Why "We don't need a website - we never get online needs" is moronic

I hear it all the time from business owners.

"We don't need a website. We never use ours because we never get leads through it."

Why would you get leads from your website if it looks awful?

Do customers look at a bad website and say "I can't wait to buy from that business! I love the auto-playing music, flash animations, and embedded time + weather!"

In many cases, your best leads come from referrals - it's just the way things are done. In fact, quite often, leads that you get from online are usually quite poor. But even for these businesses, there is a clear long-term ROI of an attractive web presence: branding.

There is a reason that better brands can charge significantly more: perceived value.

Companies with strong brand identities will go to great lengths to protect the use of their logos, taglines, and things that resemble them. There's a reason Apple can charge a premium for their products and top firms like McKinsey can start Junior-level associates in the six-figures (and bill them at 3x or more of that).

In a company where the sales cycle is long, the purchase is large, or both, any edge counts.

For example, picture that a potential client asks his/her network for a referral for a certain type of management consulting, and receives four different companies' names.

The potential client then opens up each of these companies' websites - just for basic due diligence.

If your website looks better than those of your competitors, you could get the call first - and therefore get the sale.

Human beings are not entirely rational. We often make decisions based on emotion, and then try to justify them with logic after.

If over the lifetime of an entire website, a company gets just one extra customer, the website has likely paid for itself (based on the average customer lifetime value).

A powerful and memorable web presence allows potential and current customers to further engage with you - improving their overall experience of your brand.

A website can remove your business from being perceived as a commodity.

One of the quickest ways for your company to struggle in a competitive market is by being viewed as a commodity. In which case, you'll be competing on price - which is almost always a losing battle. Congratulations, you're on the fast-track to bankruptcy.

For example, why choose one accounting firm over the other? If I went in blind and with no referral or prior knowledge, they probably seem nearly identical.

Any small edge can count in these types of cases.

A strong digital presence allows your business to tell its unique story and express its values. For example, just a few years ago, Tesla was nearly bankrupt. Elon Musk risked nearly his entire fortune with one final investment to save the company.

Now Tesla is thriving with a regularly-increasing set of customers that are happy to be brand evangelists.

It's quite possible that you didn't know that Elon really put his money where his mouth was, which further adds to his level of mystique. Elon is a large part of the Tesla brand and why people are so fanatical about it. People often adore him as much or more than the cars themselves.

Maybe your business doesn't have quite as crazy of a story, but if a particular anecdote about your firm on your website resonates with your ideal client, isn't it more likely that he/she reaches out to you first over your competitors, since you really stand out and spoke to him?

If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound? 

While I still haven't figured out the answer to that lifelong riddle, let's put it this way - if you have a stunning new website, but nobody goes to it, is it worth it?

To be honest, I'd say so. Though if you have a fantastic website, you should do whatever you can to help people see it. There should at least be a basic strategy for getting your company and its digital assets in the public eye.

The bottom line: a new website is an always-evolving marketing and sales system with the ability to extend worldwide - and directly ties into the value of your company.

Not only does your website need to look great and provide visitors with a good sense of your firm, but it needs to serve as your content hub. This is your space on the internet. Write a blog, start a newsletter, and have social media channels linking here. All of this will help drive traffic to your website and build your brand equity - establishing your company as an expert in whatever industry you reside.

Isn't it about time you started investing in your brand to improve the value of your company and attract your ideal clients?

Imagining Your Ideal Website - Part 3 - Design basics

This is a very standard layout of a page - but it's effective.

This is a very standard layout of a page - but it's effective.

Welcome back! Apologies for the hiatus - lots has happened.

Firstly, the first website workshop is to be at General Assembly at 1776 in DC on January 17th, check it out!

This week, we’re going to talk about the basic design principles.

Long story short, good design is basic and easy to understand.

Don’t look to add every bell+whistle. Or ever feature. Or every image that is somewhat related to what you do that you can find across the depths of the internet.

