Avoid Getting Screwed: Website Renovation Guide For Managers of Small Service-Based Businesses, U.K. (Updated for 2021)

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This is a website renovation and budgeting guide I’ve written for managers of small service-based businesses in the UK. 

When I say ‘small service-based’ that means anywhere from around 5 employees, up to around 20-ish employees, and there’s no marketing ‘team’ although there might be an intern or assistant handling the generic marketing tasks. 

Your business is based in the U.K and it’s producing consistent cash flow. Through it, you offer professional services, and it doesn’t matter whether you need to meet your customers face to face or not.

This article is NOT intended for those selling physical products (ecommerce businesses). 

I will assume that you, the manager, do not want to be building the website yourself. Instead, you’re planning to hire an agency or freelancer to build the thing and you want to avoid getting screwed

You don’t know anything about coding, or how to build a website yourself, and perhaps have never used any website building software ever.

If that sounds like you, then you’re in the right place.

Why Am I Writing This?

Because YOU, assuming you fit the criteria above, are a PERFECT target to screw, or perhaps even to fist (in the most metaphorical sense). 

Marketers drool over the naive and ignorant – for the naive are nothing more than a tasty treat. The cliche ‘blonde bimbo falling prey to the conniving mechanic’ scene comes to mind.

You see, most marketers get into the marketing game, not because they want to help those such as yourself, no no no. But because of the luring lifestyle benefits. The ‘laptop lifestyle’. The thrill of making ‘internet money’. In other words, your requirements are often at the bottom of the list. 

Join any marketing community (search any marketing group on Facebook), and you’ll find that talk is all about ‘how do I increase my monthly recurring revenue’ or ‘what do I say so I can charge my clients MORE??’ 

It’s rarely (if ever) to do with improving customer satisfaction, or improving one’s skills so that one deserves to charge more, or what the best option might be for a particular customer’s business model. 

I’m growing a little tired of this, so hopefully this guide might save a few souls. 

Within it, you shall build the street smarts necessary to navigate around these dark marketing alleyways. You shall learn the following: 

  • How to choose the right platform to build your website (very important)
  • The two best website building platforms for small service based businesses
  • How much it costs to build a website
  • Why a custom coded website isn’t always best
  • How to stay in control of your website & hosting (even if someone else is ‘managing’ it)

Know What You’re Getting Into

Those who naively approach web designers & developers with the simple request of ‘I want a website’ are essentially painting a big red target on their forehead which says ‘please screw me.

Once more, the cliche blonde bimbo approaching the mechanic scenario springs to mind. 

One does not go to the mechanic and say ‘I want my car fixed’ without having done at least some kind of research into the cause of the problem – instead, one says, I need a clutch. I need the alternator changed. 

The same principle applies when it comes to getting a website built – one must know what they want! 

4 Things You Should Know Before Getting Your Website Built

  1. What’s The Best Platform To Build Your Website On? – If you’re not sure, you risk being convinced into something that’s convenient for the web developer, but not so much yourself. For small service-based businesses, the two most popular options are either WordPress or Wix, and we’re going to cover both of them in a minute.
  1. How Simple Must It Be To Edit The Website? Because once a website is up, that’s rarely it. Over time, the site will need updating–it’s inevitable. A platform like Wix makes it quite simple for any non-techy to make small tweaks. Even WordPress can be combined with a drag & drop editor like Elementor which makes the site easy to edit.
  1. How Much Content Do You Expect To Publish On The Site? This will dictate what kind of platform you choose. If you’re planning to publish a lot of content (i.e. blog posts for SEO purposes) then something like WordPress will be better in the long run, as opposed to a Wix site. 
  1. What Features Do You NEED on Your Website? Are we talking a simple contact form or a pre-qualifying questionnaire sequence with a calendar booking system that’s integrated into your CRM? A website shouldn’t drag your business down, it should save you time & make it convenient for your customers to get in touch. Consider the process your customer goes through beforehand. If you’re not sure, check out what the competition is doing & see whether you can map out a better system. 

