The quick answer is that having an SSL Certificate places a padlock icon in any modern web browser's address bar that creates a warm and fuzzy level of trust in the internet user's brain.

The geeky answer is that an SSL Certificate is a digital certificate with small data files that digitally bind a "key" to your business, website creating a secure connection. This secure connection lowers the potential risk of digital theft and creates a level of security and a level of confidence for users.

When activated (or purchased), you get a nifty little green padlock icon at the top of the URL bar that validates that level of trust. Go ahead, look at the top left of your browser... our website has one. Feel warm and fuzzy yet? Feel Safe and secure? HA!

By having an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate, all we've done is activated the https protocol to allow secure connections between our web server to a browser. This means any information you pass along to us via this website (like our contact form) is safe from being hacked or stolen. Years ago, an SSL Certificate was only necessary for those people who ran online shopping websites or sites that gathered sensitive data. The job of SSL is to provide safe passage of credit card transactions, data, and user login information. However, recently it has become the norm on pretty much every site out there. Why? We're pretty sure it's just another ploy to make money.

Do I Need One?

Well, you don't NEED one... it's not like your website won't work if you don't have one. You will still be ranked and found on search engines, but know that Google ranks sites with an SSL slightly higher than those without. If you do opt-out of having one, know that your website will trigger that ugly no SSL Certificate warning pop up we all hate seeing. This is the only real stinker of not having an SSL Certificate.

When this warning pops up, it creates an uneasy feeling for the person viewing your website. Not only do they now have to work and actually read something, but they are also presented with a menacing icon with a giant red 'X' with caution on a website that warns them that you may not be a reputable company.


Unfortunately for you, the average web surfer will run for the hills when they see this on their screen. Especially since the browser's red icon is recommending they leave your site for safety reasons.

But, how can this be? You know that statement is absolutely false. Your website is plenty safe! In reality, your website is actually vulnerable to attacks... it's not secure. There will be a certain percentage of people who will leave your site immediately. If you're OK with that, then don't bother with an SSL Certificate. But, if you are wary that you may be losing a potential whale of a client, then just fork over the money and buy one today. The only problem is that they need to be renewed each year, just like car registration. Damn the man!

How Do I Get One and What Do I Do With It?

Well, if you decide to fork over your hard-earned money for an SSL Certificate, then you would call your hosting company for that. They will quote you a price and probably either charge you to install it or walk you through how to do it on your own. But that's not it. Next, you need to head over to the search engines and tell them you have one so you can choose a default display version of your site so they can then re-crawl and index your website properly.

If we lost you back in the first sentence, then it may be best to let a professional handle this for you.

However, if you're in the market for a new website, all of our websites receive a free SSL Certificate as long as you host on our servers.

Turning Over a New Leaf

It's a new year and a time when many people vow to do away with their old habits and replace them with new ones. It always sounds like a great idea, but about 2 weeks into this 'new you', reality sets in and you come to the conclusion that change is hard and change is scary! But we must push forward. But I'm not talking about losing weight or being a better person, I'm talking about your business practices... more specifically, is your current website mobile friendly?

Why Should Your Website Be Mobile Friendly?

Did you know that over 85% of web browsing is via mobile devices (our website personally sees 94% mobile usage according to Google Analytics)? That's a staggering number. What that means (in our case) is that only 6% of people viewing our website are doing it on a desktop or laptop computer. So why would anyone build a website optimized for desktop usage? Well, because even though 85%+ people use mobile to access a website, it's reported that only 44% of those users end up purchasing something while on their phone. I guess there is still a warm and fuzzy feeling you get from processing a credit card on your home computer as opposed to your phone or tablet.

Do you know if your business website is mobile friendly? Well, you can easily check with the FREE Mobile-Friendly Test tool from Google. We ran this test on our website and it passed with flying colors. Phew!

