Oakley Studio has been designing, building, and hosting custom web sites for small and home-based businesses since 1996, and over the years costs for custom web site design have been going up… and up… and up… Partly that’s because web technology keeps marching forward, and new clients want to deploy the latest coolest design effects to make their site stand out from the crowd. Partly because the talent of skilled web designers becomes more valuable over time.

Custom = Expensive

There’s no way around it, a custom web site is an expensive proposition. No more can a business turn to a high-schooler to whip something up over a weekend; web design went PRO eons ago in internet time. These days bids for new web sites start at $5,000-$7,000 and depending on the feature set, audience, objectives, and competitive landscape, the costs can rapidly escalate.

Once a custom-designed web site is up and running, owners return again and again to their webmaster (that’s me!) for updates, design refreshes, content revisions, and other additions. That’s fine for a growing business that can afford the marketing expense, but my focus has always been on the small end of small business — the individual business owners, the tiny home-based startups, or the two-to-four employee shop that needs an online presence to succeed these days.

It’s Social

The web environment keeps evolving, and social interactions on web sites are becoming an increasingly important business activity.

Cafe OwnersSocial is how businesses of all kinds relate to their clients and customers, how they attract new clients, retain those clients, and grow their business. Actively communicating timely news and updates with these various constituencies via the company web site has moved beyond the occasional site update done by a webmaster. What’s the solution?

For big businesses with a lot of money to spend, an end-to-end Content Management System (CMS) is probably the answer. NetSuite and SalesForce come to mind. At the core of a CMS-type web site is a complex backend that allows employees in various departments to push out frequent news and information updates, manage and analyze a huge volume of data, promote the latest products and specials, and interface custom workflows to their business processes, automating their web presence.
But no mom-and-pop business can afford a quarter-million-dolar CMS site, and I’ve always positioned my business to serve those little businesses. So how can I help them compete? What can I do to level the playing field?

Weblogging is the answer — specifically WordPress. Weblogging (blogging, for short) is the way a business can communicate much more frequently with their audience, without having to learn a web programming language or master a complex CMS. WordPress makes site updates easy. Any business owner using WordPress can push out new information easily by writing — just like in a word processor — and can categorize new information for various target audiences, and quickly and easily tag that new information with keywords for search engine optimization.

In addition, WordPress helps a small business owner interact directly with their clients by publishing comments, answering questions, and engaging the people who buy and use their products and services in an ongoing public conversation that attracts more business.

WordPress offers a clean and simple dashboard  for every small business that wants to connect and build relationships with it’s clientele.

The Role of Webmaster

As a webmaster, I see this as empowering small businesses. It puts business owners in the drivers seat, able to add essential news and updates about their work without webmaster intervention. Want to connect directly with customers through your web site? It becomes effortless — and I can step out of the way.

So what then is the role of a webmaster like me? Truthfully, WordPress is reinvigorating my business. I can now offer a WordPress blog as the core functionality for a fledgling business or startup, at greatly reduced cost compared to the old-fashioned custom web site design roadmap. And I can serve many more clients in the long run. I’m available for technical consulting, design guidance, and expertise in how to position and market your business on the web. And as your business expands and the need for specific web functionality becomes apparent, your WordPress site can be customized and extended, and a larger web presence can grow up around your ongoing WordPress blogging.

These days, I believe a WordPress weblog needs to be at the core of every small business web site. For my existing clients I have become something of a WordPress evangelist, gently inviting them to embrace the new social realities facilitated by the web today. And for potential new clients I am aggressively selling the idea of a beautifully designed web site that’s still affordable and that can be operated without webmaster intervention.

WordPress + Webmaster = Success

I have come to believe that the formula for business success on the web today is this: Your business selling proposition, in your own words, presented professionally on the web, with the guidance and expertise of a webmaster who knows how to do it and is able to teach you. And if you are not yet an Oakley Studio client, let’s talk — right here on this web page if you like. I’d love to be your webmaster!