Again, you should avoid letting a designer/ developer do all the above for you–it’s like going to a plastic surgeon and saying…’I dunno, surprise me!’…imagine that. 

You risk being steered away from the best solution for your needs. You simply won’t know whether you’re being recommended something that’s good for you or just convenient for whoever’s building your website. 

And believe me, I’ve seen WAY too many cases where a business has opted for whatever the web developer recommended, to then be left high & dry with a website that’s too complex to operate.

How Much Does It All Cost?

Obviously, there are many factors involved – but here, we’re going to focus on a website that’s suitable for those who fit the criteria at the beginning of this article: small service-based businesses already generating cash flow looking to renovate their site and keep things lean & manageable. 

That basically translates to a 5-10 page website with the potential to pump out blog articles, and the site must be simple enough to edit so that even untrained marketing interns & assistants can figure out the basics in a day or two. 

Remember, we’re EXCLUDING ecommerce stores, physical product stores, or marketplace websites (it’s a whole different ball game in those areas). 

Using that as a reference point, here are some examples:

The Super Cheap – £100 to £300 

> It’s like hiring a child <

Yes, it is entirely possible to find someone on this planet that’ll create a website for you for a few hundred quid. But just because you could doesn’t mean should

These services are often found on Fiverr or the cheap end of Freelancing platforms like Upwork. The risk of you dealing with poor English skills and formatting issues is high. Not to mention, the potential of security risks, since most providers who create websites at this price range will be in developing countries. 

The Low-Budget ~ £1,000

> It’s like hiring a part-time handyman < 

For around the £1,000 mark, you can get a basic site built by someone based in the U.K. However, at that price range, it’s unlikely that they’ll have much experience – perhaps they’re just starting out or are new to freelancing. However, there isn’t much wriggle room in the budget to create a well-thought-out design brief, so while you can expect the site to be ‘built’ and functional, it’s unlikely that it’ll be optimised for longevity and SEO purposes. 

The Mid-Budget ~ £2,000 to £5,000

> It’s like hiring an experienced painter and decorator <

For most small-team service based businesses, this would be the goldilocks zone – you don’t get the hassle of the cheaper services, but you don’t go overboard & create more than you need either. At this price range, you should expect a well designed & well functioning site built by a professional or even an agency in the U.K. The budget should allow whoever’s building your site to get a thorough idea of your needs and catch up at regular intervals to make sure you’re happy with how things are going. This means the website can be built for longevity and SEO purposes from the get-go, providing a good base for scaling. However, you shouldn’t expect much (if any) branding support to be offered at this price range, unless you raise the budget…

The Higher End ~ £10,000+ 

> It’s like hiring an interior design team who manage the painters & decorators <

Projects that hit the 5 figure mark usually come with some kind of branding support. Branding requires a combination of creative and analytical skills – hence why it doesn’t come cheap. Services in this price range are usually offered by agencies or experienced freelancers. The budget at this level should allow for research work to be done amongst competitors – a lot more effort will go into the seemingly smaller things, like colour schemes & placements of certain buttons. An investment of this level might make sense for businesses that accumulate high levels of data on their website or have a lot at stake if they manage to knock off a competitor for a difficult keyword that’s estimated to increase cash flow substantially. 

The Really High End ~ £50K + 

> It’s like hiring a very specialised/ big name agency, or a world-class freelancer <

If the budget is hitting 50k+ for no more than 10 pages, that means a lot of money is at stake so everything needs to be finely tuned, or there’s going to be a very generous aftercare package that comes with the website – for instance, if you’re planning to run an ad campaign & the web-pages will require constant tweaking based on the data. However, the copywriting should be of world-class quality & the functionality & performance of the site should be top-notch. 

Choosing The Platform (Usually Comes Down To Either WordPress Or Wix)

When it comes to choosing a website platform, one must consider the speed at which the internet is evolving – blistering would be a suitable adjective. 

That means FLEXIBILITY is important. 

It’s vital you have something that allows for quick changes, and to embrace new technologies– this keeps your business agile and nimble. 

I have seen one-too-many service based businesses opt for a custom coded website which none of their staff could operate or even know how to access. 

