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Professional Webmaster Business Issues Forum

Your Website Sucks
...explaining to a business how crappy their site is.

 5:38 am on Dec 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hi All,

I get so frustrated at all the businesses in my local community that have horrible websites. I feel like calling them up and telling them their website sucks!

Anyways how do I get a message that won't offend these businesses that they need to look at a better solution?

I mean one guy has a picture of him next to his porche convertible but he has a free piece of crap website.

I can pick any small business directory and find 8 out of 10 sites that suck.

I want to help them by offering them a better solution.

So I ask you what ideas to you have or have you used to get through to these businesses with the sucky websites?




 5:50 am on Dec 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

define "sucks"


 6:37 am on Dec 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

Oh, come on. It doesn't need to be defined. Many local websites truly "suck", to use this undefined term. Just ridiculously awful. Not useful, not obeying any known web standards, etc.

I lack tact. I can't advise on how to approach them. I would do it bluntly but I also don't know whether that would work.


 7:29 am on Dec 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think what ken_b means is that by defining sucks, you will get an "approach proposal" ;)


 1:52 pm on Dec 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

When I say sucks I mean not functional, horrible design, bad navigation, not updated, broken links... etc etc.


 2:25 pm on Dec 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

I find that the best way to approach businesses is with a business case, rather than an asthetic one. If you try and make the point that their site is giving their business a bad image - it's certainly given you a bad impression - then that is just a waste of money.

Websites should be there to help increase business, not just as a placeholder for a picture of him and his Porsche.


 2:37 pm on Dec 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

i know what you mean, but the reality is that so many businesses don't take the web seriously - so they don't want to spend, they do a diy or cheapo job ... so they make no money so they think, hey this is a waste of time, its kind of cyclic.

as nobody said above, think outside the box, if you can make them realise that their website can be an asset then you are there, how does a website add to their sales/status/repute etc

maybe send them links to their (carefully chosen) competitors who have classy sites


 3:25 pm on Dec 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

Definitely try to make a business case. You also may find that hard to do in many cases.

Unfortunately, there is some level of rational financial thinking in the case of many of these bad business sites. Many, although certainly not all, local businesses really will get far more of their customers other ways and their energy and money is best spent on a yellow page ad or getting listed elsewhere on the web in local directories (and not through building their own site, which requires customers to know about them).

It's just a reality of most small local businesses - there's far too little time and money to spend on speculative image-enhancement in a medium that is most effective in garnering an audience from a wide area, not a local one.

So try it, but be realistic yourself about which businesses might be likely to take you up on your offer.


 3:38 pm on Dec 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

Yes I realize that too. But the fact that it's not too expensive to do anymore. Costs of hosting and design are down. With so many tools available you really can't afford not to do it. Again i'm talking about the small business here not some big corporate entity. My thinking to this approach is to let them know I can do it better, faster and more affordable than they are doing it now. They believe image in important then how can they dispute that having a professional website is a direct impact on their business image. I disagree that price is the factor here. I think they have a mindset that to have a nice website it's not only expesive but takes a lot of time to maintain. If I can show them that it's not expensive and easy to maintain then hopefully I can convert them.


 3:53 pm on Dec 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

So try it, but be realistic yourself about which businesses might be likely to take you up on your offer.

That's a very good point. Where you are dealing with *local* businesses, which are 1 or 2 person operations, they usually have to be dealing with physical goods before they get interested - i.e. Sole Trader Plumbers and Electricians not as interested as the guy who imports curiosities from the other side of the world..


 7:17 pm on Dec 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

I hate "sucky" websites, and it always ticks me off when I can't convince someone with a GOOD business model to letting me improve their crappy site. Because of this, I try harder to refine this sales process.

A few general rules:

1. Don't offend them
It is very tempting to bash how horrible their site is. Do you remember your first site? How long after "hello world?" did it take you to get a good site? Compliment the good points whether it's content, and image, colors, whatever. Remind them that a LONG TIME ago your sites really sucked too if they get self concious.

2. Ask them their goals
If they don't have answers, give them some common suggestions. If they still can't figure it out, you probably don't want them as a client. You want sharp clients, not clients duller than a butter knife. Most will see that a web sites goal is more leads or sales (generally). Providing solutions to those goals is your selling point. They will not buy your website. They will buy your solution to their low ROI marketing dilemma.

3.Educate them
Teach them about the web. Give them some reading material. Let them figure out for themselves just how bad their site sucks. You want clients who are quick learners...the web moves to fast for a dolt to be competitive. Be honest, but friendly. They will return.

