Things you want on your website, but you don’t need (yet)

When building your brand new website, it can be easy to get carried away. After all, many entrepreneurs, especially those working within creative industries, fully identify with their work, making everything more intense in terms of emotions. Thus, it can be challenging to look at your website with a critical eye.

March 8, 2021
Reading time 12 – 18 minutes

In the process of building your website, you might feel the need to add all sorts of bells and whistles. Sometimes, because you need them, other times because you got inspired from somewhere or want to be covered just in case.

And that’s, in part, a good thing because the solutions others found for their needs might also apply to yours. Plus, you get the added benefit of not having to come up with something from scratch—don’t reinvent the wheel, right? But don’t forget that not everything is within your reach or beneficial for what you aim to achieve.

I know what you might think—that I don’t find your wants to be valid. But I can assure you this is not the case.

All your ambitions and expectations are completely justified and real, and in fact, you might need all of them at some point. I do not deny it one bit.

What I’m trying to say is that you should be extremely careful what promises you make to your audience and be confident that you can deliver on your word. Avoid getting carried away by the excitement of all the new possibilities your website can unravel.

Think about building your website the same way you think about building a house. You first imagine what are your current and future needs and start building them one by one. You build one bedroom for you and your significant other, a small kitchen since you don’t cook that often, a dining table for when you get together with your friends.

With time though, you realize that your life changed and does not fit your initial plans.

You started working from home, which allowed you to cook more often. Plus, some of your friends moved to different cities to pursue work opportunities, and your living room hasn’t seen a party in months.

This raises the opportunity of transforming the space to better fit who you are today. That dinner table could be replaced with a smaller one and make room for a proper desk. Your kitchen is now useful and needs to fit in a new oven to cook healthy meals.

The same is true with your website. Don’t look at it as having to fulfill all your current and future possible needs all at once. Your website is dynamic, even more so than a house. It can transform and evolve over time to accommodate your ever-changing needs.

Not everything has to happen at once, and not everything will stay exactly the same forever. And that’s perfectly okay. That’s the beauty of the digital landscape—it comes with flexibility and freedom. Wisely used, both can turn into outstanding advantages that keep you competitive in the long haul.

During the almost a decade of building products that help people impact their communities, we’ve talked with thousands of customers and saw the creation and evolution of even more websites. Plus, recently, we helped half a dozen local creative entrepreneurs expand to the digital world using Rosa2, our flagship product.

These experiences uncovered patterns and areas where people often jump head first when building a website without critically analyzing if they do it sustainably or if their business actually benefits from those extra features.

So, in the next paragraphs, I’m going to go over some of the things you think you need on your website but actually don’t—not yet, at least. Trust me on this one.

If you want, you can jump to the area that interests you the most:

“I need a newsletter to keep in touch with my readers”

Newsletters are everywhere. Everyone seems to be doing it—from the one-man-show and independent journalists who want a playground of their own up to the big brands out there.

That’s because email is a great way to interact with your audience and customers and help build a name and nurture a community. But seeing it used everywhere does not mean that you need it for your business. It might feel like you are missing out on a great opportunity, but remember that having it means making a promise to your audience that you have to deliver.

Figure out your goals, your writing skills, and the time necessary to put together those newsletters.

Most often than not, I’ve seen people jump headfirst without first thinking about a few things:

  • What am I going to send my audience via email?
  • Do I have the time and skills necessary to write and send those emails?
  • Who is this newsletter for? Who are the people subscribing?
  • What business goals is this going to help me achieve?
  • Do I have the energy to engage in a dialogue with those that reply?

Gathering people into a subscription list without a clear promise on what they’ll get in return, combined with the lack of focusand time to fulfill the promise, often leads to unused contact lists that get one or two random emails a year, each with a different goal.

Not to mention that having that list active puts a toll on you each day—you have this “thing” constantly hovering over your head—there are some people who trusted you with their email and who don’t hear a word back. It’s frustrating (at least).

This mostly translates into poorly planned efforts to “do something with that list” that in return does more harm than good—surely, I’m not the only one getting random discount or campaign emails from companies that never reach out months at a time. They don’t know a thing about my interests, my needs, or my expectations.

