Effective Websites for Small Businesses: A Review

Effective Websites for Small BusinessesSetting up a website should be exciting, not an exercise in frustration.

But I hear from readers like you that having a website built for you or overhauling your existing website often becomes just that — frustrating.

I know the feeling.  I’ve been through it numerous times.

The process can be enough to drive you to drink!  Why? Because creating a website requires you to learn a little about technology, some complex marketing techniques, and a whole new set of lingo.  Sometimes it feels like the Web professionals you hire are babbling in tongues.

Fortunately, after 12 years and multiple websites, the process is no longer frustrating for me.  But I wish that when starting out I’d had a practical book like Effective Websites for Small Businesses.

This book is part workbook — with convenient checklists and fill-in-the-blank forms — and part primer.  You get an overview of the process of creating a website.  But it doesn’t end with making your website live.  The book takes you from inception of the website you need … to marketing your website … all the way through to maintaining your website.

Here are some things I really liked about this book:

  • Written expressly for the small business owner / manager. It does not use lingo or concepts that only Web designers or programmers would understand.  Key concepts are defined and explained.
  • In line with a small business budget. The book takes into account the financial limitations, time constraints and limited staffing in most small businesses.
  • Contains practical checklists and workbook forms. For instance, there’s a fill-in-the-blank form for you to identify 5 websites you do NOT like — and what you don’t like about them.  This sort of exercise will help you communicate better with your Web designer. Other forms contain questions for you to ask outside providers you are considering hiring — such as questions to ask SEO professionals.
  • Good mix of text and screenshots. The screenshots illustrate key points.  Images convey a lot more than words alone. More screenshots would have been nice, but the ones included help you understand.
  • Good insights on content and copywriting. Of all the sections in the book, those that address the words in your website (the copywriting) and content are the best fleshed-out.

The book is written by Kristi Stangeland, who owns Mustang Web Design (Twitter:  @mustang_web), and Karon Thackston (Twitter: @karonthackston), an online copywriter.  Together they bring hands-on practical experience that comes through in the book.

I was asked to review this book while it was being written and give a blurb for it, and was happy to do so for a book that so clearly speaks to small businesses.

This is a good book for startup businesses, and established small businesses with up to, say, 20 employees, that are not satisfied with their current Web presence.  It can be used by do-it-yourselfers.  But make no mistake — it won’t teach you how to code a Web page or help you choose among dozens of Web-building technologies.  Primarily it is meant to help small businesses that outsource some or all of their Web work to outside providers.  It shows you how to work with professionals to crystallize and communicate your business objectives to get the site you need.

This is a meat-and-potatoes kind of book.  You won’t find cutting-edge Website design trends, a la Smashing Magazine.  You won’t learn about the flavor du-jour of social media sites.  You won’t find that magic bullet to make your next YouTube video go viral.

But if you’re searching for a solid book to help you navigate through your first website  — or overhaul that outdated 5-year old website that you keep apologizing for! — this is a great starting place.  With Effective Websites (buy on Amazon), you get a fundamental overview.  It will help you develop and market a website that actually brings in paying customers.

Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.