Where it all went wrong
For most small businesses, their website is, or should be, a serious bit of their business kit. The days of having a website just to "be on the interweb" are over. To stay ahead of your competitors, you need to make your website matter. Think about it: if a customer or potential customer is browsing your site, then, ipso facto, they want something you've got. But now that you've got them, you've got to keep them.
A poorly designed or poorly planned website is worse than not having a website at all. It can cost you a few thousand dollars in the short term (hey, you've still got to pay the designer, regardless), but can cost you a lot more in missed revenues in the long term. Here are some pitfalls to avoid:
Don't let urgency trump understanding.
We've had many clients take years to decide to get a website, and then want it all done in a few weeks. That's okay if you know exactly what you want, but make sure you know what your target market wants of a website — and how you're going to satisfy that need — before rushing headlong into design issues. You can't give your customers what they want if you don't understand what they want; and if you don't give your customers what they want, you won't benefit.
Don't overlook calls-to-action.
Information-only sites (and pages) have their place, but even if, to you, your offer seems self-evident, you need to tell customers to use the service you're offering. If you sell products, make sure you have a Buy button; if you're a service operator, don't forget the Call or Quote button. Sounds obvious, but it's amazing how many websites leave customers dangling without a clear call-to-action.
We've done dozens of web fix-ups, and all of them stem from the business owner not knowing what they're getting for the price. Like most things, you get what you pay for and many small businesses have been taken for a ride with an average site and long list of paid add-ons to take it beyond crappy.
Don't let it go stale.
It's not enough that you've got a website: you need to keep it fresh and relevant. New, interesting, informative content is what people expect of websites nowadays. It's a must-do, not a maybe. If your content dies, people will assume you've gone out of business. And so will Google.
Don't leave it to second-cousin Curtis.
If you read our blog, you've already met Curtis. He's a know-it-all who you wouldn't trust to wash your car, but whom you will let design your website because he's a bit of a whiz at Word and he once picked some nice curtains for Aunty Lil. Is that really all your business is worth? If that's how little you value your website, don't expect your customers to value it any higher.