There are cases when a custom coded website makes sense but a lot of the time, a custom coded website is OVERKILL (and we’re going to talk about why that is later). 

With that being said, there are two options that make the most sense for service-based businesses (who fit the criteria at the beginning of this article): 

  1. WordPress (in combination with a drag & drop builder like Elementor) 
  2. Wix (it’s got a drag & drop editor built in)

There ARE other options. Plenty of them. Hundreds in fact. Maybe thousands. Here’s a link to W3Techs which tracks popular website building  platforms & their market share. 

But the two above, Wix & WordPress, have (in terms of internet years) stood the test of time, and continue to grow. 

With that being said, there are stigmas and myths surrounding both of them, but you’ll soon realise (after we cover them in a moment) they’re mostly a bunch of brouhahas that marketers make up to get your attention.

First, let’s look at Wix. 

Does WIX Make The Most Sense? 

Based on my experience helping service professionals who aren’t too clued up on website jargon, I’d say Wix is ideal for those in the following circumstances: 

  • They want a simple website, without any crazy fancy animations – even though stuff like that is possible to do with Wix, if your business can afford (or has the expertise) to get stuff like that done, you might as well go for WordPress or a custom coded site. 
  • Their cash flow doesn’t solely rely on ranking for one difficult keyword on Google – in other words, the business is already generating cash flow and they’re just happy to show up online for a limited number of keywords. 
  • Would prefer the flexibility of assigning in-house staff (like interns/ marketing assistants) to make edits & tweaks on the website – A professional might be required to get things set up & build the frameworks, but once that’s done, a Wix site doesn’t require any grand expertise to maintain & tweak. 
  • No plans to do any big content marketing projects anytime soon – like lots of monthly blogs or building lots of web pages, something which might be better handled with a superior content management system like WordPress.

It’s an ideal option for businesses that are either just starting (so they need something quickly without faffing around too much, OR businesses already generating cash flow with no big growth plans – so in other words, they want to remain as lean as possible. 

EXAMPLE SCENARIOS:

  • A local 5-man painting and decorating company with no plans to scale ‘to the moon’ – they get most of their referrals from Checkatrade, and a WIX website allows them more flexibility over the limited gallery options the Checkatrade website provides. The company owner has no coding experience and they don’t want the hassle of managing a marketing intern/ assistant, or the hassle of regularly checking the website for plugin updates (of which there are none in Wix). So for them, the site just needs building once, and they can tweak it as they go.
  • Small wedding planning service based in a rural town – I say rural town because there won’t be as much competition for the term “Wedding Planner + [name of rural town]” on Google. The SEO tools Wix offers would be more than capable to help rank for a situation like that. 
  • Local family-run 7-staff landscaping business – if they’ve got no plans to scale to a 20+ staff operation then anything more complicated than Wix might be more hassle than it’s worth. Similar to the decorating company example above, the landscaping business can use their website to showcase their work in ways that offer more flexibility than Checkatrade. 

Notice–these are often local-based businesses that like to remain small, lean & nimble. The business owners might not want to deal with the hassle of scaling. In general however, the more your business’s cash flow relies on your placement in the search engine rankings, the less attractive Wix becomes as a platform. 

The Costs of WIx

The Wix website plans range from £3.50 (I don’t personally recommend the cheapest plan because it displays ads on your website) to £19 a month. 

Wix Maintenance & Aftercare Costs

All in all, there’s not much that needs doing once a Wix site has been set up, apart from keeping an eye on any new SEO features that might be added. 

Security & Backups

Sites running on Wix have their security managed by the internal Wix software & security team – so essentially, every website built on Wix gets the same treatment. That being said, nothing is unhackable and you should always be careful if your site lets users upload files, and that your Wix login details are kept safe. 

Making Edits

Changing a single world, paragraph and image is relatively simple. Things like that can easily be managed by an intern or a marketing assistant – which’ll keep your costs down. The only issue is that if you’re planning on hiring a low-skilled worker to make edits, they might get stuck on designing a new page, or choosing the right blocks so the page is built efficiently – hence why it can make sense to get a professional to build the initial framework. 