The Google AMP Project

So, is a mobile website necessary? Absolutely! In fact, it's more important than ever. One of the biggest changes that will affect businesses with an online presence is the implementation of the Google AMP Project. Google AMP stands for Google Accelerated Mobile Pages and it aims to make user experiences on the web better by optimizing code and images in order to make websites load quicker on a mobile device. This is not only because people are insanely impatient, but it also saves the users' data on mobile plans when surfing the web. But that's not all... in order to make the Google AMP project more accepted by businesses, Google claims to give companies with AMP optimized websites more weight when it comes to SEO ranking.

Say whaaaat?

Now, not everyone out there is convinced the Google AMP project is the way to go, mainly because it creates a stripped-down version of your website, omitting some of the features that can make your website look and function truly great. Also, Google reportedly is a little biased towards using its own products as opposed to allowing some 3rd party competitors to take part in page optimization. I have a problem with that much like I have a problem with Apple making their own chargers and such. I don't care for the "my way or the highway" line of thinking. I like it when people (and companies) play nice with each other. It makes for a much nicer time around the sandbox.

Final Thoughts

So, whether you decide if a mobile-optimized website is good enough or if you want to fully-optimize for the AMP project, we have affordable website options to satisfy either decision you make. As a business owner, the choice is completely yours. We personally don't feel that we need to do bend over for Google until we see that it will make or break our business. What about you?

Building a Facebook page for your business is a great idea. It seems like everyone is on Facebook, so why not take advantage of the huge network of people? There are obvious advantages as well as disadvantages to having a Facebook page for business instead of a true business website. However, having it be the only online avenue for people to find you is not such a good idea.



Don't Underestimate Optics

Optics play a large part in how a business is perceived by the public. The general population knows that Facebook pages are free. While not a bad thing in general, having a Facebook page for business in place of a true website is kind of up there with using Print at Home business cards from Staples.

Why, why... WHY!?!?

Seriously, why? Did you know you can get professionally printed cards from VistaPrint for FREE??? But, just like seeing those perforation marks on those print-at-home business cards, pointing people to your 'website" and it landing on a Facebook page speaks volumes about your business. Now, I mean no disrespect... I’m simply trying to help educate all you small business owners out there.

Changes to Facebook News Feed

This is a big one for anyone with a Facebook page for business, both old and new. Facebook is changing its news feed algorithm to show fewer feeds from businesses and more from friends and family. This is straight from the Facebook man himself, Mark Zuckerberg:

"As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard—it should encourage meaningful interactions between people."

As great as this is for the average Facebook user, it's a nightmare for those of us with Facebook Business pages. It's straight-up business suicide for those who intend to use a Facebook page for their business instead of an actual website.

Finding the Right Website Developer

Just hiring anyone to design your business website is not enough though. Did you know on average, 91-94% of all web browsing is done on a cell phone or tablet? Whoever you decide to have you build your website has to make sure that they can build a site that is optimized for all platforms, most importantly mobile devices. If you would like more information about our affordable business websites, we are here to help.

The number one question we get when speaking with prospective clients is "How much does a website cost?" Over the years, we have crafted the perfect response, "How much does a house cost?" In an instant, a look of shock and confusion and then the lights go on and the concept starts to sink in, it's absolutely priceless. Then we hit them with "Are you looking for a studio apartment or a 6 bedroom mansion?" We're usually met with a little chuckle and then an, "OK, I get it."

Just answer the question!

I recently read a post from Sage Media that addressed this question but on a broader scale. They polled several hundred design firms, agencies, and freelancers and asked them what they charged for certain design projects. They took the average cost and posted the results. Since this article is targeting just website design, I will post just those results here. But if you want a good read and want to know what a logo or brochure costs on average, head on over and check out the full post.

The article revealed the average cost of a website submitted by 274 design professionals with an average of 10 years of experience. This includes the presentation of 2 to 3 concepts, art direction and coordination of illustration and/or photography, comprehensive layout, and final art delivered to the client. All of this is a fancy way of saying, "We will build your site how you want it and launch it for..." The average website cost was $11,830. That number is an average... which means some companies probably responded with price tags north of $50,000 and some as low as $500.

