Every time internet technology changes, there is a chance that consumer expectations will change along with it. I often say that expectations change every time someone upgrades their smartphone. Unlike a desktop computer that we hold on to for 4 or 5 years, we each have the option to upgrade our smartphones at least every 24 months. The recent smartphone upgrade I did gave me faster processing speed, which means my apps, camera, and video editing run faster, but my internet speed is still controlled by my carrier.
A little extra speed helps in big ways
With an upgraded smartphone, I can speed up the time it takes for me to manage social accounts for my clients because apps like Over, Enlight, and Ripl all load, close, and render faster. Although opening and closing an app might not seem important, I'm often jumping between 4 or 5 different apps while creating a single social post, so I can feel that time savings already.
Squeezing a few extra seconds from everywhere
Because time is precious and we hate to waste it, we are always looking for faster ways to do things. A GPS gives you the power to find faster distances to destinations; the apps we use give us faster ways to shop; and you could set up your kitchen with the latest ideas that allow you to cook faster or more efficiently. Business owners are often looking for faster ways to do even a lot more, like their payroll, accounting, product reordering, and marketing.
Each of the items I mentioned could also be outsourced or somewhat automated, thus freeing up the business owner's time. Many business owners get caught in a neverending cycle of trying to do all the work on their own instead of hiring an employee or outsourcing. A business will eventually hit a plateau of sales above which it can never grow unless the owner gives up some of those routine tasks, like accounting, HR, and marketing.
The good and bad of hired services
There are a lot of companies that offer services which claim to make a business owner's time more efficient. Two examples include payroll services directly from your bank and Quickbooks Online that can be used from your smartphone and tied directly to your bank. These services are easy to understand and most business owners will immediately see how much time they can save with them.
On the other hand, business owners don't usually know a lot about online marketing other than what they hear about from friends and read as headlines in blog posts. There are also plenty of website services like WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify that all tout ads saying how easy it is to create a website using their service. They even give you the ability to edit those websites right from your smartphone. These services make it seem like you don't need to hire a rocket scientist to help your website design and online marketing.
New businesses can often benefit from these low cost and easy to set up web services, but there's a bad long term catch that those services are hoping you won't realize, or perhaps realize too late.
The barrier to exit
Once a business owner settles on a specific accounting software, POS software, graphic editing software, and even website software, there's little chance that the software will ever be changed. That's because the chosen software becomes part of the business operations and processes. Who really has the time to lean a new version of Microsoft Word? Do you want to make your customers angry by changing your POS system and creating longer checkout lines in the store? Why spend the money for the latest PhotoShop software if Photoshop 5.5 is still working for your limited needs? Lastly, why should you bother upgrading your computer from Windows XP when all the previously mentioned software programs still work fine? These are all real questions that I still hear from business owners today.
Learning curves are tough to deal with, and we'd all rather avoid them once we have a proficient work flow in place.
When software starts to slow down, most people, including myself, are more willing to switch to faster computers and smartphones instead of investigating potentially better software. Even though a new system will be better, the learning curve might take months, which would interrupt business badly. This is the real barrier that makes you want to maintain the status quo, and this is the trap that many service companies hope you fall into.
Companies that prey upon barrier avoidance
WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify (W.W.S.S.) make it so easy to build a website that it seems unwise to move to a different system that is harder to use. Harder is usually equated to longer time to manage or having to hire an employee or agency to maintain the site. Harder to manage sites are often thought of as more expensive without truly paying attention to the extra added benefits that are gained.
Some added benefits include control, advanced tracking, and customer interaction that are needed to grow a business to the next level. Each of the W.W.S.S. systems provide the illusion of easy control while hiding the reality of limitation and increasing costs.
These easy website systems seem to make sense for businesses that are just starting out. Recent ads from the W.W.S.S. companies make it seem like it's a real benefit for businesses to use their service. The ease-of-use benefit is real, and that's the most alluring factor. Each of those systems were designed to make the website management process faster, but they were not designed to create fast websites, efficient code, good SEO, customer tracking, or help you with your online marketing. Of the four systems, Shopify is probably the best one for tracking customer actions and built in SEO, but they still have a lot of limitations.
Bloating is not healthy
A while ago, Google said they would start ranking websites according to the quality of their code. Well written code is usually shorter, more efficient, and yields faster websites. Poorly written code is usually longer, complicated and difficult to maintain, and results in slower to render websites. This programming code condition is referred to as "code bloat."
Although the WWSS systems allow you to edit the sites quickly, once you start adding features to your website, the performance speed and usability of your website quickly drops as your code bloat increases. Even though Google warned about code bloat a while ago, it's only recently that my research is showing a correlation between code bloated sites from W.W.S.S. and the ranking of a website.
Focus on your core competency
As my friend and colleague, Andrea Hill often asks, "are you a web designer or are you a jeweler?" The reason for the question is to make you realize that you should focus on your core competency, which is jewelry designing, repair, or selling. Ads from companies like WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify might make it seem like setting up our own website is a simple afternoon task, but that's not true because building a website is not your core competency.
Let me rephrase the above question and shed a different light on it. Answer these questions:
- Are you an accountant or are you a jeweler?
- Are you a marketing director or are you a jeweler?
- Are you a HR/payroll manager or are you a jeweler?
How do you feel about each of those jobs, and do you take them on yourself or is someone else doing that job for you? You can save a few pennies by doing each job yourself instead of outsourcing or hiring an employee payroll, but at the same time you are taking your attention away from you core competency. Splitting your attention for different jobs usually leads to lower sales, which leads to more expense and employee cutbacks, which leads to the owner trying to do even more of the work they should not be doing.
This vicious cycle is not good for business health.
I'm hoping that I illustrated how a business is limited when the business owner takes on too much responsibility. I've seen a lot of business owners who outsource their bookkeeping and print advertising to experienced professionals, but those same owners believe the marketing hype and hyperbole by those above named companies.
I also hope I've provided enough food for thought so you understand that those website companies are better suited for new businesses that need to build their first website; with the caveat that the website will eventually need to be migrated to something better.