Here are some general design tips:

  • Use strong visuals (ideally high-res photos with resolutions of 1000 x 1000 or greater).
  • Websites should be responsive. You know when you visit a website on your phone, and you have to pinch/scroll/zoom all around to see what you need to? Those aren’t responsive. Responsive websites look great on all devices, including mobile and tablets, as their content adapts to the size of the viewing screen. One website that looks great everywhere - sounds wonderful, huh?! Your users will appreciate it.
  • Less is more. Keep the amount of text to a minimum.
  • Don’t have too many items on the navigation bar - no more than 6. The one on the far right should be the call to action, such as a “contact” or a “buy now” page.
  • Use predominately sans serif fonts (at least for non-heading text). Sans serif fonts are the simplest ones around and are the easiest to view. They are the fonts without the little frills on the ends of letters. For example, Calibri is a Sans Serif font (now the default in MS Word), where as Times New Roman is a Sans Serif font.
  • Use strong fonts for headers.
  • “Chunk” content - don’t have “walls of text.” Break things up into easily-digestible bits.
  • Don’t have auto-playing video or audio: it usually turns out catastrophically.
  • Have your contact info and other site links in the footer of your site (don’t leave it blank).
  • Not always, but usually, it is best to have a strong banner image on your home page with header text over it. It is also good to ideally have a “call to action” button in that same banner so that people don’t have to scroll down.
  • Use colors that work well together - they are opposites on the color wheel. Adobe Kuler is a great tool for creating color palettes.
  • Have lots of “white space.” Now this space doesn’t have to actually be the color white, but what I mean is to have different content and website elements spaced out effectively so that things don’t look crowded.
  • Body fonts should almost always be black / dark gray. Links should be some other color to show that it’s something that can be clicked on.

Design inspiration

One website that does an excellent job of design is that of Hubspot. Hubspot is web-based sales/marketing software. In fact, software companies often have some of the best websites around.

hubspot-landing.JPG
Hubspot's site is fully-responsive, too.

Hubspot's site is fully-responsive, too.

It has a lot of the principles mentioned above: strong headers that are very clear, a ton of information in the banner (including an attractive image and clear “call to action” buttons, strong visuals, isn’t too crowded, and is fully-responsive.

Here are some great links to get design ideas:

  • http://land-book.com/
  • https://www.thebestdesigns.com/
  • http://www.awwwards.com/websites/clean/
  • http://bestwebgallery.com/
  • http://www.siteinspire.com/
  • http://www.admiretheweb.com/
  • http://unmatchedstyle.com/gallery
  • http://www.siiimple.com/
  • http://www.webcreme.com/

Good luck and we’ll see you for part four next week - the actual creation process.

*Jared Gold is the founder of Brevity. His company makes web development and digital marketing for local businesses, nonprofits, and associations less painful and easier to manage. He is developing a workshop for new entrepreneurs that are not pleased with the DIY website solutions, but don’t have the resources to hire a standard web firm.

Imagining Your Ideal Website - Part 2 - Finding Images

This series is to promote my upcoming Website Workshop, where participants can bring their content and design ideas and, with a few hours of work(with hands-on assistance in a small classroom setting), they walk out with an attractive website that is live on the internet and easy to maintain. Check it out here!


Part 1 - What text should be on my website? 

Part 2 - Where do I find good images/media? --> This article 

Part 3 - What are the basic design principles to follow? 

Part 4 - What is the actual creation process like? 

Image source for post thumbnail.

Finding images for your website - surprisingly easy!

The good news is that finding amazing photography for your website is easier than ever. Stock photos have come a long way from their cheesy roots, and there are more sources than ever.

The main stock photo sites are ShutterstockiStock, and Getty Images. If you just search ”Royalty-free stock images” online, you’ll get many results. Here is one article that lists many of them.

You may be asking yourself the obvious question: why not just use Google image search and save them?

For personal use, this is fine, but for business use - this is unsafe from a legal perspective and just frowned up.

General guidelines for getting images for your website:

  • You should never skimp on photos in terms of cost.
  • If you need photos done of your business and/or its employees, hire a professional photographer - you’ll be very happy you did.
  • Don’t use any images where people are looking at the camera (unless they are headshots of your employees).
  • Don’t use images where people are being too exaggerated in any way, such as huge smiles or laughs - it will look artificial.
  • All images should be high-resolution. Therefore, 1500 x 1500 pixels would be a good starting point. That way, the pictures will always be crisp and flexible to use almost anywhere on the website.
  • Images should always be in .JPEG or .PNG formats (most likely .JPEG).
  • Your company’s logo should be transparent, and therefore saved as a .PNG (unless your company’s logo has purposely included a white background with it).
  • The amount of images you need for your website completely vary on the site design that you’ve chosen, how much explaining you need to do, etc. At least plan to have one large image as a “banner” photo at the top, and then at least one image per page. Your home page will likely have at least three additional images.
  • Sometimes, you want visuals, but not necessarily images. You can look into various infographics and icon sets for download (some of which are free, some of which are paid). If you decide to use an icon set, make sure that all icons that you implement on your website are from the same set (and therefore have the same styling) to ensure continuity.

