A Parable

So I wanted to build a deck as part of my home’s improvement.

How difficult can building a deck be? It’s just wood, nuts, bolts, screws, etc. I see decks on so many homes, it seems like anyone can have a deck. Plus, if I get a pre-built model, it will come with instructions. Simple.

This will be easy. (right?)

So I went to my favorite home improvement store’s website, and looked at their pre-built deck options.

I found the deck I wanted for my home, and went to the store to buy it.

I found model I wanted, made my purchase, and the store workers loaded my truck up with needed supplies.

When I returned home to begin building my new deck I was overwhelmed by all the lumber, hardware, screws, washers, bolts, nuts, and brackets. I don’t own the needed tools to assemble some of this gear! But I pressed on, and built the deck.

By the time I was done with the deck I realized a few things:

» I am not a builder. It’s a skill I could possess with enough practice, but my time is better spent elsewhere.

» The model I chose from the home improvement website included a lot of custom work that I was not aware of when purchasing. 

» I should have hired an expert for this. Yes, it would be more expensive, but this deck is where people I value a lot will hang out and spend time getting to know me. It’s worth the added cost. It would also be secure from the work of a professional builder; I can’t say I trust my handiwork.

Eventually I knew I needed help so I called a deck builder.

She was kind and thorough in her examination of my poorly built deck.

Her recommendation: Start over. We could repurpose some hardware, but the structure of the deck needed to be rebuilt.

So we rebuilt the deck. Or, I should say, she and her crew did.

I worked closely with her, and she asked a lot of questions to make sure I got exactly what I wanted.

In the end I had a deck built exactly the way I wanted it. It had my personality, my taste, and it was safe and secure to invite people to gather on. It became a space that only required a little maintenance now and then to keep it strong and weather proof. And when I had my house evaluated for value, the deck added more than what it cost me.

The Moral

This parable is about the website your business is thinking of building, or has built and you know it’s poorly built, unsafe, and not a place you can’t wait for people to come see.

The pre-designed deck and lumber is a pre-designed, pre-developed theme for WordPress. It looked so good on the theme seller’s website, yet when you set it up your results varied…a lot.

Don’t get me wrong: Pre-designed/pre-built themes for WordPress have a valuable and useful position. For a startup business that is looking to get established with low overhead a theme can be a smart way to get a decent website up and running. I am writing this post on a website using a WordPress theme that I needed to set up for no cost when my business was struggling with cash flow two years ago. WordPress themes do have value, but the true value assessment begins with goal setting for the business as a whole.

Yet even when working with a theme, it is not going to be as easy as it looks. Think about it: The theme seller wants the theme to be as attractive as possible, and since s/he built it, what you’re seeing in the theme demo is probably as good as that theme will ever look and function. In some cases the theme creator is using third-party WordPress plugins for features like galleries, contact forms, audio content, etc., many of those even being at an additional or on-going cost.

Is it deceptive? No. It’s sales 101. But since you probably do not buy WordPress themes often, you conclude that what you see is what you get.

So you buy the theme, get it set up, and then spend hours upon hours trying to get it to look and function like the demo.

In most cases, by the time you have spent your hours only to hire a designer or developer (or both) to fix the theme, it would have been less expensive to hire the same designer and developer to create a custom website from scratch.

Face the facts:

» You are not a website creator.

» Your time is better spent doing what you do.

» You are not very good at creating websites. You likely don’t even know the difference between HTML and CSS.

And you know what? That’s perfectly OK because there are a lot of really important things about your business that you already outsource.

Your website is “selling” for your business 24/7/365. It should rank as one of your top 5 most important assets, and funded accordingly.

Hire a professional. The end result will be a website that is exactly what you want, and more importantly, what your business needs from a website.

Addendum 1

After publishing this post, a trusted colleague asked me the following question: “How do you respond to the ‘low on cash’ crowd who say they have to do it themselves?”

My advice for this particular situation: Lean hard on social media. Buy the URL you need, then set up a redirect to your best social presence.

For example, if I were starting Brand Shepherd with no/little cash, I would direct all web traffic to our Google Plus page because it has the best potential for SEO in general.

From that page potential clientele can get everything I need them to know: Core capabilities, examples of work, a brief About section, daily posts on useful info related to branding, and how to contact us.

I would then set aside as much cash as I could from projects, and eventually hire a designer and developer to craft our website.

Side note: We are actually doing just that at the moment–working on a new website for Brand Shepherd with a branding refresh to go with it.

If you opt to take this approach, be up front in your About section as to why your business’ website is a social page, and as part of your daily posts to that page consider making the building of your forthcoming website a weekly update on progress. 

Addendum 2

After this posted I was asked to be a guest on the Gary Smith show to talk about the parable I laid out, and how it applies to SMB owners. Have a listen:

Dan Crask

Author Dan Crask

Hello - I'm Dan Crask. I help brands discover who they are, then express it visually. I co-own Brand Shepherd, am a husband, father of four children, and I don't believe in a work/life balance - it's all life, and all of it matters.

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