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What's the absolute minimum a small company site needs?
Undead Hunter

 4:29 pm on Apr 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

I know a few really small businesses who want to get a website, and I'm trying to shave down what they need in a website package. Specifically, a house painter, a specialized garage, and a woman who sells one type of health food on her own. At a minimum I think they need:
- their own domain name
- their own email
- a year's worth of shared hosting
- 3 pages of written text, professionally done?
- good but uncomplicated graphic design (I don't think any have their own "company identity" first, maybe business cards is all, but those would have to be re-done w/ the website name on it.)
- maps to their workplace, where applicable?

Bonus but probably unnecessary:
- Statistics page for the website?
- Newsletter software (I think this could be a nightmare really?)
- Ability to update their webpages / add pictures *

*But then who will train them to do this? And believe me these people are pretty helpless beyond email...


What are your thoughts?



 5:16 pm on Apr 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

I would say that house painters, garages and people who sell anything need SEO to make their websites work for them.

Undead Hunter

 9:23 pm on Apr 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

What do you define as "SEO" in these circumstances, BDDU?

Is it just optimized pages or would you insist on them coming up Top 10 for local searches?

And how would you impliment that - cost wise? Imagine their budgets are, what, $300 for the whole thing?


 10:24 pm on Apr 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

2 or 3 evergreen pages would probably be better than a site they had to update themselves in most cases.

List the site at the local search engines for them.

I'd skip the stats, most will only get confused by the numbers unless you really spend the time and effort to filter them.

The map is a good idea where applicable.


 6:29 am on Apr 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

Imagine their budgets are, what, $300 for the whole thing?

I am afraid that I would not be considering them as clients at $300 a pop. I could not make a living from building $300 websites particularly when the people who need them are not PC literate.

In this case it could take more than 300 to define their requirements and expain everything to them.



 7:02 pm on Apr 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

In my experience they will likely invest a decent amount as a one-off in some good eye candy, but not ongoing maintenance or SEO. The good ones are too busy and dont need any more sales.

The exception is services that have an eBook to sell, say a nutritionist or mangement consultant Iv not yet met any house painters with eBooks on eBay :)

Avoid? Yes, unless you have an exceptional graphic/webdesigner at low cost.


 11:05 pm on Apr 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

My approach with this level of client has been to do a basic initial SEO job on the site based on what they can provide for copy. I explain the process and how the engines work and the concept of content and links and encourage them. Then I'd do my best with what they could provide.

I typically provide a favicon too.


 4:14 am on Apr 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

How big a city are they located in? If it's a big city, they have a lot of competition to stand out against. If it's a small town, the following specs might be sufficient to turn up in web searches. It would also allow them to get their feet wet for a very small investment and no lock-in. I have doubts that an online presence is really going to do much for a local small business that a Yellow Pages listing doesn't already do better, but getting an online presence will be fun for them and something new and exciting. Who knows, if it does look promising, they can invest more and do more later:

- free hosting such as at (unsure if names can be mentioned here. Anyway: Y!GC)
- their own email (free email account comes with registration at the free host)
- their own domain name not necessary. Consider the project experimental. Just make sure their titles and headings clearly and prominently mention the type of services, city, and state.
- Have them write 1 good page describing their services, their work ethic and attitudes, basically why they're good. Then you edit it to make it web-presentable and format it into a simple web page.
- Forget graphic design. If they have any sort of logo, they can use that somewhere. You can't do a lot for $300 and a few hours work allocated to the whole project.
- They can re-do their business cards in due course if it seems desirable later.
- Maps to their workplace. Nice add-on, but unnecessary.

- No statistics page. All that matters is if anyone contacts them and buys services. That will be obvious.
- Absolutely no newsletter software. Nightmare for them. If they are willing to learn how, they can put news updates on their 1 home page, and take it from there if the project looks promising.
- Ability to update their webpages / add pictures. They can do this at the free host. They will have to learn some minimal skills to learn how. Leave it for when they *do* learn how. If they don't want to learn how, no updating.

You are involved in a few hours of setup work, editing their home page, and getting them started with a bit of instruction. Doable for $300 and they won't be disappointed with cost overruns way beyond their budget for a project that might not be that promising anyway.

Basically, if the site winds up just sitting there, with them overwhelmed by the complexities of managing a site, it's no harm done. If they like what they see and are excited about doing a better job of it, you have the basic site ready to build on.


 7:28 am on Apr 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

So for $300 you are going to provide/organise ...

* website design
* free hosting set up
* email set up
* domain name set up
* SEO copy writing (and presumably some keyword research)
* "a bit of instruction"

Include your own overheads and I would say that this is impossible to do (unless you are working on the side and not paying tax).