Or Does WordPress Make The Most Sense?

WordPress has a bit of a steeper learning curve in comparison to Wix. It used to be very difficult for the average Joe to set up and maintain a WordPress site until drag & drop WordPress editors like Elementor became mainstream. 

 in my opinion, WordPress is better for those in the following circumstances: 

  • They want to scale & better manage their content – things like blog articles (called ‘posts’ on WordPress) are managed separately to pages which makes it easy to organise things into various different categories. This makes it easier to scale content production & grow the online presence of the site.
  • They want to rank for more competitive keywords – WordPress allows for great SEO management, with dedicated plugins that let users change almost anything, as well as giving them the ability to speed up the website (something that’s quite important when improving user satisfaction). 
  • They want more integrations, or have a complex sales flow  – many popular CRM systems like Salesforce, and automation softwares like Zapier are built with WordPress in mind since most websites on the internet are built on it. Plus, there are 10s of thousands of existing WordPress plugins, and custom built plugins can be added if you need some kind of specific functionality for your site (regardless of whether it’s built with a drag & drop editor or not). 
  • They understand the basics of WordPress – because there are certain do’s and don’ts when it comes to WordPress, otherwise one can risk crashing the site (something that’s very unlikely with a platform like Wix). For instance, each plugin requires periodic updates, which if left incomplete, could cause the site to crash, so overall, the site needs a lot more regular checkups than something like Wix.

A WordPress site can still be handled by someone who’s got minimal experience in website development, assuming the site has been configured properly first.

EXAMPLE SCENARIOS:

  • A tutoring centre planning to expand their presence by building content around multiple tutoring related keywords – they might be planning to do with using blog content, or to build out individual pages for a vast range of key words. In a situation like this (and since tutoring is quite a competitive field now), WordPress provides a good platform to build and manage scalable content. 
  • An accounting firm based in a large city – competition will be tougher in a city where many other accountants are operating. WordPress would offer more SEO features that pretty much lets them customise every aspect of the site. It’s unlikely the company owner would bother tweaking the site themselves, however – a city-based accounting firm with good cash flow should be able to afford a marketing assistant with WordPress knowledge or assign specialist tasks to an agency. 
  • A small-team locksmith business planning to expand to CCTV installation services  – a WordPress site could give them the upper-hand because it’s better suited to manage large amounts of content. 

Notice–unlike in the example with Wix, these service based businesses are after growth & expansion. In order to do that online, they need to pump out more content. Plus, if they’re running ads, they’re going to find better third-party addons for their WordPress site which’ll provide data on how their campaign is doing & let them see how visitors are interacting with their site–something they can use to make decisions on what to tweak. 

The Costs of WordPress

Technically speaking, WordPress is free – it’s an open-source software created by Automattic

What you’d be paying for to get the site up and running, as a minimum, is hosting. 

There are hundreds of hosting providers, so I’m not going to go into all of them here, but here’s a link to an article by Tech Rader which covers over 100 different hosting providers. 

Here, we’re going to cover the most popular types of hosting. 

  1. Shared Hosting – around £1.99 to £5 a month

This is often the cheapest plan hosting providers offer. This means your website will share a server with others. The obvious upside is that it’s cheap and it’s good to get started on, but the downside is you won’t know what other websites are using that server, and if one of them starts using a lot of resources, it’ll slow down every other website on that server. There are also security risks, which this blog by Malcare covers. 

  1. Managed Shared Hosting – around £12 to £25 a month

It’s similar to the above, you’ll be sharing a server with other users but you typically get better tech support (many popular hosting providers offer 24/7 chat support), and automatic backups of your website in case it crashes. That means you can just re-upload the last daily backup of your website in case it crashes. I generally recommend that people go for a managed plan as a minimum because of the extra benefits that come with it. 

  1. Virtual Private Server Hosting – around £10 to £100+ 

Hosting on a virtual private server basically means your website gets an allocated amount of space on a particular server that’s shared with other websites. This drastically reduces the chance of another website on the server slowing yours down. 

