Small Business Websites, Dead and Gone?

If you had asked me a couple of years ago whether or not small business websites were “dead”, I probably would have answered, “Not quite dead, but definitely dying.” Back then, the rapid rise of social media seemed to be leading towards the elimination of the need for a small business to have a website. Many small business owners had abandoned their websites and instead focused on free social media presences.

Small Business Website.

In 2016 though, my answer as to whether or not small business websites are “dead” is different than it was back then. Now I would say that small business websites are more alive than ever before. I often hear from clients that prospective customers frequently ask them, “What is your website?” If they answer that they don’t have one and direct the prospective customer to Facebook, for example, they are met with a reaction of suspicion from the prospective customer, a suspicion of the legitimacy of the business. It seems as if, to your prospective customer, your business is not a “real business” if it doesn’t have a website.

The ease at which social media presences can be developed by anyone seems to have created a generation of hesitant consumers who are now looking for proof online that a business is a legitimate business. Anyone can “create a business” in five minutes by slapping together a Facebook page and a Twitter profile, but it takes a bit more time and effort time to register a domain name, acquire hosting, and create a website. The very presence of a website reassures that prospective customer that you are indeed, a legitimate, fully-functioning business.

Now, there is a lot more to forming a business than just creating a website and just because you have a website doesn’t necessarily mean you are a legitimate business, but in the eyes of a prospective customer, a website validates your legitimacy. So, use a free online web-builder, hire a professional web designer, or learn to code a website yourself, but don’t do your business a disservice by not having a website.

TV Shows, Hacking, and the Technology Divide.

Mr. Robot, the computer hacking show on USA, premiered on June 24, 2015 and was determined to be best show of the year by TV Guide. In 2016, lead actor Rami Malek won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series beating out big names such as Kevin Spacey, Live Schreiber, and Bob Odenkirk. Malek deserved this award, (as did Tatiana Maslany, the lead actress on Orphan Black on the BBC, who won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, but that is a topic for another post), but perhaps the most important thing about Malek’s win is that it may bring Mr. Robot into more homes.

Mr. Robot and Hacking. The main premise of Mr. Robot is a giant hack perpetrated by a misfit group of hackers against the world’s largest corporation, known as E Corp or affectionately referred to by the hackers as Evil Corp. The hack, meant to reset the unbalanced economic system into one of equality, actually somewhat backfires and creates an even deeper divide between the haves and have nots. In addition to the social commentary the show provides, one of the most important parts of the show is its dedication to making sure that the code that appears on the show is accurate and authentic. Most hacker TV shows and movies have traditionally been full of 3-D like graphics that portray computer programming as some sort of mystical entity that exists in an entirely different dimension. Mr. Robot, however, shows programming for what it really is: the implementation of various computer languages performed by people who have taken the time to learn how the technology works.

There is also currently another computer based show focused on the very real implementation of computer programming that has not the widespread recognition that Mr. Robot has garnered. Halt and Catch Fire, on AMC just finished airing its third season and is based on the computer advancements that occurred in the 1980s and 1990s. While Mr. Robot is a show about the “what ifs” of the near future, Halt and Catch Fire eloquently documents the huge developments of decades past that have lead to what our computer technology is today. Back then, it was a relatively small group of people that used computer technology when compared with the pervasiveness of it today. However, the people who used technology back then, made major efforts to understand it, understand how it worked. Today we as a culture on the whole, have no clue as to how the Smartphone that is glued to our hand works. Is this a problem?

I believe it is a major problem. Most of us are too lazy to even reset default passwords that come with things like wireless routers. On Friday, October 21, 2016 one of the largest DDoS attacks ever perpetrated took place and while it is still early in the discovery process, it seems that the hackers took advantage of security cameras that ironically are fully of security flaws. Is this the future that we have to look forward too? Yes, if we don’t rapidly increase the overall knowledge of our world of all things technology. It can’t just be some people who understand technology. Just as the economic divide on Mr. Robot gets bigger after the hack, if we continue with only a few learning how technology works the divide will just get bigger and bigger and the inequality will also get bigger. Initiatives around the United States have begun to expand computer science programs in K-12, but will it be enough? Is it too late? Are we already, as a whole, too far behind?


When I was starting out as a new web designer, I did something that I believe most people do when starting out a new venture, I deeply discounted my rates to help me create my portfolio. Those clients that believed in me early on were rewarded with websites that cost them very little, but they also had to tolerate the ups and downs of my learning curve. After six solid years of business however, I have reached the point where I feel that a transparent, clearly set pricing structure is the best method.

Many web designers do not publish their design rates, rather choosing a generic statement like “Contact for pricing.” I believe that many designers are hesitant to publish rates on their website for two reasons: 1.) With all of the low-cost or free web builders out there, they are scared to push away prospective clients with what seem like high costs for something that they can seemingly get free elsewhere and 2.) The designers simply don’t really know what to charge. When you Google “How much should I charge for website design.” You can find all sorts of tips on figuring out your pricing structure, but it really is simply based on how much you feel comfortable charging AND what your customers feel comfortable paying. That being said, Google “How much should a website design cost” and you will often find Google Ads with seemingly random numbers that vary wildly from $257 to $795 to $2995 and links to articles listing web design costs so confusing that even this web designer doesn’t want to read them. So here are my ideas on how much a web designer should charge for a website design.Pricetag.

When a person is shopping for a car, they have a price range in their head, either how much they can spend monthly or how much they want to spend overall. Which number is more important to the customer really depends on the prospective car buyer’s big picture outlook, but either way they know what they want to spend. A person who has the number $400 a month in their head for a car payment is typically not going to just all of a sudden pay $700 a month because they like the color of the car. Car manufactures price cars partly based on the clientele they believe their car attracts. Pricing a website design is essentially the same thing as pricing a car. If you are looking to attract big corporate clients whose websites will cost tens to even hundreds of thousands of dollars to design and take a solid year or more to design, by all means go for it. But if you are a small business focused web designer, which I believe the majority of web designers are, and you want to know how much to charge for your website designs, here is the simple answer: KNOW YOUR CLIENTELE.

Understand who your prospective clients are and how they feel about web design. Discover your target market or your niche design skill, see my blog post It’s the End of Web Design as We Know It for more about learning to understand your client. Once you understand your prospective clients, you can charge a fair price, one that both you and your client can feel comfortable with. Since I have started listing my prices clearly on my website I have not had to spend as much time in the business day coming up with estimates for prospective clients and worrying “Did I undercut myself and estimate too little?” or “Did I overestimate what this prospective client is willing to spend?” Bottom line, if you want to design nice sites and get paid a fair price, figure out a pricing system, post it on your website, and let the clients who feel your costs and designs are the right fit for them choose you, instead of you trying to conform to what you think the client wants. As your design skill level changes, adjust your pricing levels accordingly and you will still be matched with the clients that are best for you. Trust me, transparency up front really pays off and in the long run saves you a lot of time, which in my opinion is priceless.