There is more to a website than the cost...

We understand how the importance of price and how price plays in pretty much everything in life. However, the price is simply only 1 of 4 things to consider when it comes to seeking a website designer. When you are looking for a designer for your small business, you should ask them 3 questions and then weigh your decision based on those answers and your gut feeling. The point is, don't let price alone drive your decision... hiring the wrong designer because they were cheaper can (and usually does) cost a lot more in the long run.

Question #1: How much experience building websites do you have?

There are plenty of people out there who design websites. They range anywhere from firms who do it daily and have designed thousands of websites over the past 20 years all the way down to the person down the street who built a Wix website for a friend and now fancies themselves a website designer. That last example is VERY real and VERY dangerous to hire, but so many people still hire that person. Please, keep doing so, because that's where we get our bread and butter clients from... fixing other people's mistakes!

Question #2: How much knowledge do you have in your industry?

This is closely related to question one because with experience comes knowledge. However, it's still a good question to ask. Maybe, a designer has been focused on print work for the past 10 years and only has 2-3 websites under their belt. They are creative and turn out beautiful designs, but do they have the know-how to build a functional website? Will it be responsive and work on all devices? Does it have SEO best practices built-in as to allow for search engines to organically rank it properly? Does it have code built-in for Google to be able to index the site properly? These are important things to ask them before you sign on the dotted line.

Question #3: How much will my website cost?

Now you're at the question you REALLY care about... but you shouldn't. I know you have a budget to stay within, but we all know that's simply a guideline. You would like to stick to it or even have money left over.

I would like you to think about heading to a dealership to buy a new car. You go there to look at and purchase the sensible gas-sipping Ford Fusion. Inevitably, the salesman ends up showing you the svelte V8 GT Mustang. He explains it's just a little bit more, but you get so much more in return. Then, to add insult to injury, the next one he shows you even go a step further. It's the GT model, with a hefty V8, better suspension, 20" wheels, a swanky body kit, and custom exhaust... all yours for just a little bit more. You start to think and somehow you find a way to justify the extra. You forget the fact that ANY vehicle will be a financial weight around your neck and will simply depreciate in value. It will also suck money from your wallet in upgrades, gas, insurance, speeding tickets, repairs, etc.

Why are you so frugal about your business website then? Why not upgrade to that fancier version with all the bells and whistles? At least your business website will actually make you money in return!

Question #4: How much risk am I willing to accept?

I know that's not a question for a designer, but it's the most important one to ask yourself. Risk and price are a sliding scale and when one goes up, the other (generally) goes down. If you find someone who charges you only $500 for a website, you are (usually) accepting a larger risk hoping the project is completed properly as opposed to someone charging $5,000 for the same website. The higher the investment, the more time, pride, and care a designer will take on your project. Still not convinced? Let me pose an example to you...

Comparing 2 designers side-by-side

Let's say you have 2 designers bidding for your new website. You've taken the time with each of them and explained exactly what your website needs. Designer-A has 2 years of experience and a couple of nice looking websites in their portfolio. Designer-B has over 20 years and has built hundreds of websites over the years. Both Designer-A and Designer-B will build your website for you, but Designer-B’s quote is much higher because it is all-inclusive and comes with hosting, daily backups, an SSL certificate, monthly support, and a plethora of other options you (think) you don't need. Designer-A quotes you $650 for their web design services and Designer-B quotes you $1,500. Both designers promise the website done and launched in 4 weeks or less.

Who do you go with?

Obviously, you’re thinking of hiring Designer-A because he's 1/2 of the price of Designer-B for doing (what you feel is basically) the same thing. You can't help but think of all the shiny new things you can buy with that extra money you saved. You call Designer-A to give them the good news! After cutting a check, you sit back and browse the Amazon app to spend that extra cash you saved.

How is that working out for you?

