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So you think you don’t need a website?

Posted on August 26, 2016

 

Before I start this post, I must first apologise for the vitriol that is about to spew forth. John, our Content Team Leader, will have attempted to edit much of the hatred and anger from this but, if he’s caught all of it, the word count won’t be sufficient for a blog and you won’t be reading this.

Since you are reading this, I’ll assume the bitterness is still here and you have my apologies.

Now, on to the matters at hand. This week, the World Wide Web turned 25. The founder, a British chap named Tim, opened up the internet for public use in on August 23rd, 1991. Could anyone have seen the impact it would have on our lives?

I actually remember seeing it mentioned on the news at the time, and I remember feeling a sense of anxiety that I should somehow be doing something or else I’d be ‘left behind’ as the news report was suggesting. It was going to be huge for businesses and it would change the way we shop forever. Those businesses that didn’t adopt the internet would lose ground on their competitors, or so it was claimed.

I was only 15 so, despite the genuine concern I felt that I was missing out on something, I got over it. I finished school, I went to university and I didn’t really show much of an interest in this ‘internet’ thing. It wasn’t until I was about to graduate university when it first clicked about what the web could do.

We had made a film in university and had aspirations of becoming film directors. We had booked entrance to the Cannes Film Festival and had it all planned out. To help our efforts, I put together a CD-ROM, using Microsoft PowerPoint, showcasing parts of the film. We intended to hand this out to prospective investors.

CD-ROM-Cover

Looking back on that, it seems incredibly outdated. Who actually prints CDs anymore with material promoting a film? A fellow student suggested we could take what had gone into the CD-ROM and make a website out of it.

A website, how the hell would I do that? Don’t I need to spend money on a domain name, and keep my computer on all the time so the website stays online? These were genuine thoughts I had to this suggestion. This was in 1998.

The first website

Well, I did build the website. It was primitive, and used something called Frames. If you’ve never heard of Frames with regards to websites, that’s a good thing. Websites should never be built in Frames. They’re really for applications – internal-use sites that aren’t supposed to be indexed by search engines. Despite this, many websites have been built in Frames as some web developers failed to move on with technology.

The website also uses Tables. Again, these were never really intended for use on the web – at least not for layout purposes. They’re fine for displaying tabular data, as that’s what they’re for. Again, despite this, many websites have been constructed using Tables and continue to be constructed in this way. It’s wrong, and I learned all of this back in the late ‘90s as opposed to recently, working on a client’s website.

Even with my first website’s limitations, and they were plentiful, it started me on my long journey to where I am right now. It’s significance to me is such that I have actually kept it alive today, albeit as a section of a more updated version of the website.

That was 18 years ago, and I’ve built a lot of websites since then.

The growth of the web

Since those heady days of the ‘90s, when the web was just a new fad dismissed by many and adopted by geeks, it has come a long way. For example, the Tinder Foundation (a charity that specialises in digital skills) has predicted that 90% of transactions will be online by the year 2020.

That’s 90%. The web has already completely changed the way live our daily lives, the way we communicate with our friends and family, the way we play games and the way we shop. Web-based businesses have risen to become multimillion pound companies and have then fallen away to nothing in the space of a few years, while other purely digital businesses have become billion pound companies.

The biggest media owner actually publishes no content (Facebook), the largest taxi firm owns no vehicles (Uber) and the largest hotel company owns no property (Airbnb). This is all because of the web. Without the web, none of this would have ever happened.

And we’ve not even mentioned Google yet – the science project from two nerds built in a garage.

We don’t need a website

Despite all of this, I still hear some people claim they don’t need a website. It’s just not something their business requires. They’ve managed perfectly well without one all of these years, and getting one now would just be an unnecessary expense.

It’s as if the last 25 years of the web have just passed them by.

One of our blogs this week cited research from GoDaddy stating that, as of 2015, as many as 60% of small businesses in the UK haven’t even got a website. To me this is incredulous. What possesses people to think this way?

