By John Egan
Reprinted with permission from "The Storage Facilitator" blog.
Does your self-storage facility’s website need a complete makeover or just a little nip-and-tuck? Chances are, you could say “yes” to one or the other. Coming up with that answer is the easy part.
Now, what can you do to freshen up your website? Before you get started, remember that online beauty is more than skin-deep. It’ll probably take more than a new color scheme and a few new photos to firm up a sagging site.
“It’s not about a ‘fresh new look.’ Some of the most effective sites out there look very crappy,” said John Locke, principal of Web-development company Freelock. “Do you want to have a beautiful website that gets loads of traffic but doesn’t bring you any customers, or a website that doesn’t feel quite ‘done’ but sends you a dozen new leads every week?”
Experts offer these six tips for improving your website.
1. Keep It Simple
If your website isn’t on a WordPress platform, you should seriously consider switching it to one of the world’s most popular content-management systems. Two of the biggest benefits of WordPress? It’s incredibly cheap to install and relatively easy to use.
“You’ll need help with the installation process if you’re not tech-savvy, but after that, it is extremely easy to use,” said Brandon Howard, owner of Web-design firm All My Web Needs. “You’ll have thousands of free templates to choose from, and even more free tools called ‘plug-ins’ to add special functionality to your site. You will be able to make updates to your website without having to learn code or anything like that.”
If you don’t want to travel down the WordPress road, then look into website-building services like Squarespace, Weebly and Wix. They’re free or inexpensive, and they’re easy to navigate.
2. Consider Going With a Pro
What if a WordPress, Squarespace, Weebly or Wix website won’t cut it? Then you’ll likely need to hire a pro to create your website. However, you don’t need to break the bank to get it built. Check out freelance services like Elance and oDesk for Web designers whose work is reasonably priced.
Keep in mind, though, that using a freelancer from Elance or oDesk might require a fair amount of handholding. If that’s just not for you, then look into a Web-design firm. But be prepared to pay the price: A custom-designed site easily can cost thousands of dollars.
“It’s a good idea to use a company that will build a website for a one-time payment instead of having to pay monthly fees. It costs more upfront, but it is far less expensive in the long run,” Howard said. “Be sure to use a company that will build in WordPress or a similar platform.” Don’t let the firm create your website on a proprietary platform, experts warn.
“You do not want to wind up hostage to a Web wizard later,” communications consultant Bethann Garramon Merkle said. “Perhaps the most fundamentally costly—and recurring—error I know of is ignoring this tip. All of the clients for whom I have redesigned websites fall in this category. They had a site, they paid good money to have it built and, eventually, their Web wizard moved, turned nasty or whatever.”
3. Keep It Classy
So, if you do decide to go the do-it-yourself route, make sure your website stands out—for the right reasons. The wording and the images are critical to ensuring your site isn’t a flop.
“Avoid putting any verbiage that can apply to any other company, like stating that you have ‘high quality and great service.’ Today’s consumer is very smart and can tell when you’re blowing smoke, so make your website copy unique and powerful,” said Glenn Romanelli, president and creative director at Web-design firm Lighthaus Design. “Emphasize how your product or service is different from the competition.”