It's been a few weeks now and Designer-A is taking longer than you hoped and are missing deadlines. Finally, after 7 weeks, they launch your new website. Breathing a sigh of relief, you are quite pleased with the finished product and are excited to see all the money that will be rolling in from the new website. Taking to social media, you post about your new business and your stunning new website. All your friends tell you how awesome your new website is and comment on what a shrewd shopper you are.

A couple of weeks later, you begin to wonder why you're not getting increased traffic as promised by Designer-A. You call and they say you just need to wait longer. You log into your dashboard to see if your forms are even working and notice multiple alerts. Your dashboard is telling you that your plugins need to be updated and there is even a new version of WordPress that addresses numerous security holes found in the previous version. Scared about what that even means, you call Designer-A and ask for help. Since they’ve already collected their money from you, they respond back a few days later and if you're lucky, advise you how to perform the updates.

After what looks like a successful update, you check your website only to be met with a blank white screen where your beautiful website used to be. In a panic, you call Designer-A and are met with their voicemail. You leave message after message asking them to fix your website as soon as possible. Unfortunately, they don't get back to you for several days and when they do, they have no clue how to fix it. They spend a little time trying to figure out what happened, but simply can't fix it. You keep calling them and calling them because you're convinced you're losing money hand over fist while your website is down, but now they are ducking your calls completely.

Oh crap, now what?

You place a call to Designer-B and politely ask them to fix Designer-A's mistakes. Designer-B now has to go in and dig through the previous work in order to troubleshoot the problem. At a rate of $100/hr, you are really regretting that new watch and designer jeans you purchased on Amazon.

You find out that the crash was caused by some free plugins Designer-A used to build your website. When updated, they caused conflicts with new code in the updated WordPress installation and ended up crashing your website.

To get it working again, Designer-B now has to redo your pages to utilize better-supported plugins. They explain the reason your website isn't being found on search engines is that basic SEO was never built into the site. To fix, Designer-B has to go page-by-page and build the SEO info into each page, image, and link... ultimately costing several hundred dollars more. You're now up to a couple thousand dollars invested, way more than if you hired Designer-B in the first place. You've not only lost a lot of money but precious time as well.

Now everything is OK, right?

Fast forward a few months later and business is thriving. You would like to update your website, but you haven't got the slightest clue on how to do it. You make a call to Designer-B and explain how you would like to add some new products, a few new client testimonials, and a couple of new photo galleries. At $100/hr, you agree, because your website must be updated. All the while, kicking yourself for not hiring Designer-B in the first place.

If you had just hired Designer-B in the first place, you:

So, did you really save any money by hiring Designer-A?

We hear about these situations all the time! This was not a random story, it is an actual account of someone who hired Designer-A instead and (as you can see) after all sorts of unfortunate events and spending thousands extra, ended up in our care anyway. And they are still with us to this day!

I'm sure you all have thought about building your own website for your business in order to cut costs. Sites like Wix, GoDaddy, Squarespace, and other free website builders make it look so easy. I mean, how hard can it be, right? You're smart! Just drag a picture here, edit text there, BAM! Website finished. Now, the business will just roll in and you won't know what to do with all your new clients who fell in love with the new website YOU designed all by yourself.

Well, we hate to burst your bubble, but it's not that easy... not by a longshot. Nor, is it free like they tell you. It's all a bunch of hootenanny and we are here to shine the light on those shady bastards that tell you it's so easy. Keep reading, because we are here to save you valuable time and money. You're welcome.

"Free" Doesn't Really Mean Free

What sites like Wix don't tell you is that getting your website to work the way you envisioned, isn't free. Just like anything worthwhile in life, it costs money. When you type a web address into the little bar at the top of your browser, it takes you to that website. What sites like Wix don't tell you, is that you can't use your (custom) domain name for free on their system.

Confused? Let us explain.

