It's Time to Break Up With Your Website
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that most businesses are stuck with terrible websites that are awful to look at and a pain in the butt to manage.
Often these websites are high maintenance, time consuming monsters that drag you away from what you actually love doing. A lot like relationships, come to think of it… (just kidding, sweetheart, if you’re reading this).
I build a lot of Squarespace websites, and often it's because I'm rescuing someone from a bad website situation. The heartbreaking thing is that there’s fixes for all of their website troubles, but when you're in the thick of things it can be hard to see that.
When you’re stuck with a terrible website, it can feel deeply embarrassing. I once had a client tell me that his previous website was so bad it made him feel like he was walking around without pants on.
Those feelings are understandable because your website is the front face of your business. It’s likely the first or second impression that a client will have of you, and it can powerfully influence whether or not they decide to work with you.
Think about it: the first thing that anyone does when they hear about a business is do a Google search. That alone is reason enough to take your website seriously!
If you’re on the fence about whether or not it’s time to address your relationship — er — website problems, you should read up on the top 3 problems I hear from prospective clients and the fixes for each of them.
#1: You don’t have access to your website.
This is the most common problem I hear. For many people, it’s been months, or YEARS since they’ve updated any of the content on their website — not for lack of caring, but because they don’t have access to their website.
Usually that can be traced back to whomever designed the website in the first place.
Typically it happens when the designer doesn’t properly educate their client on how to access their website. This happens all the time when business go the cheap website design route (corners have to be cut somewhere, and usually education is the first to go), but it can happen even when businesses have spent heaps of money on their site.
Some web design companies hold their clients hostage by not giving them access to their own website. Out of fear of their clients leaving for greener (or cheaper) pastures, they restrict access to the website that the client technically owns.
It's not always that nefarious. Sometimes designers will restrict access to their clients’ website because they’re afraid that the client will wreck all of their hard work.
In either case, it’s a situation where the designer and the client have a dysfunctional relationship of distrust. Both are collaborating together only because the other party has something they want (technical knowhow, money, etc.).
Reality check: can anything good come out of a situation like that?
The fix: fire your current web designer and find a new one that respects, educates, and builds a trusting relationship with you.
When you think about this type of dynamic in any other type of scenario it becomes immediately apparent how problematic your situation is.
Imagine that you hired someone to build you a new house. You spend hundreds of thousands of dollars hiring on a contractor to draft designs, purchase supplies, and build out your future residence.
It’s fantastic, it’s perfect, it’s…home. As you settle in, you decide that you’d like to hang some of your favorite artwork and paint the walls, only to find out that you can’t. You have to pay your contractor to do it for you — and wait for them to have time to do it — all at a rate of $200 per hour, of course.
Who would put up with that kind of relationship? And yet, it’s not that different from many of the dysfunctional relationships that clients have with their web designers.
#2 Your CMS (content management system) is so complicated that you can’t edit your website
Do you ever feel like your website is a living entity that spends its time thinking of ways to make you miserable?
Maybe you’ll work for hours to get your website to look and function just the way you like. Then you get a notification that you need to update a plugin — so you do, and the moment you reload your page you see that all of your hard work has been reset.
Or your website is a pile of code stacked on bad code that’s just collapsing under it’s own weight.
Or maybe it’s just so cumbersome to do something as simple as publishing a blog post that it’s just not worth it.
In any of those cases, it’s frequently because the content management system that you’re working with is an overcomplicated disaster. I’m going to specifically call out Wordpress 🐍🐍🐍, because it powers such a large portion of the web.
Full disclosure: it's like the never-ending Mac vs. PC debate. I'm a Squarespace guy, and then there's a lot of people who use Wordpress.
Now with that out of the way, if someone told you that you need Wordpress in order to have a professional website, there’s 3 possible reasons:
- They told you this more than 2 years ago. The web has changed a lot since then.
- They’re trying to sell you a Wordpress website.
- You actually do need Wordpress. There are fringe cases where this is necessary, such as if your website needs super niche or custom functionality.
The problem with Wordpress is that it’s exceptionally user-unfriendly.
You have Wordpress itself, which is developed by thousands of people, which is developed separately from whatever theme you install, which is developed separately from the plugins you have to install to give it proper functionality…
With all of those moving parts that weren’t necessarily designed to play nice with each other, something’s bound to go wrong. So often web designers have to code a patch fix to keep things together. And then a patch fix on the patch fix when that fails.
Eventually it’s like a clown that keeps putting on makeup without ever taking it off. Over time it becomes this terrifying, caked-on mess better suited to a horror movie villain.
The fix: switch to a modern CMS that makes it easy for you to manage and update your website.
Life is too short to spend fighting Wordpress. There’s dozens of better options out there.
Here are 4 reasons reasons you should upgrade to a CMS that works with you instead of against you:
- You’ll have more time to work on things that you care about (like growing your business).
- You’ll look like a pro when you post website updates in minutes, not days.
- You can stop worrying about your website breaking and collapsing under a heap of bad plugins.
- Nobody cares about what CMS your website runs. If they’re digging around in your code to find out, I seriously doubt they’re the type of client you’re looking for (unless your niche audience is coders).
#3 Your website got hacked and/or you have no website security and you’re worried about getting hacked.
If you’re worried about getting hacked, what I’m about to say isn’t going to help, because you should be worried.
Website hacking is a very real problem that affects the websites of business owners every day. And the consequences can be devastating, when suddenly all of your web traffic is being driven to malware websites, or your website is simply…gone.
To make it worse, this Google updated Chrome (the world’s most popular web browser), to harshly penalize websites that don't have HTTPS security implemented.
Wordpress (🐍🐍🐍) is notorious for being particularly prone to hacking. Because of the way the code is set up, there are literally hundreds of thousands of exploits that can be done by bots scraping the web.
The fix: secure your website, back it up, and have a plan for what happens if you do get hacked.
It can seem intimidating at first, but trust me when I say that having your website hacked is such a horrifying experience that you need to prevent it from happening to you.
I had a client who came to me specifically because her website was hacked. Her organization had spent thousands of dollars on a brand-new Wordpress website, and they worked for weeks with their web design partner towards a big launch.
They sent out a newsletter to over a thousand people to check out their new website. And as the visitors poured in… they were met with a website that had been hacked by a Russian bot. Alllllll kinds of...sketchy things... were plastered over the website, causing a hugely embarrassing PR disaster for the organization.
What’s worse: their web design partner couldn’t fix it. And their contract specifically stated that they weren’t responsible for website hacks, so they were off the hook.
The web company they had contracted had no security set up, no plan to fix their website, and no backups to go back to. An investment of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of work were wiped out permanently.
It was her story, and dozens like it, that influenced my decision to only use Squarespace, because it comes with all of that security baked in. ALL websites need HTTPS security, daily backups, and a contingency plan in case something slips through the cracks.
To wrap it up: don’t lose hope, there’s better options out there. Sometimes it means a clean break, and sometimes it means getting counseling.
Like a relationship gone south, some people will stick for years with a bad website because they don’t think that there’s anything better out there.
That’s the web of yesterday. But today it’s simply not true — today’s web is all about modern, easy to use websites that present a professional face to your clients.
Making the switch is easier than you’d think. If you need help, feel free to reach out — nobody deserves to be stuck in a bad relationship with their website.