Written on November 14, 2016 by Stephan Wehner.

Websites: How big, how complex? It’s a tricky decision to make.

Invest too little in your website and you end up with a virtual turd for all the world to see.

Invest too much and you’re bringing a tank to a knife fight.

So, just how much should you invest in your website – and what kind of support should you enlist when building/maintaining it?

Well, the short answer is: It depends on your level of need.

The long answer, however, is way more fun.


Your ‘level of need’ is a function of two variables:

How big your business is

Are you A&W's? Or are you that guy selling burgers by the roadside?

The former is classified as ‘Big’ – you have a tonne of resources to spare and your customer base is massive.

The latter is classified as ‘Small’ – you have to economize a bit and keep things simple but effective.

How much of your business is online

Are you simply looking to post some crucial information on your business (address, contact details, maybe a menu)? Then you’re classified as ‘Mostly Offline’. Information is travelling in only one direction: you to your customer.

But perhaps you need to collect emails for your newsletter. Your online relationship with customers is two-way, but only information based. Then you’re ‘Partially Online’.

Maybe you’re running a swanky e-commerce venture – being online IS your business. Both information and money is involved. Then you’re ‘Mostly Online’.

By combining these two variables, we’ve identified 6 broad categories of businesses. It’s not a a precise science, but it will help you place your website needs in the right area.

Category 1A. Mostly Offline — Small

These guys don’t need fancy systems with network engineers backing them up. Nope.

They just need a website that looks good and impresses a great first image on prospective customers. These are usually local businesses that want to build an online presence – what’s the menu at the local cafe? Well, it’s on the website, together with contact information, an address, maybe some blog updates on the business… It’s a simple setup, but very powerful nevertheless.

Most businesses could cobble together a decent looking website on Wordpress or some other similar blog-based service. At the lower end, this means just doing things yourself (which can be awfully annoying, especially if you have to teach yourself everything for juuuust this one website). At the higher end, it means hiring a web designer to settle the website layout, but not much more.

Category 1B. Mostly Offline — Big

Think McDonald's. Most of their website is simply information presented elegantly.

Unlike their smaller counterparts, they make use of more professional and dynamic design elements. Rather than a simple address posted on their website, they may have a database of restaurants you can search. Again, information is only travelling one way – from the business to the customer – and this makes things simple, but the amount of information is massive given their massive customer base.

At this stage, a professional front-end developer is must. A back-end developer may be needed for databases, or a general-purpose developer could do the job at simpler levels.

Category 2A. Partially Online — Small

For these folks, their business is still primarily offline back in real life (where the cats aren’t nearly as cute). But they want to use the web to engage customers on a deeper level. Interactions are a conversation, rather than a notice board.

This typically involves collecting email addresses to blast out a monthly newsletter, or creating mechanisms where customers can send you queries. Collecting and sending emails is a bit trickier than it sounds – particularly when you grow your email list into the triple digits.

Wordpress and other similar websites suffice, though additional plugins (sometimes paid for), may be necessary to get what you want. Pop-up boxes need to be built to collect emails (Popular services include SumoMe or Thrive). Those emails need to be transferred to a database. And then, of course, you’d need a service to send emails in bulk (Think MailChimp, Aweber or Drip). A professional web developer definitely helps here, unless you intend to learn up these tools by yourself (which is possible!) You may even wish to enlist the help of a email marketing specialist for your small business to help build your email automation.

Category 2B. Partially Online — Big

Again, these guys are doing essentially the same thing as their Small counterpart – just on a much, much bigger scale. Information is now travelling both ways, making things mind-boggling. Think Domino's Pizza – if you want to order online, you need to provide your address and contact details, which then gets forwarded to the nearest store. Money isn’t necessarily involved (though in some countries online payment for pizza is a thing now), but the sheer level of coordination with information makes this a tough game to play.

It goes without saying that these folks will need some serious back-end developers to iron out the creases. Email marketing also gets a lot more expensive, and these businesses may have to negotiate personalized deals with their service providers.

Category 3A. Mostly Online — Small

In this category, most of the business is carried out online – from ordering to payment. Maybe you make hamburgers and deliver them by post to customers (hey, the world is a weird place okay…), in which case, you won’t be there to physically take money out of their soon-to-be greasy hands. Your solution? E-commerce, which can be a serious pain in the neck when starting out.

Some small businesses simply shift over to 3rd party platforms. Etsy, eBay, Amazon, Carousell – you offload all your e-commerce nonsense on another platform. This is a clean and easy approach but beware – they usually take a percentage-cut of all your earnings.

Another option is to resort to using e-commerce software on your website e.g. Magento, X-Cart, or Shopify, to name a few famous providers. It’s a bit pricier, but you pay a flat-rate – your fees don’t scale with your earnings. This option, however, takes a bit of setup, and hence, may require a specialist in the said e-commerce software.

Category 3B. Mostly Online — Big

These are the titans of the web. All shall bow before their might.

Bucketloads of money get transferred around, and companies have to keep customers’ payment information safe and secure. If you read the news occasionally, you’ll note that this is awfully challenging.

The same software may be used, as with small businesses, but a dedicated team of specialists is a near must. Payment specialists, legal advisers – the whole works.

If you fall under this category, you probably aren’t reading this, but hey, if you are… nudge nudge we offer some wicked web services.

So, where do you fall under? Take a deep long look at what you need, then place yourself in the right quadrant.

Are you a small business and you aren’t sure how far to go with all this crazy website stuff? Drop us a message, or sign up for our FREE email course, built specifically to coach small businesses in the art of not having a horrible website. Whether you’re Small - Mostly Offline or Small - Mostly Online, we have you covered.

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