How to Improve Your Website With $0 Budget

Hey Google: How can I improve my website without actually having to redesign?

Running a business is not easy. Adding digital to the mix makes it harder. So what can you, as a business owner, do yourself to make your website work for you? We explore the ways.

Before you go any further, let me tell you: This blog post is for you if:

  1. You are a business owner and you are looking for actionable and practical ways to improve your website, without any extra costs.
  2. You are deciding whether you need a site redesign, and if you need to hire someone to do it.
  3. You want to understand how Softshell can help you.

It's 2021. It's time for some housekeeping.

As a digital product company, we deal with other business owners on a daily basis. Here in Kerikeri we usually hear from other small business owners like us. For some of these owners, they do everything themselves — from finance to business development to online marketing. They don't usually have the manpower to expand and execute as they want to, so they end up doing things on their own. What we hear from them the most is this: they want to improve their 'digital presence' but do not know where to start or if they can do it themselves.

Everything is just one click away.

If you are smart about your business, you would invest in an experienced web designer who is capable of building you a website that will do the work for you at a reasonable price. But by default, the reality is we would rather rely on our own expertise. And even if we outsource the task of designing the website to someone else, we end up intervening with the process and building a site designed for us, an individual — not for our customers.

I don't think this needs to be said again: We are in a digital age where having a strong digital presence is a crucial business need. Having your own website is part of the foundation to your business' success. How your website feels and performs is what will make you stand out from your competitors. Evidence to this is even in the middle of a pandemic, a lot of people have been brave enough to start their own businesses, leveraging the opportunities brought about by heightened digital usage.

So what exactly do we talk about when we talk about 'website improvements'?

From the outside looking in, your website might look just fine. On the surface it seems to do the job it's built for. However there's something in the back of your mind that tells you it could still be better — but you're not too sure what. You may notice few things such as:

  • You clicked on a page or a link and it seems to be broken. WTF.
  • Small things like grainy images, typos in your published content, or colours that are off with the rest of the brand site.
  • The media carousel in your homepage sometimes work. Most of the time it doesn't.
  • Pretty sure there's supposed to be an image on that page.
  • Am I still on my site? Where's the home button??
  • You have checked your site on mobile and it's ... more underwhelming than expected.
  • Did I really write these blog posts? You have been building your blog for years now, but upon further inspection there's some inconsistency on structure, content and keywords used.
  • Generally your website is not just getting enough traction (your latest analytics say so).

The fact is having one or more of the issues listed above have a significant effect to your overall performance as a business. The reason is this: A single bad experience on a website makes users less likely to visit it again (research says the dropout rate is somewhere around 88%). And every single person who did not engage with your website means a missed opportunity.

Taking the Initiative: Things You Can Do Yourself

Okay so you admit to yourself that there's work to do. Good job. Now let's go through the mental stages of DIY site design.

I don't want to do it. Redesigning your business website yourself is a task that you have been avoiding, and understandably so. It is a challenge because it intervenes with your daily operation: you just don't have enough time to sit down and think about how to do it. Or maybe you feel like this is not your strongest suit, and honestly you would rather hire a specialist or outsource this task (fair enough). Worst of all, you think that your digital presence does not have any impact to your business. That's just sad.

Or on the flipside, you may think you can easily do it yourself since everything can be Googled these days. That way you can save yourself some time and money. But you just can't be asked. Or you have some clue as to how to work your site to its strengths, but you're not seeing the bigger picture which leaves you stuck in a rut.

I really, really don't want to do it. You even got to the point of considering hiring web design and marketing services in your area to do it for you. But still no.

I guess I should do it. So you are now slightly convinced that your site needs some doing and it's all up to you. Now what?

Fine, I'll do it. The first thing you can do is take a step back and think about the overall experience, then explore the problem areas.

Below are some considerations and guide questions to get you started.


    • Why exactly do I want to be online again? Define your goals. As with any endeavour worth pursuing in life, this is important. Be honest and ask yourself 'why exactly do I want to be online again?' What are your short- and long-term goals? These will inform your approach as to what steps to take, or if the scope is bigger than planned (which is the best time to invest in a professional web design company. Ahem).
    • If I'm the user, what am I searching for? What am I looking to do in this site? Create a digital plan based on what the user is looking to accomplish within your site.
    • What change to the website can I make that will bring the most impact to my business? Explore what you think are the problem areas within your site. Identify these areas by asking yourself "what will make the most impact to your business if you make that change?" Ideally, focus on one area at a time. It can be anything from overall optimisation, navigation, or performance.

    • How does this website serve my customers' needs? What delights them, and what frustrates them? Let's take a step back and look into the overall user experience within the site. Map out your customer digital journeys, then define how you can best engage them at each touchpoint. Mapping out the different journeys and scenarios will help you identify the jobs to be done and your users' pain points. No clue where to start with journey mapping? We got you covered.
    • On the flipside, what is the specific customer need that is not currently being met by the website?
    • How usable is my website? Read Steve Krug's book 'Don't Make Me Think', a surefire way to enlighten you on how people actually use websites. You can also review your site in terms of usability heuristics.

    • What do users actually think of the website? User feedback is pure insight that helps remove all the guesswork. Review direct (traditional customer voice campaigns) and indirect (customer opinions on social media) user feedback, and build or integrate a feedback tool into your site if you don't have one yet.
    • Review past customer feedback. Have a sitdown with whoever is in charge of handling client service, orders, reception desk, or any frontliner who is the first contact for customers. Observe the common themes. Come up with actionable steps and integrate those with your marketing efforts and digital initiatives.

    • Think of your website like your house. Before anyone can walk through your door, they have to know first that you exist. (Re)build your brand awareness to your market. Register for Google My Business or Facebook page if you do not have a website yet.
    • Who is your audience? What types of people visit your website? Start by building personas - figure out the most common types of people that has the most potential to engage with your business and your site. These personas can serve as your guidelines in shaping marketing strategy, and website copy and content. If you're selling jewellery, it wouldn't really make sense to turn your efforts to convert.

No matter how flashy your website is, it will still be a flop if you did not design it with the users in mind. You can sign up for a good-looking web builder template for free, but bad user experience can cost your business in the long run. There are many other steps you can take based on outcomes you're looking for, which we will dig deeper into in future posts.

If you think redesigning your website is the next step for you, just send us a message and we will help you out.