Recently, an old friend – a policeman – emailed me and said:
Hey Tim, I’ve got a side business power-washing decks, fences, and other stuff. I want to build a small website for it. Have you ever tried Wix? Would you recommend it? I’d really appreciate any other tips you have. Thanks!
What a great question… and I have lots of smart friends who also thought it was a great question, so I emailed them and asked for one fundamental tip for a person building a website.
Here’s the thing… these are just good tips for someone building a website but good tips for anyone with a website. Tricks, magic beans, and hacks come and go. These are the fundamentals that will help for years to come.
Let me start by sharing this simple 21-point DIY website maintenance checklist you should review each month. Now, here are 19 more…
22. Shortcut. Helpers like Wix or Squarespace or even GoDaddy (though I hate their advertising and wouldn’t use them personally) can really accelerate your construction process. They certainly won’t hurt. That said, it’s what goes on the page that really helps you get business.
23. Several of my friends recommended WordPress – which is used by bazillions of people today to publish their sites. If you have some time and/or a nerd friend, then this is a great suggestion, but if you don’t have the time or money to pay someone to help you build upon this platform, stick to Wix or Squarespace or those sorts of shortcut sites.
24. What’s your point? What are you trying to do? Write a job description for your website. Are you trying to get business? Are you trying to sell product? Know the goals of your website.
25. Imagine your ideal customer – paint the picture of that person – and ask yourself about their great frustrations and unscratched itches. What problems do you solve for them?
26. URL Choice – When choosing a URL (I get asked this often), it’s hard to beat this advice – even though it’s several years old .
27. Speed rules. The faster you can make your site, the better you’ll be. Google has a cool test that’ll measure the speed of your site and even suggest stuff to improve it. Some of these suggestions may be over your head. Ask a nerd friend. : )
28. Smaller images rule. Not dimensions but storage size.Images on a site are not exactly like images on your phone or your brochure. You want to compress/optimize them. You may not realize your images will look almost identical at a fraction of the size. A smaller size means a faster site. Here’s a great tool my business partner Craig shared with me recently. You should listen to him. He’s Australian. If you ignore him, he may wanna fight you.
29. Responsive design rules. That’s a fancy term for the way your website will magically shape-shift to fit whatever screen someone uses – be it laptop, phone, iPad, whatever. When choosing a shortcut company like Squarespace or even a WordPress template, look for something that indicates responsive design.
Here are some specific thoughts from specific friends…
30. Invest in a bigger system than what you need even in the beginning. Cheaper can sometimes be better, but when a cheap site is built that does not have the capability to grow as the business grows, you are in for a sticky situation down the track. – Sarah Ripley, http://sarahripleywrites.wordpress.com
(Note from Tim: This is really great advice… buyer beware… you’re going to see lots – especially when it comes to WordPress – of people promising you dirt cheap stuff… stick with the names you see here in this article.)
- videos of the process so that people can see how it is done, the power of the spray.
- before and after pictures.
- pictures and short bio’s of his staff bios so I’d know who was coming to home.
- and a list of things I need to do to to prepare my property for their visit i.e. remove patio furniture, close windows etc. – Jane Fraser – http://www.wizardofadsatlantic.com
32. Google. Be sure to set up Google Places/Plus (so people can find you) and Google Authorship (especially important if he will be blogging.) How to set them up? Seriously? Google it. Dave Young – http://www.shortcutblogging.com
(Note from Tim: This is generally good advice. Googling stuff is almost always really helpful. So is YouTubing stuff for video tutorials. So is InnerTubing… which has nothing to do with computers but is really fun.)
33. Measure the appeal of different images on his website (or the landing page in particular) w some free online eye-tracking software, at www.attentionwizard.com. – Joshua Stevens, http://thewoodlandswizardofads.com/
(Note from Tim: Measuring in general is smart. Google analytics are free and a great way to measure important goals; however, they’re a minefieldy maze of data. You can get lost, and you can make poor decisions. Guess what, though? You can Google “analytics basics” and use as directed.)
34. Phone Number. Have your phone number on the top right hand of the landing page and every page for that matter. Don’t make people fish through a contact us link for his phone number. – Steve Rae, Contributing Editor for The Daily Blur
(Note from Tim: This is super-duper advice. You want to make it easy for people to get in touch with you when they’re ready. Make sure your phone number is rendered as text and not an image so I can click it on my phone and call you. Ask me about this if you have questions!)
35. First, give people a mental walk-through of what it’s like to do business with you. What’s the entire process from first contact through to satisfaction to deciding it’s time for another power wash. How far into the process can they get before they are obligated to pay you? How firm are the estimates? Do they have to prep the deck before he gets there or does he do it? Is there something that has to be done after the power washing? Does he also offer to do whatever post-washing steps too, for some kind of added fee? How often does he recommend getting a deck power washed? Get down to the nitty gritty. If I call, who am I calling? A business line? A cell phone? Your secretary? You directly? When you show up, will you be driving a company truck? Your personal pick-up? An SUV with a trailer? Make me see and feel what it’s like.
The more prospects are entirely comfortable with envisioning the whole process, and the more you get them to imagine a great experience, the better. See, most product companies understand that you have to give people a product tour. But for some reason service companies don’t think to do that. Oh, and don’t be coy around the call to action. Be explicit.
36. Second, don’t shy away from discussing your passion for what you do. Just don’t talk in terms of passion. Talk in terms of what shortcuts you don’t take. And what extra pains you DO take. And how much time and money and attention you’ve invested into doing a superior job. Does this guy own a mac-daddy pressure washer that inherently does a better job than the kind I can rent? Does he use a special additive in the water? Does he take more time on pre or post-treatments? Is there a technique that one has to master to get the best results, in terms of how far away you hold the nozzle, how fast you go, etc? Is there a bit of artistry in selecting the right nozzle for the job? Does he actually have a selection of, like, a dozen nozzles, where the average schmuck just has 2-3?
Here’s the thing, most people don’t expect passion when it comes to pressure washing. It’s not a real pleasant job, which is why people would rather pay someone else to do it. But we all want to believe that whoever we’re paying to do it is a lot more competent than we would be. So give us a practical run down on why the guy kicks ass at pressure washing. – Jeff Sexton, www.jeffsextonwrites.com
(Note from Tim: So, Jeff is basically the smartest guy we all know. Whenever you write Jeff and ask about anything, you tend to get thoroughly researched, well written, immensely helpful advice. He should write more often. He’s also really, really nice and generous with his time. He also has a beautiful family. Actually, the more I type, the more he annoys me. He might be perfect.)
37. Write like you talk.
If it’s hard to figure out how to do that, ask yourself the most common questions you get asked by your customers and then answer them with someone recording you. Then transcribe the answers exactly as you said them. It’ll feel like you and captivate everyone who reads your website. Peter Nevland – http://www.howtowriteworkshops.com
(Note from Tim: Peter’s traveling the world right now teaching people to write more gooder. You should probably listen to him.)
Here are three more from us.
38. Check out my friends, Jeffrey and Bryan Eisenberg. They literally wrote the book on conversion (getting people to do what you want them to do). Here’s a free series of posts on their site about conversion called Conversion 101. It’s a great place to start.
39. The questions people ask you all the time? Make sure they’re answered clearly on your site.
40. When all else fails, hire someone kinda smart and really polite to help you.
Well, there’s our top 40 for my friend. I’m sure we’ve left at least another 40 on the table. What do you have to add? Thanks for your help!