in to take a look at the membership area, but no new content has been added in ages and the only activity on the forum is from people asking why there is no activity on the forum.

Ask yourself: Will this spark joy for the rest of time?

You go to the calendar to try and make a booking, but either every date and every time is free, or nothing is available – ever – no matter how many decades ahead you look.

You see, bells are only useful when they are polished and rung, and whistles only fantastic when they are tootled. If they just sit unused and idly gathering dust, they are expensive virtual paperweights ripe for Kon Marie.

And yet, people add bells and whistles to their new websites in droves.  

I have this conversation at least once a week in my business:

“Of course, I would like to add in e-commerce on my website so that I can sell things, and perhaps an interactive calendar so people can book online with me, and a system so I can run online courses for people and perhaps a membership thing as well.”

“Sure,” I respond. “Can we talk for a moment about the upkeep of these components on your site. You mentioned that you a super busy and have no time even to take a pee break and that you are tech savvy and struggle with basic tech at times. Will someone be helping you with all of these quite complex bits? Who will be popping in and adding/changing products to your site, dealing with problems with memberships or payments, or adding in course content?”

“Well, I am a sole business operator. I thought once it was set up that it would look after itself. You mean, I have to do something with it?”

<Cue the sound of a herd of digital dust bunnies jostling in excitement at the prospect of another website to move into.>

Look, I understand, getting a new website is super exciting!

You start with the idea of an online brochure, and then you caught up in the thrill of adding in spectacular interactive features, and before you know it, you find yourself planning a site to rival Facebook.

The problem is that beautiful and fabulous bells and whistles on websites come at a cost.

1.Every extra feature costs $ to add to your website

You have initial set-up costs for your web-designer, plus the purchase and then annual renewal costs of any of the plugins to make it work.

2. Each feature takes admin time

Every time you want to add in or change a product in your store, it takes time. Every time a member can’t log in or has forgotten their password and contacts you for help, it takes time. Every time you have to review a membership/directory listing, deal with payments that have bounced, emails that haven’t sent or gotten lost, content that is out of date and needs to be updated, adding in and removing events … these all take time.

3. How much cost and time?

I recently built a very complex site for a local not-for-profit. Through the build, I kept challenging the extra complexity they kept adding (this wasn’t scoped creep as much as scope gallop with the hounds of hell after them). The site itself is incredibly fabulous and a showpiece of what is possible with enough time and money. It has every possible e-commerce, membership and directory bell and whistle – and it takes 1-2 hours a day for one of the volunteers to administer.

Why? People forget their details or need to be walked through how to do something. Events need images created, and booking options added. The shop needs new products added and old ones removed. At peak membership renewal times or major events, that blows out to 3-4 hours a day simply to deal with member enquiries and extra admin. Sometimes there is a lot to be said for an old-fashioned cash tin and receipt book up the back of a hall after a meeting!

So here is my advice (as contrary as it is for a web designer): 

Learn when to stop. And stop.

Listen to your teeny tiny voice of productivity reason. Bells and whistles on websites are lovely, but who is going to polish and ring that bell or tootle that whistle?

I flew solo for the better part of a decade. I know the siren’s lure of the bright shiny latest tech gadget. I know the lies I used to tell myself that of course, I could add one more task into my already overstuffed day, only to find myself most nights at 11 pm trying to tear myself away from my home office so I could grab a few hours’ sleep before starting it all over again.

I tried Virtual Assistants / Admin Assistants which worked beautifully in the financial peak times, but when financial troughs hit, guess who was back to polishing and tootling?

It’s OK to say no to bells and whistles. As my Grandmother used always to tell me, “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

So, with your next website, you have my permission to put down the bright shiny bells and whistles and go back to the basics. Invest what you would have spent into getting your photos done, your logo made-over and still have money left over for a fabulously wonderful brochure site. Leave the herd of digital dust bunnies to take over your competition’s website instead.

After all, I am sure you have quite enough on your to do list rather than worrying about polishing bells and tootling whistles.

Ingrid Moyle

from Heart Harmony Communications is a psychology-based copywriter and web designer who works with small business owners to help them convert lookers into buyers online. When not hardwired to her computer, she quests for the perfect coffee while playing Pokémon Go (Yes, it is still a thing).

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