  1. Dedicated Server Hosting – £100 to £1,000+  

This means you basically lease an entire server which isn’t shared by anyone else. That means your website can load super fast, and it can make a big difference if you’re spending a  few thousand a month on digital advertising – those extra milliseconds could increase sales to a point that dwarfs the extra investment necessary to upgrade to a dedicated server. 

WARNING 

Some agencies & freelancers will offer to manage the hosting for you, but for small businesses with simple hosting packages, this isn’t really necessary anymore since many mainstream hosting providers allow you to offer other users access to your account. This way, you can choose what permissions you give, and it makes it much easier to get rid of them & cancel the contract. 

I’ve seen too many cases of clients having no clue about how their hosting works, or not knowing how to switch it over because ‘some website guy we dealt with years ago has it on his account’. 

Another thing – what a lot of agencies & freelancers do is purchase ‘reseller’ packages from popular hosting providers and whitelabel their dashboard so it seems like it’s coming from them directly, when in reality they’re just ‘renting’ the space out. 

You should always ask if you’re being offered – because that way you’ll know the real company that’s handling your hosting.

WordPress Maintenance & Aftercare Costs

Managing a WordPress site requires a bit more effort in comparison to managing something like a Wix site. 

Cost of Plugins (third party software)

Plugins add extra functionality to your site, and developers usually allow you to download their apps for free but with limitations. To unlock these limitations, you’ll need to pay – and it’s important to keep an eye on rising software costs. 

Elementor offers a free version of their drag & drop editor with limitations, but for the sake $49 a year (about £35), the extra functionalities, like access to the theme builder, premium support in case you get stuck, and extra widgets save a lot of time, making the cost a no brainer. Out of all the plugins, I’d say that’s one of the most important because it makes your site easy to manage once it’s built. 

Security & Backups

If you’ve got a managed hosting plan, then backups typically come as standard. Otherwise, you’ll need to download a plugin like Total Upkeep to perform regular backups. Plugins should be updated regularly to patch up security risks, and for businesses that offer high-value services, or deal with large cash transactions (like conveyancing solicitors) a paid security plugin would make sense. For more info on that, this article by Kinsta covers a list of WordPress security plugins. 

Having said that, nobody’s invulnerable to hacking, not even the government, but for businesses operating in areas where fraud & hacking is common, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to consult with a penetration testing company to find out where your site’s vulnerabilities lie. 

Making Edits

With something like Elementor, making edits to a WordPress site is easy. However, a low-skilled employee or someone who isn’t familiar with website builders might still find it tricky to build the framework for full pages or blog post templates. Something like that is often best left to a professional – and if that professional is really good and confident in their work, they’ll offer video tutorials so your staff are clear on how to make changes (it’s something we do here at Digify Life). 

THE TRAP OF THE ‘CUSTOM-CODED’ WEBSITE

For many small service-based businesses, a custom coded website is completely unnecessary – something they find out after doing research on all the other options out there.

Web design agencies will say things like how it’s faster having a custom coded site, and while that is true in most cases, one must calculate that amongst the list of advantages and disadvantages that come with a custom coded website. 

The Advantage: 

  • It’ll load a bit faster
  • Better SEO flexibility

The Disadvantages

  • ZERO clue what’s going on behind the scenes (without expert coding knowledge)
  • Expensive to make minor tweaks
  • You massively narrow down the pool of people that can help you when something goes wrong

With a custom coded site, unless you’ve got good coding knowledge, you won’t truly know whether your site is built well or not, or whether the code is efficiently written or botched. 

For locally-based small service businesses, a custom coded site just slows them down because changes are hard to make unless they’re done by a specialist or an agency that might charge anywhere from £50 to £150+ an hour for simple tweaks.

Custom coded sites usually make sense when the popular platforms like WordPress, and all the plugins available for that platform don’t offer the specific functionalities you need and it would make financial sense to build your vision from scratch. 

But for most small service-based businesses, it just doesn’t make sense now that popular drag & drop editors offer the chance to make quick changes without much technical knowledge, or any coding knowledge at all. 

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