You Don’t Need a Website

What do you mean I don’t need a website, I hear you saying. It’s sacrilege in the 21st Century to tell someone that he or she doesn’t need a website. Or at least, why that person doesn’t need the website that everyone proclaims is essential, complete with videos and artwork, and blogs and white-​papers.

It is a truism, however, that the web industry has been very successful in hyping the need for websites. There are multitudes of reasons given: From visibility, to findability; from professionalism, to ownership of real estate.

The Truth

The truth of the matter is that many people actually don’t need one. If:

  • you are not selling physical products
  • your business comes primarily (e.g. 99%) via introduction, referral, or recommendation
  • you can’t put yourself in position as a “publisher” and feel ok with what that actually means
  • you do not have time to maintain two business fronts (if you have a physical location already)
  • you do not understand the time and cost involved in build and mainenance
  • your customers don’t spend their time online

… then you don’t need the type of website that everybody says you do. In fact, you would be far better off working to get your content and messaging for all of your offline materials right. Chances are, those are what you rely on most.

The internet is a big, shiny bubble filled with hype, promise, and expectation. Even though we all tell people that brochure sites are done and awful, the truth is that for some people they are just perfect. Some people don’t even need as much as a brochure.

The Non-​Website Example… online

A good example is my dad’s company. His consultancy has been very successful — and still is, after 20+ years.

His work comes through relationships, because he’s in the business-​to-​business space. His customers are very large companies, some are multinationals. They are not online all the time: They’re too busy working.

So dad’s site is literally a business card, without art, without images, without video, without any zazz.

It sits at #2 in search results if you type his name into Google.

Proof that not having a website still ranks highly when the URL, content and business name all match.
No active website, still ranks
Images of Colin Supple & Associates' very bare presence online
Business card, anyone?

Of course, it is important to note here that his name is also his company name, which is also the URL, which is on the site in two places (one of which is a heading). So there is more going on than just a business card, but the lesson stands.

Sometimes digital is just a distraction

Successful companies are not successful websites. And successful websites do not indicate successful companies. The two are not interdependent (unless your website IS your business, obviously).

What you really need to do is do the due diligence. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • If I invest X amount of time and money in this project, what will it mean for my business, and how can I test that assumption?
  • How much of the cost (time or money) will be ongoing cost?
  • Do I have the people power to manage it, long-​term?
  • Can I maintain it as I would my store-​front?
  • Am I willing to do the huge amount of planning work required to get what I want?
  • Can I find a development company that helps me with all of the parts, not just the look of it? And will they train me?
  • Can I commit to the project as though I have a publishing arm of the company?
  • Can I stick with the up-​keep for the long term, as though it were a piece of actual real estate that I have bought?

If you answer no — or can’t answer — the questions above, consider whether the project is necessary for the continued success of your business. If it’s not, maybe you would be better off paying attention to the amount of offline content that you also need to maintain, and just use your website as a place holder. There is no reason to feel ashamed of it, when you know that your essential work is not in publishing.

As much as my work is in the digital space (I’m an Australian Web Industry Association member, for goodness’ sake), it is increasingly obvious that digital is the oft-​chased, go-​to solution for everything.

It’s not. Good business is.

Brutal Pixie thanks Perth-​based content strategist James Bull for the awesome conversation that lead to this article. 

2 thoughts on “You Don’t Need a Website

  1. Whether to be online is certainly a tough strategic decision for any small business — and it definitely varies from industry to industry.

    As you pointed out having a website built and then maintaining it can be a big drain on resources, especially if tech is not a skill set internally for the business. Building a big fancy website with all the bells and whistles can divert critical resources away from the business that may be needed for product building or servicing relationships which are the actual revenue drivers.

    But a website can serve multiple purposes. A web presence could be as simple as contact details for the business — like your example. I think at a base level this is needed for most businesses in today’s market. However, beyond this, where you build more functionality into a site, or adding social media channels, you start to create new work. If that new ‘digital work’ creates added value for a business that’s great, but if not then its just a drain.

    1. Hi Ryan, thanks heaps for your input. You’re absolutely right about websites having the potential to drive critical resources away from a business. And like you, I think that owning your own real estate is vital. It’s whether you have the capacity and resources to support it that is the question. Due diligence in any content-​driven business is a serious thing, and it’s not something that people discuss. Maybe that’s something for the next Sunday Letter. 🙂

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