When we have an initial chat with a new potential client we normally try and help the client understand that the website return on investment is more important than website design. And most people we speak with are surprised by this approach.

It’s not that we think that design isn’t important but we build websites for businesses and a website is an investment in marketing and should be expected to bring in new leads and customers. Thus the return on investment is vitally important.

But let me explain that a little further:

In our experience most small businesses don’t adequately measure the return they get from their marketing spend. They don’t analyse where new clients come from and whether advertising and marketing campaigns have been profitable.

A friend of mine recently wrote on Facebook that he’d spent over £1000 last year on business networking and that it hadn’t brought in a profitable response. So he’s rethinking his marketing strategy. But that kind of in-depth analysis is unusual in the small business world.

And the same kind of monitoring should go into all of your marketing, especially with a website which is often considered a ‘big ticket’ item in a small business. There is no excuse for not finding out exactly where your clients come from and what element(s) of your marketing they responded to.

But, coming back to websites, our clients are often surprised when we spend so much time examining how we’re going to make the website profitable. In fact we spend more time on this to begin with than we do working on design.

Design is important though, your website needs to appeal visually before the marketing message does its thing. But the design needs to support the marketing message and not the other way round.

We’ve seen small businesses spend thousands on beautiful websites that will never pay for themselves because all of the effort has been put into making it look great but with little or no thought for how the website will bring in new customers.

On the flipside of that I’d like to share a quick story:

In the middle of 2012 I was asked by a business colleague (who owns a successful restaurant) whether I’d seen his website lately. I said yes and asked him why he was asking. He told me that some of his friends had mentioned that his site was looking a little dated. My next question was something like “does your website bring in new business? Has it paid for itself?”. His response was “loads”. So I suggested that he not mess with it, don’t shoot the goose that lays the golden eggs.

A few months later he’d had his website redesigned and, in my view, it doesn’t look nearly as good as the old one. The message of a ‘great place to eat’ has been totally lost. In my opinion, he’s unnecessarily spent money on his website and has killed it. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if his response rates drop significantly and his website return on investment is badly affected.

But having said that, I’ve seen ugly websites that make good money for a business because the sales and marketing messages were very well written and they converted site visitors into leads or clients.

Now I want to re-emphasise that your website design is very important, of course it has to look visually appealing.  But, when thinking about a website, remember that it’s main function is as a sales and marketing tool and not a design exercise.

Make sure that you spend as much time and effort (if not more) on the website return on investment than on the design.


If you’ve any thoughts or questions on this then feel free to write them in the comments below. I hope to hear from you,

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