That’s why it’s better to figure out your goals, writing skills, and the time necessary to put together those newsletters. If “the numbers” are right, then go ahead and make a clear commitment for the people joining.

Also, don’t forget to reevaluate down the line, make sure you offer relevant stories to your audience, or be transparent if your plans change and affect your relationship. Honesty goes a long way, trust me.

For us, when creating the Upstairs Community, it took us around two months to debate if a newsletter makes sense to kick-off a tribe and how we can pack and design it to fit with our values. We gave our best to align our efforts and make sure that we keep our promise of delivering stories that make us better people in a serene and calm environment.

That clarity set the right expectations for our members and allowed us to be focused and have a clear promise on which we had to deliver.

“I need a blog to write about stuff”

I’ve seen more ghost blog sections than I can count, and I’m sure you have too. Nothing speaks outdated like a list of five blog posts that are at least two years old.

As you might have guessed, this happens when you don’t set yourself a clear goal, a writing schedule, and a few topics you want to write about. Do you like to share your creative process? Do you aim to talk about your struggles as an entrepreneur? Do you plan to provide educational content to help your readers achieve specific outcomes?

Enable the blog and use it regularly or forget about it for the time being.

Having it there for the occasional “yearly post” makes no sense. At the same time, seeing it exist can prove to be a burden and frustration for never having the time to do it right. If that’s the case, you might as well not have one—I doubt that it brings any value in that form.

We advocate (with solid arguments) for writing less on social media where you don’t own the content. A good way to keep your audience in the loop is to use the blog as a place where you write updates and news about your business while offering context for a better alignment with who you are.

So, if you don’t want to have a blog section that’s like a tumbleweed from a 1970s western movie, you can start using your blog in a similar fashion as the social feed.

Plus, having that extra space means you can go in-depth and give more context about what’s happening. Enable the blog and use it regularly or forget about it for the time being.

It took us more than nine years to find a name, a story, and a clear positioning for our blog, so be gentle with yourself. Things will fall into place after all, but take your time to digest what you want to accomplish in this communication medium.

“I need a contact form so people can reach me”

Don’t get me wrong, a good contact form with a specific goal in mind(e.g., Get a reservation) is great. It has a clear purpose and one only, allows people to understand what will happen if they use it, and you know what to do when someone fills it.

The blessing of being easy to reach also comes with a curse.

Unfortunately, that’s not how we’ve seen customers using contact forms. 90% of the time, they go for a generic name, email, and message form thrown on the contact page, sitting there unused.

Most of the time, spam is all that’s going through. Not to mention that the Message field can become a real blocker in reaching out to someone. It can be about anything and nothing at the same time since there is no guidance at all.

In today’s world, people can reach out via social media, email directly, or call you. If they have something to say, those channels are handy. The blessing of being easy to reach also comes with a curse—the number of channels you need to keep an eye on increases and makes it harder to keep track. It’s easy to forget about an Instagram DM when you have many other things on your plate.

My recommendation is to create a contact form for each specific purpose/need and add it on the page or pages where they make sense. If contact is that page, then once again, give it one specific purpose and adjust its fields so that it helps you accomplish that goal.

We also use a contact form on our Contact page, but it has a clear goal—allows people to ask pre-sales questions related to one of our WordPress themes (that they can choose from a drop-down).

This filters out things like partnerships, collaboration, event invitations, etc., and allows prospective customers have a place to bring their concerns forward. Plus, it creates structure and focus on a single thing, which enables us to provide the right information that helps them make progress.

“I need a pop-up or browser notification to tell everyone about my offer”

I see this happening everywhere, and it’s something that’s almost always implemented just because people see it used (a lot) on many different websites.

But I ask you, what’s the point of having a big, intrusive pop-up shoved in people’s faces when they visit you for the first time or with a completely different goal in mind?

Most of the time, people don’t even have the chance of browsing your website before being blasted with notifications and calls-to-action to hop on a subscription list.

I’m not saying they don’t work, but I believe they can be more effective if you tailor them to your customer’s needs and browsing history on your website.

Maybe your small business can’t afford 10% discounts for every newsletter sign-up.

