10 years ago, web designers were designers.
Web designers were people who fancied themselves artists and architects, and some were legitimately-brilliant web-artists and web-architects.
Most were hacks. But that’s okay, because art is personal and subject to influence.
Those days are long gone, and art in web design is dead.
Today everyone and their cousin is hanging a “WordPress Designer” shingle on the wall and claiming to run a legit business.
Even people who have no business being in the business are in the WordPress Designer business!
Moonlighters, retirees, students etc. etc. etc. Generally, non-professionals charging professional rates.
I’ve never seen anything like this before!
The barriers to entry are so damn low and the product is so overpriced.
The WordPress Designer market is showing as many signs of being a bubble as the housing market was in 2008.
In 2008, everybody was buying overpriced houses!
People with no income owned multiple homes!
It was fantastic and a site to see!
…until it wasn’t.
This WordPress Designer bubble is going to burst sooner than you think.
And when it does, watch out.
There will be carcasses of small businesses all around us, and once-friends will become bitter enemies.
The whole world will be turned upside down for WordPress Designers once small business owners realize that they don’t need a designer – they need a realtor!
Real Estate is a commodity in the shell of art.
Homes are unique but are priced according to what the market will bear.
A unique home might command a slight increase in price, but it’ll be relative to its immediate neighbors.
Not so with websites in this era of the WordPress Designer!
Website prices are completely arbitrary and subject to the whims of the crazy people who build them.
There’s no quality control, no standards, and you never know what you are going to get.
Maybe you’ll get a crappy host, maybe you’ll get a good one. There’s no way to know, because you didn’t even know to ask!
Realtors are paid their small percentages to help you navigate the mess that is the home-buying process.
That’s the role us web designers are going to fill once the bubble bursts.
Small businesses don’t need design. Hell, they don’t even need marketing!
Small businesses need sales, and once business owners realize that that websites don’t generate sales, we’re all gonna be in for a swift kick in the ass.
Because if a website isn’t generating sales, it’s not valuable to a business. If it’s not valuable, it becomes a “necessary expense” to keep up appearances. It becomes the fortune cookie at a Chinese restaurant.
“Buy the cheapest cookie you can find, regardless of quality!” says the owner of the Chinese restaurant.
And that’s what sane people will be doing once the bubble bursts and the truth flows.
Business owners will need someone who knows where the buttons are and when to push them. They’ll need a factory machine operator, not an artist.
They’ll need someone with experience to advise them on what is a good deal and what is a bad deal.
But they won’t need art.
And they won’t need a lot of your time, either.
Low time, low expertise. Just enough to get them across the finish line – nothing more. That’s what sane small businesses need in a website.
It wasn’t long ago that all websites were different. They were innovative and creative.
Well, thanks to Steve Jobs and the standardization movement he empowered (probably by accident, mind you), we now have a no-design web.
There’s still art happening, but it’s on the process side (i.e. marketers extracting more dollars out of each unique visitor).
We are at the point where an innovative visual design is actually counter-productive to sales!
Art confuses people. Standards clarify.
We used to have to teach people how to use our beautiful, artistic Flash websites.
Now there’s no teaching, because ALL WEBSITES ARE THE SAME!
Logo on the top-left, contact info/social media on the top-right, menu in the middle-top, hero image followed by 3 boxes. Check. Check. Check.
We don’t want confused buyers, after all, so simplicity rules the day.
While we are talking about the WordPress Designer bubble, we might as well address the elephant in the room: Your website is a horrible place for you to sell things.
Amazon, Etsy, and Ebay are much bigger marketplaces with much greater reach and built-in audiences. Why not start there?
There are great reasons to not hinge your business’ success on those existing marketplaces, but all business is risky business.
Why not start selling your product in the place with the biggest reach?
I’m not saying you should forsake your e-commerce site. I’m just saying it needs to be second fiddle to your Amazon/Ebay/Etsy store right now.
Build your e-commerce site for cheap on Squarespace or Shopify or WordPress.com or wherever. It doesn’t matter – whichever is quickest & cheapest.
Your e-commerce website is not valuable – treat it as such! It’s not a marketplace, and it probably will never be one.
The fast money is on Amazon/Etsy/Ebay. Own the truth and go there.
Use your website to build your credibility. But don’t use it to sell your products.
Plain and simple: If your website looks like everyone else’s, then it’s credible.
You need to establish a baseline of trust. But that just means you need to make sure you don’t look like a total fuck-up.
Just go with the flow, use an off-the-shelf WordPress theme, hit “Publish”, and be done with it.
It’s probably not going to matter anyway.
Instead, work on earning your first dollar on Amazon/Ebay/Etsy.
You need to Jaws of Life to extract the first dollar from any customer. Subsequent dollars flow much much easier.
So why not bet it all in an established marketplace where there is built-in trust?
Did you hear that? You can sap the established trust of Ebay/Etsy/Amazon just by being in their marketplace!
Gather email addresses as you make your pennies per sale, and look towards the future when you can upsell existing customers at higher margins.
If sales are on the top of the heap, what’s on the bottom?
Marketing Isn’t Sales
Once you’ve gathered your email addresses, you’ve got one task: close the next deal with existing customers.
Most small businesses make the mistake of using these email addresses for marketing, branding, etc.
This is a boneheaded mistake that all new businesses make.
I had a conversation with a friend last night who owns a new brick-and-mortar restaurant, his first foray into entrepreneurship.
I was amazed at how dumb he is. But it’s not his fault he’s new.
He spent half of our conversation talking about how he’s going to move his restaurant’s t-shirts. Fucking T-SHIRTS, people!
He was regaling me with idiotic tales of how people would see his t-shirts and then miraculously arrive at his restaurant.
And he now has 500 t-shirts that he’s wasting his time trying to sell! But again, he doesn’t see it as a waste. He sees it as marketing!
And marketing is what companies do, right?!
Marketing is what big, established companies do. It’s what marketing people do.
And no small business should be paying a marketer, because they shouldn’t be marketing.
What should they be doing instead? Oh yeah – SELLING!
Use your email list for sales.
Marketing is for companies with stuff on shelves at Target or big service companies like Uber.
Sales is for small businesses.
Sales is harder, because it forces you to ask for money.
It forces you to get uncomfortable.
But money handed to you is the only sure way to know if your product is worth a damn.
Guess what, if nobody is buying, your product ain’t worth shit.
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