“A good website is not just a marketing tool to drive people to your products.” This was the first thing the speaker, at a seminar on digital business in a hotel in the Midlands, had said that caught my attention. The woman in front of me must have been impressed too - for the first time that morning, she made a note on her yellow pad and underlined it.
So what, I wondered, defined a good website? And could the family firm Mole Graphics ever afford one?
Warming to his theme, the speaker added: “Websites are products in their own right. The most important asset a business can own.” To prove the point, he mentioned iPlayer, The Guardian and Tesco as websites that had ceased to be promotional vehicles and were revenue-generating entities I could see the point but Mole Graphics doesn’t have the same ambitions as this stellar trio – nor, more importantly, their budgets. When the speaker concluded by assuring us that “Saving money on website design is a false economy”, I realised that this was where he, and us, had been heading all along. His 30-minute presentation could have been summed up in five words: “Pay me lots of money.”
To be fair, in the Q&A session, the speaker identified four hallmarks of a bad website, two of which applied to Mole Graphics. Our website is a bit too generic, too much like everyone else’s. Worse, it is definitely off trend - I had read earlier in the year that Pantone had made Ultra Violet its colour of 2018, whereas our site is predominantly John Major grey - but not so off trend as to seem like a considered design choice.
Web-to-print is something we’re investing in, but we’re never going to generate as much revenue from our website as Apple or Tesco. And with customers moaning about budgets, we can’t afford to spend a shedload on it. But the site could be better. When we last tweaked it in 2016, the project was complicated by a kind of “mission creep”, where everyone just listed their favourite feature from their favourite website and said: “Can we have one of those?” The answer, invariably, was no.
For Mole Graphics and, I suspect, for many other print service providers, the website isn’t the most valuable asset we own - that’s probably the new printer we installed last September - but it could be more than a marketing tool. We just need to agree on how much more.