Let's use our plumber friend, John Smith as an example. John purchased the domain johnsplumbing.com and he has decided to build his website on Wix because it's free. So, John creates an account with the username 'John Smith' and as the commercials said, opts for the "free" version of his website. Unfortunately, Wix won't allow John to use his vanity domain name. On the free version, he is assigned the address: johnsmith.wixsite.com/johnsplumbing.

Sounds dumb, doesn't it? You know who else thinks it's dumb... John's customers!

Here is an Example

In order for John to use johnsplumbing.com for his Wix website, he needs to upgrade his account to one of 4 different Premium Plans. As of this writing, prices range from $13 - $39/mo, depending on the options needed. If you want to sell something, e-commerce plans cost even more. Also, none of their plans come with website updates (like ours do), and if you ever need to add, remove or update content... you're on your own.

Oh, and did you know that you never actually own your website?

That's right... you literally rent your website with these popular free site builders. So when you get your website just right and then ever decide to leave, you walk away with nothing! Wix websites only work on their servers. GoDaddy only works on GoDaddy servers, Squarespace on Squarespace servers, Shopify on Shopify servers, and so on.

Sucks, doesn't it?

We're going to ask you just 3 simple questions and we want you to answer them truthfully. No cheating! The only person who you will be cheating is yourself and your business if you do. Hopefully, after reading this, you should be able to better gauge whether or not you should tackle the task of building your own "free website" or if it's best for you to just hire a professional website designer instead.

Question #1 - Do you really possess the technical skills to build your own website?

Remember, be truthful. This question basically comes down to how computer savvy you are. Some of you are awesome on a computer and some of you have laptops that double as paperweights and doorstops.

Are you the type of person that can hop onto a computer and dive right into creating and editing images in Photoshop, optimizing and compressing images for speed, write CSS code to suit your needs, etc? Are you familiar with code languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript? What about CMS platforms like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla?

If you answered yes, then you definitely possess the technical knowledge to bang out your own website. But if you're that savvy, then you would know not to use Wix or GoDaddy because if you know that if you build your website in WordPress, it's much more powerful, has access to an enormous library of plugins, and you can keep what you build. But you already knew that, right?

Question #2 - Do you actually have the time to build your own website?

Building websites take time... even for us, who have been doing so for over 25 years. Even if you are computer savvy, building a website is still a pretty decent learning curve. If you still decide to move forward on your own, do you know where to start? If not, use this checklist:

These are just some questions that you will have to ask, answer, and then learn about before you even start on your website. As a successful business owner, don't you have better things to do with your time?

Question #3 - Are you sure this isn't about your pride?

This is the toughest one to be truthful on, but please, try to. I get it, you're a smart person, right? You figured out how to fix the leaky faucet in the kitchen last week without hiring a plumber at $100/hr. You change your own oil for $25 instead of running to Jiffy Lube, and you also installed the stereo in your vehicle without hiring an installer.

If other people have done it, why can't you? Well, you probably can!

But the reality is that most people don't want to waste their time doing something themselves, only for the end result to turn out like doo-doo. It's almost guaranteed that a professional would have done it both better and faster.

Don't Feel Bad

It all boils down to furniture designers are good at designing and building furniture. Plumbers are good at fixing leaky pipes and toilets. Mechanics are good at changing your oil and repairing cars.

And guess what... you're good at whatever it is you do. Isn't that why you opened your business in the first place?

Us... well, we are good at building affordable business websites.

In Conclusion

Free is NEVER free. Everything comes at a price and your time and frustration are certainly worth something. If you're in the market for a new website for your business or need your current one updated, we only charge $349 for a professionally designed, 3-page business website, and our hosting, maintenance, security plans start at only $29/mo. If you need something a little more elaborate, it will cost a little more, but again, what is your time worth? If you would like to get an instant quote on your website, head on over to our Website Cost Estimator and plug in all of the options you want. We will build you a wonderful website that will blow your competition away. And unlike Wix, if you ever feel like leaving, it's your website... do what you want with it.