A small pop-up telling me about an exclusive discount on certain items that I am currently looking at can bring much more value than a generic one showed when I just landed on your home page.

For example, let’s say you have an online clothing store, and I’m looking at the jeans section. Informing me about a sale on a particular jeans model is much more appropriate to my browsing journey.

The same is true for a subscription pop-up. I often see incentives like a 10% discount for jumping in, but that’s way before I even got the chance to look around. Not to mention that if I’m on the checkout, I might either forget about your offer or have to go back and subscribe, check my email, and restart the checkout process.

What if, instead, on the checkout page, I also get the option to subscribe with a 10% coupon automatically applying if I do? Having those features implemented in the places that make sense will increase their effectiveness and won’t be just another thing I have to click to make it disappear and let me mind my business.

At the same time, before implementing these features, be sure that you provide value to people who choose to enable notifications or subscribe. If all you’re going to do is blast them with constant campaigns and messages unrelated to their needs, you might wear them out.

Again, the key is to NOT do it for the wrong reasons or just because you’ve seen it somewhere else. Maybe your small business can’t afford 10% discounts for every newsletter sign-up. There’s nothing wrong with not doing something that’s not sustainable.

“I want an online shop to boost my revenue”

Moving to the digital world is exciting, and hearing success stories left and right about people or businesses that created digital shops only to boost their revenue can make you feel like you’re missing out (a common trend for this article, it seems).

It will take away from your regular activities, so look out for how it can affect other areas of your personal or business life.

But building an online store on top of your regular operations is like building a new business altogether. There’s a lot to learn about eCommerce, available solutions, payment integrations, shipping opportunities, and much more, so although it seems like everyone can do it, make sure you are ready for this leap. And most importantly, don’t skip this learning step, or you might find yourself losing control over your digital crip.

Before getting started, you should see this as a whole new business that requires you and/or someone else’s time, energy, and attention.

Once you’re live, you can’t let days go by without checking your orders, offering customer support assistance, or making sure your products are in stock. As with any new business line, it will take away from your regular activities so look out for how it can affect other areas of your personal or business life.

And a big thing few people talk about – make sure you have products that can be sold online.

Let’s say that you own a bistro and want to start selling online. If your primary sales come for finger food and alcohol consumed by people who gather at your place to catch up, be certain that you won’t have the same success online. Once you take out the personal connectivity your business offers (and the main reason people visit you), you’re competing with the average liquor or grocery store.

While the online world can prove to be a great opportunity, it can also be a real challenge in differentiating yourself and providing real value.

Even though it’s easier to do many things online, socializing and bonding with friends is still tough to offer via a fiber optics cable.

Just because what I listed above doesn’t happen now, it does not mean that it can’t happen in the future. Your website is like your house—there’s a cost of having it, there’s cleaning that needs to be done to keep it in shape, and there is remodeling to adapt it to your changing needs.

Plus, all of these changes or potential opportunities come with a cost—time, energy, and money. That’s why it’s better to ask yourself a few hard yet honest questions before fitting your website with a feature you think you need but are not sure it will ever get properly used.

So before committing to some new feature, action, or activity, go through questions like:

  • What’s the bare minimum I need to launch my website before making any promises I’m not sure I can keep?
  • Do I have the right skills to pursue this endeavor?
  • When I’m going to fit this new activity into my daily schedule? Is there someone else that can handle it for me?
  • Are people and potential customers expecting me to do this?
  • Do I want this because it can truly help me and my business or just because others are doing it?
  • What are the costs of implementing it? What about the intricacies of doing this long-term?

Answering these questions will help you speed up the building process and ensure that you won’t sign up for something you can’t deliver. It might seem like a hassle, but it will save you from a lot of headaches.

Start from being pragmatic and list all the responsibilities you already have. Focus on where you bring the best value, and make sure you grow your website’s capabilities when you are ready and have clear goals that you plan to achieve—one battle at a time.

Otherwise, you will only increase your chances of getting people frustrated because they subscribed to a newsletter that they don’t ever receive, they ordered products and are nowhere to be seen, that you have a blog with two articles written a million years ago, and so on.

Less is more. And better.

A question by Andrei, the author of this article:
Are there things you have on your website that now feel like a burden?

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