Building a website that can tell a story and develop a sense of rapport and engage an active customer or an anonymous person browsing, is tough. Especially when you are not a web designer!
The next chapter of our company is being written as we self-isolate and reflect on the things we wish we could be doing. Not just for ourselves, but for our customers. Will life return to normal? Yes!
Meanwhile, given the copious amount of new found time and my recent retirement from the IT industry, I developed a top 5 list for myself and the business. Items to improve or change the way we work, what we deliver and how we deliver were all in the hopper. I also added an item for myself, but I’ll blog about that later. For now let’s focus on the number two item, our website. We were in desperate need of a new backend to manage students and courses, trips and charters. Why you might ask? Because the business had grown a lot more than we anticipated prior to my retirement. These tasks are not sexy or flashy but oh so important to the vitality and sanity of the crew.
A little more than a year ago I attended an SSI event in Virginia Beach, Scuba University. I met a dive center owner from Boston, Nick. Fortunately for me we sat next to one another in this packed house multi-day event. On day two when we were discussing our individual web presence as a group, it dawned on me that while our site was pretty good, it needed a boost. We had our challenges with our eCommerce vendor, not to mention our payment processing and most of all, customer relationship management tools (or lack thereof). Bottom line, we were spending a lot of time doing “manual” tasks that really should have been automated. In comes Nick!
Nick leaned over at one point and said, “Hey, want to see how we capture our sign-ups and manage them?”, YEAH! He introduced me to the “Checkfront” system. The rest as they say, is history. I did a lot of research through the remainder of the year. In January I started a test account with the vendor and kicked the tires. I was really impressed and began to think about how to rev up our capabilities not only on the backend but also the front. The beautiful part of the system was the capability to embed it into our website directly.
The biggest challenge came in the form of how to visually represent who we are, what we offer and how to convey that information in as few a number of pages as possible. We did not want a large, difficult, overbearing website to manage. We needed something affordable, easy to navigate, eye catching, dynamic, engaging and mobile-friendly. After determining that we would invest in the new backend (best decision ever, I might add because all together the new site costs less than the old one), I began to research how to build a new site and deliver what I wanted. For this I turned to the web. OMG that was painful. Way too many choices!
I looked at everything available to the DIY consumer. I also had a few conversations with our current web hosting provider, NetQwik, who by the way is really good and we were not ditching. They are super attentive, easy to work with and very knowledgeable in the WordPress arena. As an old friend once told me, “go with what brung you.” Enough said.
Once we set our sights on the template that piqued our interest, it was all hands on deck for about a month. In the end we are very happy with our new site and everything it will bring to you, our friends and customers. If you have any feedback please let us know.
Doug Carlson – SSI and PADI Master Instructor, DAN Examiner, Business Owner