4. Be Specific
Give them specific examples of success in their industry. Help them understand what it takes to get there. Give specific problems, and specific solutions. If they are a local service based site...give them options for local search marketing. If they are a retail site that ships nationally...give them specific options for marketing their goods on a national level.

5. Be Brief
Don't try to bang their head against the desk (though you might like to). They either will or will not understand in a few minutes. Don't waste their time (business owners are busy people), and don't let them waste yours. Show them you are busy (bordering on aloof), and that your time is a valuable commodity, and that you respect that their's is as well.

Probably some more points to make herehere, but these are what spring to mind. Give them this, don't offend them or waste their time, and when the light bulb does finally turn on, they will remember who made the best impression. Be patient and persistent.


 1:16 am on Dec 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think the answer lies in the fact that most people don't like to be "told" -- but they do like to be asked their opinion. Use the fact that people like talking about themselves to your advantage.

Believe me, once the other person senses that you have their best interest in mind, they won't hesitate to tell you they think their website "sucks," sparing you the risk of offending them.


 2:10 am on Dec 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think one way to approach this issue tactfully is to explain in layman's terms what is possible with a website. Most people won't have any idea of the many ways a site can be improved, or what the impact of good SEO can do for it in a short time. You can almost guarantee that many won't be analysing their logs, especially if they have free counters. So you could explain how you could arrange a tracking solution that does away with the frustration of not knowing more about your visitors, and how there's more to it than just the number of hits.

Take the same tack with as many other topics as you think the owner of the offending site can handle. A site is not the web equivalent of a flier, but it's going to take a lot of subtle re-education before this message filters through.


 7:17 pm on Dec 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

I used to do a lot of small business sites, and my target customers were those with 'sites that suck'. The most successful approach that I used was to find a competitor with a good site, and show it to the business owner. It worked 99% of the time.

By viewing another site in the same industry, they attain the ability to see their own site like a visitor sees it. Then they are full of ideas of how to make it better, and criticising things about their competitor that that do better, etc.


 2:28 am on Dec 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

If you are using the term "sites that suck" on a public board, this says a lot about how you approach your work. This Is Not Good. :D

I agree 100% - but your APPROACH is 99% of your success: how you approach your customers, how you approach the work and how you approach your career.

First off - consider a simple fact: the people that did that sucky site are probably children or non-computer-savvy people sitting in their kitchens and bedrooms playing around with an old copy of Netscape's page editor. To them, it's a freaking miracle. Try telling someone their kid is ugly sometime - the reaction is very similar.

Here is a different "approach." Make a list of how you can improve their site as it equates to DOLLARS and TRAFFIC, the two things that people seem to understand. When it gets down to looks and graphics, even if they agree people will hide behind their egos and tell you that that doesn't matter to them. But after they see what you can do - they will love you. :D

If you accentuate the positive and avoid the negative, you will make the sale.


 12:17 am on Dec 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

3.Educate them

Exactly. If the business owner doesn't use the web very much, they often don't understand what makes their site 'ugly'.

I encourage my clients to surf around for a bit and find websites that appeal to them, whether within their particular industry or not. Sooner or later they realize how dated, or even ugly their website is.

...the web moves to fast for a dolt to be competitive.


If their website hasn't been updated since 2001 and has spinning email GIFs..and they haven't contacted you or any other development/design firm yet ..there's always a small chance they're really not all that interested in a new site.


 12:25 am on Dec 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

Just say, "Aww, how sweet. Did your kid do that for you?"


 2:14 am on Dec 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

I just met with a potential client who has spent $700,000 (about US$500,000) over two years to get a site that sucks. That included a lot of flying to other cities to get the first site built, then he sacked the first builder, then he got the current site, which is still useless.

Why does it suck?

Because the client's domain contains just a frame with the navigation. The content is on another domain that is a customer of the web designer -- not even his own business. It's a case where the designer has told both customers that the mutual synergy will "help" them both. OK, so it's not just a case of using frames badly, but the client domain is PR <1 and doesn't even show in G for the company name (dictionary words, so there's another problem).

The CMS in question is so badly written that it isn't doing anything for the other customer's domain either.

My dilemma is that helping my client will also help the other players in the equation.

I was introduced by a mutual friend, so I told him "in confidence" that the potential client should cut his losses and get a new one built. As I had half expected, this comment was passed on and was well received.

I posed a similar question to my national marketing association, of which I am a member - i.e. can I write an article that won't be offensive, yet tell marketers that they don't get Internet marketing? They didn't want me to write such an article. So you can't be too direct with some people.