Good luck and we’ll see you for part three next week - the basic design principles!

*Jared Gold is the founder of Brevity. His company makes web development and digital marketing for local businesses, nonprofits, and associations less painful and easier to manage. He is developing a workshop for new entrepreneurs that are not pleased with the DIY website solutions, but don’t have the resources to hire a standard web firm.

Imagining Your Ideal Website - Part 1 - What to Write

This series is to promote my upcoming Website Workshop, where participants can bring their content and design ideas and, with a few hours of work(with hands-on assistance in a small classroom setting), they walk out with an attractive website that is live on the internet and easy to maintain. Check it out here!


Articles will be released on a weekly basis on Tuesdays this month. I’ve written these based on the most common questions that I receive from others in regards to making a website.

*This series will be aimed at local business owners and those that manage associations/nonprofits. These websites will consist of 5-15 pages and will act as simple websites - like a “brochure.”

Part 1 - What text should be on my website?

Part 2 - Where do I find good images/media?

Part 3 - What are the basic design principles to follow?

Part 4 - What is the actual creation process like?

Overall goal

When designing a website, it is essential to always keep the overall goal in mind. At least in the case of a basic “brochure” website (which is what we’re discussing in this series), it is to get people to email you or pick up the phone and call you. That is the ultimate goal. They’ve therefore determined that your business is a credible one, and now that visitor either wants to buy from you, or at least contact you to acquire more information and move along with the buying process.

The home page of Infusionsoft (infusionsoft.com), which has many solid design principles incorporated.

The home page of Infusionsoft (infusionsoft.com), which has many solid design principles incorporated.

What text should be on my website?

Most people, as you can imagine, don’t like writing about themselves. We try to be modest, after all. However, when someone visits your website, they’re looking for information - so at some point or another, you will need to write about your business or organization. Nobody knows what you do and why you are unique better than you, so make sure that you allow a level of passion and clarity that keeps visitors interested.

Website navigation

This will obviously vary based on the purpose of your website. It’s important to plan out what pages you’ll have. In general, the basic ones would be: “Home,” “About Us,” “Services” (or “Products”), and “Contact Us.” It’s best to not have more than six items on a navigation bar, as you don’t want to overwhelm visitors with options. Four to six items is usually the magic number. It is perfectly fine to have subpages if they’re relevant (e.g. if under “Services,” you have one subcategory for an individual page to cover each service that your firm offers).

Once you plan out what pages you want, let’s move along to the actual text content for those pages.

Tips for the actual text on pages

There aren’t any golden rules in terms of things like number of words per pages to write. So if you were thinking that, then get that out of your head!

  • The key is, once again, writing what you need to get people to take that next step - emailing or calling you.
  • I usually recommend somewhere between 100 and 300 words per page. But this is a basic rule of thumb.
  • If it is essential for you to share large amounts of information via pages on your website, they should be broken up into multiple sections with various headers/subheaders.
  • In general, with text, less is more. You want to “chunk” it into various sections and be relatively brief. Give people the essentials of what you do.
  • Continuing off of the three points above - images help break up text and make it more digestible. I’ll be covering images in part two of this series.
  • Focus on the end benefits that your clients receive, as opposed to just listing off capabilities. Others don’t care about what you do necessarily, but what end solution that you can provide for them.
  • Don’t badmouth your competitors. It is, however, okay to mention some issues with the industry you’re in as a whole and how you differentiate yourself from the competition in that sense.
Home page of Levick (levick.com). There is more to the page below, but there is a relatively minimal amount of text. The text that is on the page is strong and clear.

Home page of Levick (levick.com). There is more to the page below, but there is a relatively minimal amount of text. The text that is on the page is strong and clear.

You should now have a high-level understanding of organizing the text content on your website and what to write. Start getting to it - and be on the lookout for the post next Tuesday, when I discuss finding great images (and other media) for your website!