We build websites for small businesses. Budget is always a concern. It’s not only a concern for our clients, but also for us. We understand because we’re in the same boat. We are a small business. That being said, we feel obligated to give our clients a marketing tool that will propel their business forward, not just leave them $500 in the hole.
Somewhere along the line, we decided that giving our clients project pricing options was the best way to more our business forward. Small businesses came to us with projects of varying sizes, and we’d quote them with at least two options. Option 1 would be a custom website. The solution met their needs, the needs of their customers, and would help them meet their business goals. Option 2 would be an off-the-shelf WordPress theme with their content dumped in. It met the needs of the client and their customers (mostly), but it wasn’t very refined and often did not prove to be very successful in terms of generating new business. Option 2 was also much cheaper. You can probably guess that, yes, most small businesses jumped at the less expensive Option 2.
But recently, we stopped offering that service. In the end, it was never good for us or our clients. And here’s why…
Learning the Theme
Most themes we purchased came with a bit of a learning curve. We had to spend time wrapping our heads around how the theme author wanted site owners to build their pages. The themes all came with instructions, but often they were written by people who were not completely fluent in English. Many times the instructions had not been updated as often as the theme, and so screenshots and naming conventions didn’t match. All this combined meant that we spent a good chunk of time just learning how to get the theme to match the example site that had gotten our client excited in the first place. That’s time we could have spent working on a custom solution.
Speed of the Site
Invariably, sites built with off-the-shelf themes were slow. Very slow. In fact, one site we worked on initially took 23 seconds to load. After some optimization (and moving the site to a better host), we were able to get that time under 3 seconds, but the time we spent fixing the speed issue was a hidden cost that neither we nor the client were expecting.
Let’s be honest. Many small businesses don’t have the quality photography and content necessary to make an off-the-shelf WordPress theme look great. When we simply migrated our clients’ content into a new theme, we found that the result was a site that was far less impressive that the preview version of the theme they purchased.
We also found that many times our clients wanted us to make small cosmetic changes that seemed quite simple. Depending on how the theme was built, however, those changes were often not as simple as they seemed and added time and money to the project.
The Sad Truth
The sad truth of all this is that almost every project we’ve done on a slim budget, using an off-the-shelf theme has resulted in a site that doesn’t look and feel exactly the way the client expected and doesn’t help the business become more profitable.
Isn’t that the goal after all? Your new website should be an investment in your business. It should bring you more business and make you more profitable. It should be an employee that does it’s job well – that doesn’t sleep, take sick days, or go on vacation.
That kind of website excites us. In fact, that’s really the only kind of website we’re willing to build.
If that excites you too and you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and put in the time and effort, let’s get you a website that will propel your business forward!
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