 10:23 pm on Dec 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

I came across a site for a realty company that had a really nice look to it. The homes listed on the site were primarily in the $1,000,000+ range.

The only problem with the site was that they had _all_ of the photos of their homes on the first page. It took 30 minutes for the page to load on a dialup!

I called the president of the company and asked her if she was aware that the site had a problem (hoping to get some work out of her).

She said, yes, she's aware of it. I then asked if she would like a proposal for fixing it, which she declined. She said they don't update the website anymore. When I asked why, she said "because nobody ever uses it."



 8:18 pm on Dec 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

I came across a site for a realty company that had a really nice look to it. The homes listed on the site were primarily in the $1,000,000+ range.

The only problem with the site was that they had _all_ of the photos of their homes on the first page. It took 30 minutes for the page to load on a dialup!

I called the president of the company and asked her if she was aware that the site had a problem (hoping to get some work out of her).

She said, yes, she's aware of it. I then asked if she would like a proposal for fixing it, which she declined. She said they don't update the website anymore. When I asked why, she said "because nobody ever uses it."

This example nicely illustrates a point, that in order to successfully sell your services, the prospect must [1] want, [2] need, and [3] be able to afford what you offer. Even though this realty company both needs and probably can afford a new site, they simply don't want one. Whether their reasons are good or bad is not the point. When someone doesn't want what you're selling, it's a waste of both your time and theirs to attempt to convince them otherwise.

Companies with bad websites will fall into three categories:

1. Those that think their site is great;
2. Those that know their site is bad, but aren't prepared to do anything about it;
3. Those that know they need a better site and are ready to act

Rather than trying to convince prospect #1 that his site really is awful, or prospect #2 that he really should do something about it, spend your time looking for prospect #3.

The other issue is, no one will choose to redesign a bad website unless they believe it will produce some type of return. You must state your offer in terms of increases or decreases. Just asking if she "would like a proposal for fixing it" didn't convey that message. A better follow-up question would have been why they haven't fixed it.

President: Because nobody ever uses it.

You: If you could get people to use it, how would that benefit your company?

Assuming she's willing to talk, here's where you'll find out what she wants to increase/decrease. Is it to increase sales, decrease the cost of sales, or something else? If you can demonstrate how you can achieve that result, then chances are, you'll land a sale.

Small Website Guy

 8:45 pm on Dec 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

I have to say that most small business don't need a professional website; the money spent making it look professional wouldn't be returned back in enough new business to justify the expense.

On the other hand, it was really pathetic that I once worked for a company that provided IT services and their website sucked. In this case, the website is a representatio of the quality of the IT work.


 10:16 pm on Dec 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

Here's a question for you...

What is your true motive? Are you acting in the best interests of your prospects, trying to solve their sucky web presence problems - or are you primarily focused on the business potential in your own backyard. Is your profit your motive?

Humans have a pretty keen sense and can tell when someone is only chasing their own motives. Focus on their issues, consider things from their perspective and you'll have better success...

Not to be too blunt, but it sounds like the only thing you're offering your prospects is the chance to feel bad and then give you money. To quote Dr. Phil... "howzat workin' out for ya?"

The first lesson we teach our salespeople is how to provide value during the sale, shorten sales cycles, and close more sales. Do you know what prospects care about? Maybe you can get more of these small business owners to hire you.

If you want to close more sales, don't waste time telling prospects things they don't care about...

Go Forth and Prosper
Chris Ellington

[edited by: stuntdubl at 11:40 pm (utc) on Dec. 27, 2004]
[edit reason] No self promo - See TOS [webmasterworld.com] [/edit]


 7:37 am on Jan 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

I find this is one of the best times to choose against the personal touch. Find all the sites that suck in your town and send them one proposal. You can even title the email "Does your website suck?" That will get their attention but leave open the option that you are not directly targetting them. It will get them to ask the question themselves without feeling as though you are singling them out. Point out some of the most common sucky features of poor web design as well as some examples of sites that sell. But before you send out any bulk email, read this thread [webmasterworld.com].


 7:58 pm on Jan 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

LOL Powdork. Good advice and... good advice :)


 10:54 pm on Jan 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

I think I may have given one bit of bad advice. It's likely that the word 'suck' will trip an email filter. Perhaps you could try "Does your website send your customers to the competition?" or something like that.


 12:40 am on Jan 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

Use the "Contact Us" page and pretend to be a frustrated customer. If they care at all about customer service you may get a reply and if you follow some of the other excellent advice in this thread, you may get a client.

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