I have doubts that an online presence is really going to do much for a local small business that a Yellow Pages listing doesn't already do better

You may have doubts but I have evidence to the contrary. I did a website for a guy who owned a small, local removal company here in the UK. I also did a good job on SEO for him. Within a few weeks he was getting enquiries from all over the UK, people moving from England to Scotland and vice versa. In other words big money jobs.

Within a couple of years his business had grown to the extent that he bought a warehouse and started doing storage as well as removals.

The point here is that people moving from one part of the country to the other only get local companies in Yellow pages. People using the Internet get companies from all over the UK ... if they have successful websites. AFAIAC yellow pages are history.

I am sure that this example could be repeated in other businesses. So don't underestimate the value of a small website. My client started off with only about 7 or 8 pages. This brought in enough work to allow him to grow his business dramatically so it's worth very much more than $300. For example even your house painter would only need one or two decent jobs to get a full ROI and ROI is what this is all about.


 9:49 pm on Apr 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

I know those kind of people :)

They definitely need their own domain and email address. Skip the newsletter, they'll never use it if they barely handle email.

Shared hosting would have the statistics, or just add Google Analytics. It would be nice, but they probably won't use that either.

Once they're up, have them list their web site in a couple of local community web sites and on Google's Business Directory.


 2:32 am on Apr 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

Today I've been offered 100 quid to design and set up an entire e-store, populate it with products, and then SEO it. Pffft.


 12:03 pm on Apr 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

And what do you plan to do for the rest of the morning?


 12:40 pm on Apr 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

>> offered 100 quid

I've found that I can convert about 10% of these folks into clients that pay what it really costs. The rest get sticker shock when I tell them the reality of what they're asking.

Of those that leave to hire the less experienced web designer/developer, 5-7% come back in a year or two ready to pay my fees.


 1:08 pm on Apr 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

Today I've been offered

Yes, some of them amaze me with their brass necks. I get peopl doing this regularly. Why is that they think that it is acceptable to offer web designers a fee instead of asking what it costs?

I mean they wouldn't go into Marks and Spencer's and offer a sales person 1.50 for a 30 shirt, or would they?


 1:59 pm on Apr 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

>> Why...

because they know there are people who'd jump on the chance to do the job for one reason or another - like career change or portfolio building


 6:35 pm on Apr 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

I'll relate an anecdote from gee whiz, 30 years ago?

Fresh out of college, opened my own design business - before desktop publishing mind you - someone wanted me to illustrate their restaurant. I quoted $100. The woman said,

"I just don't get it. When I remodel my kitchen, the carpenters bring in wood and countertops, sinks and appliances, I can see what I'm paying for. You're asking me for $100 for what, some ink on a piece of paper?"

This has always tempered me to the minds of customers seeking work. I told her what I tell people now: if you don't understand the value of what I do, find someone else and I hope to see you some day when you DO understand.

Although the word ignorant may seem harsh, a better one is indifference - they don't care how good you are, they care about their money.

I stopped resisting years ago. Someone comes to me with a $300 web site project? Why should I impart my meager wisdoms on them for free? I give them their $300 site, and offer advice if they will listen.

What you do not want to do is give out the advice for free. Sometimes you think you're convincing a customer to loosen up the purse strings, and all they are doing is picking your brain.

"Here's what we can do for $300."

To answer the original question: the domain, email, and stats are part of the same "package." What they need from you, for $300, is pretty much what you've outlined, a well-structured presentational site that will index on it's own in time. A mini-CMS and newsletter is far beyond that budget.

I get these all the time. I don't mind doing them. But I draw the line where "customer service" begins and ends.


 9:28 pm on Apr 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

Don't do anything until you create a template of standards for yourself. Otherwise you will find yourself doing work above and beyond what you originally set out to do or charge them.
Beware of anyone who says, "Give me a break on my site cost and I'll be sure to promote you to everyone I know to strum up business for you?"
Bad idea


 6:34 pm on Apr 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

^ Haha! Thats more than half of my compensation! The other half is bartered goods/services. Neither of which help to make payments of any kind.


 3:45 pm on May 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

This thread is definitely interesting because me and my partner were contemplating offering basic sites and setup for $300-400 a pop.

Though it would be all on the side so we may be able to pull it off.

I wonder why some are against a CMS? Our plan was to use WP or another lightweight CMS and a simple template as base. Install a few plugins, along with minor modifications so it doesn't look so bloggy. Get content and images from customer and load up site.

He is local to area, I am not. But his current company(not web design) got quoted $1000 for a basic blog setup, though I don't have details on what that would include, whether custom template which I could see raising price. Just seems high off hand.

We were planning to do a 2-tier cookie cutter options for them to choose. Though after reading this thread maybe offering a basic CMS class on how to update for $100 an hour or so.

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