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Meet the author:
Jill Olkoski

Jill has a MA in Clinical Psychology, a BS in Computer Science, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering.

She currently owns Aldebaran Web Design in Edmonds (near Seattle WA) and enjoys educating her clients on topics related to small business website design.

In Jill's previous life, she spent 17 years in the engineering and quality organizations of a Fortune 100 tech company.


Don’t Bury Your Head In The Sand – Small Business Owners Must Embrace The Web

October 29th, 2010

I had two interactions with small business owners this week that really caused me to pause and wonder what year it was. Small business owners NEED an online presence – a website, and they need a nice professional one too.

My first interaction was with a fellow who did some kind of home appliance repair. He emailed me looking for free advice and wanted me to “make his phone ring”. He said he had a website but that his business was bad, and that he had spent over $1500 on advertising for his website. He was very frustrated.

So I looked at his website, and, well, it was awful. Now I say this not as a graphic designer who calls websites that aren’t all fancy and colorful ugly. I say this because it was unprofessional, and as a consumer, I wouldn’t have hired him because of the quality of his website might reflect the quality of his work. It’s pointless to spend money on driving traffic to a really poor quality website, because people won’t convert to customers.

I told him this, and suggested that rather than throwing money away on advertising, he should consider a less expensive redesign.

He then got very angry, and said that he built his own website in 10 minutes – and that he did not want a new website, he just wanted me to “make his phone ring.” He told me that no one uses the web to find appliance repairmen. No one! I told him that I would, as we don’t even have the phone book in the house. He told me that I was an idiot and our communication ended.

Another interaction I had was from an actual client of mine who, on the (good) advice of a friend, got a website for her small business. But after a year, the client decided that she no longer wanted to use email to communicate, and asked me to remove all email information from the website. Having a website with no email contact info, or no contact form, is just ignoring how most people use websites. The friend had already fought this battle and lost, so I didn’t even try. Eventually when it comes time to renew her domain registration or hosting, her website will be pulled down, because all this communication from her hosting company is done – yes, you guessed it – by email.

Apparently there are plenty of small business owners out there who are burying their heads in the sand. They are refusing to embrace the current state of technology and for whatever reason, don’t seem to truly be interested in seeing the world as it is, in looking through the eyes of potential customers trying to find a solution to their problem.

Sure, I’m biased because I do small business web design. But I’m also a consumer and I look for everything I need on the web – from a little magnet to put on the dishwasher to tell when it’s clean to a home gym.

So yes, this is a little bit of a rant because I don’t like being called an idiot by someone who emailed me looking for free advice – or spending time building a website just to have it be doomed because a business owner refuses to use email. I guess the good news for any of you reading this, is that there is plenty of opportunity for small businesses to do well – and to use the web to their advantage – because not all small business owners are willing to walk in the shoes of their customers.

J. Olkoski
Aldebaran Web Design, Seattle
Jill Olkoski has a BS in Engineering, a BS in Computer Science and an MA in Clinical Psychology. She delights in using her advanced technical and psychological skills to help small business owners develop cost-effective and successful websites.

2 Responses to “Don’t Bury Your Head In The Sand – Small Business Owners Must Embrace The Web”

  1. Paul Says:

    Jill, this is so true.

    I have no idea where my phone book is and cannot think why I would use it. But more to the point I have a good friend who has a very snazzy newish website created by someone who knows how to create a website, cost around 2,000. But they were not interested when I said did they want the domain I created for her around 5 years back, when I created a simple working website. So now the blank domain comes up in Google before her new site!!
    I am no expert at Google but I have a PR 5 photoblog on Blogger and am now moving to WP to improve a few things but I have a good idea of how the web works, like being listed at DMOZ, therefore Google dir.

    Here in Yorkshire there is an old saying ‘There’s nowt as queer as folk’ (to be said in a good northern English accent).

  2. Jill Olkoski Says:

    Hi Paul,
    Thanks very much for the comment. And I fully agree – keeping an old domain is so much better than creating a new one – Google doesn’t trust new ones, so unless the business is completely different, I always encourage folks to use older ones versus newer ones. Unless they want to wait a few years for the new one to age. A pr of 5 is very respectable, and therefore, I’d say your knowledge is pretty darn good!

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