Let’s have a look shall we? Here are some of the comments made by people in their attempts to dismiss websites as an essential marketing tool for their business.

All of our clients know who we are already

Really? All of them? Every single one of your clients knows who you are already? Of course they do, otherwise they wouldn’t be your clients. What about the people who don’t know who you are? The World Wide Web, as the name suggests, is worldwide. It doesn’t matter where you’re based, you can do business online with anyone, anywhere. You can have people find you from the other side of the globe, or the other side of the street. If you think you’ve opened up every avenue for business that could be opened already, then you’ve probably not really understood the internet at all – hence why you’ve made this statement in the first place.

We don’t do any business online

Without a website, I’m not surprised. It astonishes me the people who utter this hokum. It’s as if they’ve completely failed to grasp the chicken and egg thing (which is actually a flawed metaphor, as evolution proves the egg came first). Regardless of eggs pre-dating chickens, is the reason you don’t do any business online that your customers don’t use the internet, or that you don’t?

To say you don’t do business online is like admitting you’ve no idea how to use the internet for marketing, and you don’t understand websites. It’s not a defence of your ‘non-internet’ existence.

Our clients don’t use the internet

Well that’s just a load of old horse droppings isn’t it? In the UK alone, use of the internet in UK households has hit 89% in 2016. This is despite statistics showing that at least a third of the UK has, at some stage, been below the poverty line. We may not be able to afford the basics in life, but we can afford the internet, as that’s an essential.

You may claim that your clients are of an older generation and, therefore, don’t use the internet. Once again, that’s utter dross. The web has existed for 25 years now. This means anyone who is aged 65 now was just 40 when the web launched. Don’t think of people over 65 as technophobes who don’t use the web. We’re an aging population and, as we get older, our digital skills are getting better. Figure from the Office for National Statistics, cited in a recent blog by John Murray, showed that 74.1% of Britons aged 65-74 had used the web within the last three months.

Your clients don’t use the web? You mean you don’t use the web, because your clients certainly do.

I wouldn’t know what to do with a website

At least this one’s honest. The fact you can admit you wouldn’t know what to do with a website is a good thing, it shows you know the limitations of your experience. Too many people claim to understand the internet and just want a website because everyone else has one, despite them having no real clue as to how it can be used to help their business. This is why people end up getting Wix websites, or use 1and1 My Website. It’s more a case of ‘I need to have a website’ rather than ‘I need to have a website that works’.

Before deciding to just ‘get a website’ for the sake of it, speak to an expert about what the website could actually do and how it could help your business.

We just need a website to tell people to look at it, it doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive

This one just gets my goat. It takes me back to when print designers first started designing websites and they wanted to control the visual without compromise. The text of the website was secondary to the design, and the idea of different screen sizes (even though they existed) meant absolutely nothing to them. So long as it looks great on their monitor, that’s all that matters. You want to add more text? Sorry, there’s no room in the design. You want the text to be readable by search engines? Nope, we’ve done it as images so we can use one of our fancy fonts.

Utter hogwash! Websites like this were just brochures slapped up on the internet. They were useless, yet people still built them and businesses still paid for them. It’s OK though, because I tell people to look at my website.

What a load of crap! What’s the point in having a website you have to tell people to look at? You may as well go back to what I did in 1998 and put your website on a CD-ROM and post it to people or hand it out at networking events. If the success of your website is limited by people you’ve spoken to, you’re just wasting your time. Your website will never bring you new business, it will never attract new customers and it will be nothing more than a glorified online brochure.

It may as well not exist.

The World Wide Web hasn’t grown to the size it has over the last 25 years by people throwing up free websites just so they can tell people they have one. It’s grown by businesses recognising the power of the web and utilising it.

For the sake of your business, please, don’t just get a website because you think you need one. Don’t dismiss the internet in the misguided belief you don’t need a website. You do. You need a good one. Ask what a website can do for you and become part of the next 25 years of the web, because it’s only going to get bigger.

Darren Jamieson

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 15 years’ experience in these fields.

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