Ever since the dawn of the internet, we’ve had DIY website builders. The web design industry needs to learn to stop feeling threatened from their emergence, and embrace their place within an expanding market.
When I was 12 years old and the millennium bug turned out to be nothing to fear, I had my first taste of web design. It wasn’t coding, it was GeoCities. GeoCities was a Yahoo platform that you might remember from the golden dawn on the internet. It essentially allowed anyone to create a simple, free website, by using a page builder to place graphics, text and photos onto a canvas.
When I returned to web design as a teenager, I went back to tinkering with pre-made templates. My music site, which invigorated my passion for web design and development, started off as a free WordPress theme. As my expertise and abilities grew, so templates and page builders became too restrictive. I started tinkering with the code directly, and eventually I taught myself everything I needed to know to make my own custom themes and pages.
When I tell this story, some other developers sneer at me and explain pompously how their first taste of web design was hand writing HTML in notepad. Great for them – but how we kick off our careers doesn’t define our capabilities. Some of the most talented designers and devs I know also started off their passion for web design in a page builder.
For many small businesses and individuals free templates and page builders serve the amazing purpose of enabling them to get their business online economically and quickly.
But it’s not just as a kick start in a career that these tools serve a purpose. For many small businesses and individuals free templates and page builders serve the amazing purpose of enabling them to get their business online economically and quickly.
At WATB, we’re undoubtedly proud of our offering. We build bespoke, hand-coded and hand-designed websites, because that’s our area in the market and it’s what our clients are looking for, as well as what suits their business and budget.
But we also understand that not every client or small business can afford £££ on a website. If you’re just kicking off your gardening or decorating business, you may only have a limited budget. These tools allow you to create a fairly professional looking online presence.
This kind of talk of sensationalist, hyperbolic nonsense is unhelpful and damages the reputation of all of us. It makes us look like whiny so-en-so’s who can’t accept that we aren’t the be all and end all. Home DIY didn’t kill the decorator or builder and Ground Force didn’t kill the landscape gardener. And so Wix, Squarespace and Theme Forest also won’t kill the web designer.
There will always be a place in the market for developers and designers who can lend their expertise to a client. Imagine you are a large corporation, a page builder isn’t likely to give you the level of control and bespoke design you require. The same can be said of many other businesses.
But even if they could, as businesses grow those running them have to relinquish control over various aspects of that business to staff and other service providers. It’s not economical or a good use of a CEO’s time for them to sit there fiddling about with their website in Wix when they have make or break meetings to attend to.
Many of our clients specifically approach us not wanting to use page builders or free templates because the functionality and design they’re looking for can only be done bespoke. Even if a page builder or template came close, they want something that they know someone has sat there and created out of their head. It is exactly the same reason why some people choose to spend a few thousand on a tailored suit instead of a £500 suit from Marks and Spencer. The M&S suit will be fine, but the tailored suit will fit just that bit better.
It’s not economical or a good use of a CEO’s time for them to sit there fiddling about with their website in Wix
Let’s learn to accept the role in the market that page builders and free templates have. They let small businesses, individuals and those with a smaller budget get themselves online quickly. It allows them to visualise their ideas and have hands-on control. There will always be a place for hand-coded, bespoke websites created by professional designers and developers.
In order to promote your business and reach consumers that spend an entire 24 hours a week online, you need to make sure that you have a viable social media strategy in place.
By posting unique and interesting content on your social media platforms, and by actively engaging with followers, you can start to turn this into a funnel for generating leads.
In order to stay on top of your social media strategy, it’s important to have some form of social media management software to do some of the heavy lifting. Software such as this is imperative for scheduling, tracking and monitoring social media content.
At its best, social media management software can help you not only plan your content months in advance, but also remain reactive by letting you tune into ongoing news stories or trending topics.
There are a whole bunch of social media management companies out there and all of them offer roughly the same sort of package but Hootsuite is the only one that offers an actually free service (as opposed to just a free trial period).
They do try to hide it on their website though so make sure you follow this link in order to get to the right page.
The free version of this software lets you:
Of course, there’s also a number of paid-for packages that you can buy from Hootsuite that give you access to a great number of services including higher ad spend budgets, automated post scheduling and custom analytics.
But if you’re a small business looking to get started, the free version of the software should be comprehensive enough to allow you to get your social media strategy in motion.
We’ve said before that the secret to a successful lead generation strategy is to keep analysing and refining your methods. Well, website tracking software is the best way to conduct this analysis.
By digging into the analytics of your visitors’ actions, you can start to gain a better picture of why people come to your site, what they want from it, what they dislike about it and how you can improve upon their experience next time.
There are a wide variety of services that can fall into the category of website tracking software, including heatmaps, funnels, user polls, surveys, visitor recordings and more.
Basically, any kind of software that collects data about the ways in which your visitors interact with your site can be considered website tracking software.
Whereas there are a multitude of smaller software companies that focus in on just one website tracking service, Hotjar offers an array of useful tools.
Hotjar tools include:
Hotjar’s free service is able to collect data from 2000 page views a day and will give you access to up to 300 visitor recordings and 3 heatmaps, forms, funnels, polls and surveys. Unlimited users can be added to your account and Hotjar will also store your data for a full year.
While we’d normally recommend free services when possible, it’s probably worth paying for Hotjar’s Plus plan to begin with.
For just under £25 a month you can collect data from 10,000 page views a day and have unlimited services and reports. Plus there’s even a 15-day free trial for you to test out whether you like their software or not.
Lead generation doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavour.
What’s important is that you put real effort into all of your interactions with potential leads - whether that’s through educational and informative blog posts, social media interactions or even just a chat on the phone.
If you believe in your business’ ability to help its customers then all you have to do is let that shine through.
Ultimately, these tools are just there to help you meet potential leads on their level. The rest is up to you.
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