Does every business need a website?


Since starting my freelance career, I have contacted many businesses offering my website services. In many cases, I never considered whether they needed them.

More recently, I have tried to put myself in the shoes of business owners. Seeing things from their perspective helps me understand which problems I can solve. Rather than simply selling a website, I want to sell solutions to their website problems. This perspective shift helps me target those who need website services and stop hassling those who don't.

The truth is that a website is not necessary for all businesses. There are plenty of examples where businesses thrive without one. Conversely, many would benefit from a website and don't have one. 

I hope this article provides a framework for deciding whether a business needs a website and suggests alternative avenues if it does not. Let's start by understanding the benefits of a website.

How does a website benefit a business?

There is no escaping the internet. In our society, it is essential. A website is a place for a business to market itself online. It is an online face. Not having one significantly reduces visibility and findability. The chance to present itself to the online world is lost.

Every business has a story. Every business has a message to share and a change to make. A website is a platform to tell that story, share that message and make that change happen. With a website, a business can present itself exactly as it wants to. It is a direct route to communicate with existing and potential customers. It does not need to adhere to anyone else's rules. The business can share its message its way.

A website has many functions. It helps at every stage of the customer journey. It is a powerful marketing tool. In e-commerce, it is essential for sales. It offers customers an easy route to communicate and feedback to a company.

Despite all these benefits, not every business needs a website. If that is the case, what are the drawbacks?

Can a website hinder a business?

The benefits of a website are universal. No business is exempt from them. As with anything, there are costs to counter any benefits. We must weigh the pros against the cons. So, what are the costs of a website?

Websites require significant investment. One must dedicate time and money to a successful website. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Free websites don't exist, either. Even if the content and design remain the same, one must update the technology or risk major security holes. It is hard to fix a hacked website. Keeping a website up-to-date mitigates the risk of hacking but requires investment. The business must either invest time doing it alone or money outsourcing the task.

Beyond security, one must consider the investment in creating a quality user experience. According to a study by Stanford University, 75% of consumers judge a business by their website's design. A poorly designed website will negatively impact any business. For a high-quality website design, one must either invest time doing it in-house, spend money on a high-quality template or hire a Web Designer.

Having a website for its own sake is inadvisable. Ignoring website costs will hold a business back. Consider the business's goals. Does a website move it closer to those goals or hold it back? There are plenty of examples where certain businesses' goals do not suit running a website. Let's take a look at some next.

Are there some businesses that do not need a website?

I make websites. I would make a website for every business if I could. In many cases, a website is unnecessary. Let's look at examples where a website would not be beneficial.

Local community-based businesses are unlikely to need a website. Consider a hardware shop in a small village. The shop owner knows 90% of the customers that walk through his door. Their business is served almost entirely by their community. They don't need a website. Customer acquisition, sales and communication can all be served face-to-face with customers in the shop. They are happy with their business and are not looking to expand their reach or diversify their income. They don't need a website.

Not far from where I live, there is a shop. This shop is essentially closed for ten months of the year. It is a Christmas shop. During November and December, they thrive. They make all their money in those two months. They don't need a website. In November, they invest in a small awareness marketing campaign for new customers. Beyond that, local custom and customer referrals generate plenty of business. They open each Christmas and seem to run well without a website.

Imagine a side hustler. They supplement their income by selling vintage clothes on Etsy and Depop. They make a small profit that enables them to save more money and go on nice holidays. They are not looking to expand. They are perfectly comfortable taking advantage of third-party platforms to sell their wares. They don't need a website. The extra time investment in growing their website would present a return on investment significant enough to move away from using Etsy and Depop.

As I mentioned earlier, websites are hackable. Hacking websites is more common than people realise. Businesses with regulatory and privacy concerns may market their business through different means. Consider a Mental Health Counselling Practice. For patient privacy, they comply with strict data and security policies. A website presents a risk to that security. To mitigate against that risk, they prefer to operate as much in-person as possible. They receive business through professional and patient referrals. They use less risky communication channels. They must put patient data security first. They do not need a website. 

These are just a few examples of businesses that don't need a website. There are many more. These businesses may require some functions of a website, but not all. What tools can you use for website functions without investing in a website?

What alternatives are there to building a website for a business?

To answer this question, let's break down the various functions of a website. There are three main functions to discuss: marketing, sales and communication.

Marketing without a website

Social media plays a significant role in most marketing strategies. Through social media, a business can expand its reach, develop its brand and grow a community of loyal followers. It is so prominent many people question whether social media is more important than a website.

Let's look beyond the standard social platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok. There are industry-specific platforms available to market business services. For creative work, Behance and Dribbble can showcase a portfolio without needing a website. Developers use GitHub to show their code and projects they're involved in. Anyone can write blog posts for their industry using tools like Medium. Regardless of niche, platforms exist to help with digital marketing without a website.

Online sales alternatives

You may think that e-commerce businesses need a website. Think again. 

Look at where you buy products from. How often do you buy directly from a business compared to marketplaces like Amazon, eBay and Etsy? For many, e-commerce platforms are more effective than websites. Using third-party sales platforms makes it easier for customers to find a product than if a business only sold it on its website. The same is true for service businesses. Look at the plethora of freelancer platforms. Upwork, Fiverr and many more offer a place to sell freelance services without a website.

Providing business information and customer interaction

Websites are not essential for providing information about a business. There are third-party services that do this. Google Business is a great example. This tool can present as much information about businesses as needed. It can host contact information, photos, prices and product information. Customers can also leave feedback and provide valuable social proof of its high-quality services.

There are plenty of third-party platforms for customer interaction as well. Surveys and feedback forms are available through free apps like Google Forms. Most CRMs, like HubSpot and Monday, provide tools to engage with and receive customer feedback. Even social media direct messages are a great way for customers to interact with a business.

So, does every business need a website?

As someone who makes websites, I aim to help people achieve their business goals online. With that in mind, here is my take on whether every business needs a website.

Whenever considering a website project, we must examine the business goals and how a website can achieve those goals. If a website does not help achieve a business's goals, it is not worth the investment. 

There may come a time when a website is more beneficial. When that happens, you want to start fresh. Replacing an unmaintained website can be problematic. If a website is hacked or given a low search engine ranking, it may take longer to reap the benefits of the new website while its reputation rebuilds. 

With that in mind, I recommend only building a website when needed. Take the time to consider whether it would be beneficial or not. Take advice where you can. If you are thinking of building a website and want my advice, drop me an email here.